I've been doing some little Java work the last few days (and have a bit more coming down the pipeline (nothing big, just a few small changes and additions to existing applications), and decided to look again at Eclipse. It had been a while since I had used it last (and even back then it was pretty decent).


A few thoughts:

  • Eclipse is fairly small (as far as IDEs go). I downloaded the J2EE version of the Europa release, and the compressed download is only about 140MB. Obviously, there are quite a few more plug-ins for Eclipse, and I imagine that a multi-language version would be a lot bigger, but even so, it's refreshing to see it compared to the multi-gigabyte beast that is Visual Studio.
  • It's also pretty nice that once you decompress the eclipse release, you can just keep it around or copy it to another machine and have a working installation; definitely saves a lot of times (I love apps you can do that with!)
  • I remembered what it is that I don't quite like about Eclipse: The UI. Don't get me wrong, it is fairly fast and responsive (heck, it loads a lot faster than VS on my machine), but the interface is extremely cluttered, full of small, unrecognizable icons and with way too many tool windows. It does get the job done, though, but feels a bit oppressive to me (particularly since I got used to running a pretty lean VS environment with very few toolbars and most tool windows (the few I use, anyway) set to auto-hide.
  • Navigating the Preferences dialog is a freaking nightmare. The number of options is almost baffling, and a lot of settings are spread over several different pages. For example; just try changing the code window colors and fonts...
  • My feelings about the workspace model are mixed:
    • Bad: It forces a specific project layout on disk, which doesn't work very well with how I usually structure my project folders (by client).
    • Good: Many preferences are saved alongside the workspace folder, meaning if you move your workspace, you take your preferences with you. It also makes it easy to have different preferences for different projects by simply having them on different workspaces (something VS is not good at).
    • Bad: Many preferences are saved alongside the workspace folder ;-).

It's interesting to note that even with Eclipse around, I've been doing a lot of work simply editing the code using Vim and compiling using the command line tools :-).

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Tomas Restrepo

Software developer located in Colombia. Sr. PFE at Microsoft.