Network Computing is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Eclipse: Overshadowing All Other IDEs?

The IBM-led Eclipse Consortium has been telling the world about the power of Eclipse for months. The idea is simple: Build an open-source integrated development environment (IDE) that can take advantage of tools from many vendors. The Eclipse Project and the Eclipse Tools Project both are working on a framework and a set of APIs vendors can use to integrate their development tools into a single environment. It's a good idea. Standardizing the development environment, and pooling the resources of other companies and the open-source community, will hasten the growth of features developers need.

But while these groups hit the mark in some respects, they completely missed the boat in others. There is not a more intuitive or full-featured IDE out there, on any platform. But the tool offers no UI editing. You can write them by hand--if you have that kind of time--or you can look for plug-ins to help you out. I found a plug-in that offered some support for JSPs, HTML and applets. It installed simply and the wizards work, but there's still no graphical editing.

It's as if the backers realized at some point they were building a tool that worked better than the ones they sold. So they backed off on the one feature that would make you buy the products they'd created from this environment. It's a good business plan if your development environment is a profit center, but it's a bad plan if you really want this free software to take off.

My advice? Download it and play with it. If you develop in PHP, C/C++, Java, HTML or even COBOL, you will love the capabilities that have been built into Eclipse. But if you develop UI-intensive applications, wait until there's a graphical editor before you get serious about using this tool. If you're handy with Java, do us all a favor and implement the graphical editing. I have too many projects going on right now to take on that task, but when someone does this, it will transform a product that is very good some of the time to one that is far and away the best around.