Wednesday, May 11, 2005

An Eclipse worth checking out

An Eclipse worth checking out
THE Eclipse Project is an umbrella open source project aimed at standardising software development tools. The project itself comprises three major subprojects: Eclipse Platform, Java Development Tools (JDT), and Plugin Development Environment.

Last year, Software Development Times, an online publication, gave Eclipse top billing in the Tools and Environments category, and singled out Eclipse in the Influencers category. A survey by market research company Evans Data Corp has indicated that Eclipse use is rapidly rising and that it has pushed the open-source framework to become the most popular integrated development environment (IDE) for Java developers.

Findings from Evans’ last few Linux Development Surveys also show that Eclipse is the No 1 Java development environment in the Linux market. Because of its popularity and open source nature, Eclipse has the edge over other IDEs in this regard – hundreds of plugins, free and commercial, are available.

Some history
The Eclipse Project has its origins in the software originally by Object Technology International (OTI). OTI was aquired by IBM in 1996, which later formed IBM Ottawa Labs. In November 2001, IBM donated the technology to Eclipse.org, an open-source consortium which, then, comprised of industry leaders Borland, IBM, Merant, QNX Software Systems, Rational Software (bought by IBM), Red Hat, SuSE, TogetherSoft (bought over by Borland) and Webgain (now no longer in the Board) as the Board of Stewards.

In February 2004, Eclipse was reorganised into a not-for-profit independent corporation to drive the platform’s evolution for the benefit of providers of software development and its endusers. All the technology and source code within the Eclipse.org ecosystem will remain openly available and royalty-free.

What is Eclipse
The right way to describe Eclipse is that it is a software ecosystem of development tools. Firstly, under it are the Eclipse Project, Eclipse Tools Project and Eclipse Technology Project. Under the aegis of the Eclipse Project are three major subprojects, namely as mentioned earlier: Eclipse Platform, Java Development Tools (JDT), and Plugin Development Environment.

The Platform subproject concerns itself with all the common and core aspects of the tool, rather like the foundation on which other tools can be built upon. Imagine an empty shelf which you can extend, put or hang things on. Or as the FAQ states: The Eclipse Platform is an open extensible IDE for anything and yet nothing in particular.

The JDT subproject develops Java-specific tools like editor, debugger and development environment on top of the base platform. Because Eclipse is not dedicated to Java, JDT is required to create the Java-specific environment. C/C++ and Cobol developing environments are available as well.

The Plugin Development subproject is the development environment for those who develop plugins for Eclipse.

Besides these, there are many other subprojects under the Eclipse Tools category. The visual design tool for interfaces is called the Visual Editor under the Tools Project.

The Eclipse Technology Project is to provide new channels for open source developers, researchers, academics and educators to participate in the on-going evolution of Eclipse.

The standard Eclipse Platform is primed for Java code development. It is a full-fledged Java IDE that offers keyword and syntax colouring, code formatting, code folding, code completion, code templates, Java-aware search, integrated support for refactoring, incremental compilation, and remote debugging. It also supports integration with a task automation tool (Ant), code versioning system (CVS), and JUnit test harness to complete the code and build the development environment.

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