Saturday, January 5, 2008

Eclipse IDE

I've looked at Eclipse on-and-off since the very beginning, but I was never compelled to use it for a variety of reasons. The last time I made a attempt to use Eclipse was a couple of years ago and it wouldn't start up for me for reasons I was never able to determine, so I just left it at that.

I decided to take another look at Eclipse again because 1) I've been hearing a lot of good things about it so I figure a lot of issues have been resolved, 2) I don't have any software for the Mac so the free open-source nature of Eclipse is a plus, and 3) I'm thinking I'm going to be doing some Java coding.

I went to the Eclipse site and downloaded the the J2EE package. The different packages just means they come with different sets of plug-ins. You can always download the most basic package and install each plug-in your want manually. I didn't want the hassle of doing something and then finding out in the middle of it that I was missing a plug-in so I grabbed the full J2EE version.

Installing and running it was as simple of uncompressing the archive and clicking on the Eclipse icon. While Java has made a lot of progress addressing performance issues especially on the server side, I wanted to see how it does on a desktop application that is stopped and started frequently. While I didn't do any real benchmarking, the IDE started up faster then I remember it is still no speed demon. Once started, though, the performance seems pretty good.

Eclipse has it's own set of terminology like perspectives, Team, etc. which takes a bit getting used to, but the features you'd expect in a modern IDE is all there such as code completion, syntax highlighting, code navigation, etc. One thing I really like is that it checks your code for you even as you type. When you open up a project, you can immediately see which directory/file/line has potential errors through the explorer pane. You can do a lot more with templates code assists that will help with some coding tasks.

Before I did too much with Eclipse, I found out about PDT (PHP Developer Tool) plug-in. This adds PHP support to Eclipse and was a project that originated from the makers of the Zend IDE. Since my current projects tends to be PHP-based, it peaked my interests to see if I can use this IDE to handle my projects.

Installing the plug-in is super easy with Eclipse now. Just go to the plug-in manager and add the PDT repository to it's list and tell it to install. A few clicks later, I had PDT in Eclipse that recognizes PHP files and my project directory. Unfortunately, I haven't had much more time to get beyond that. I still want to test the debugging tool, etc. but I'll have to do that later.

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