Why It Is Cool

By Justin Vandegrift  |  Posted 2007-08-30 Email Print this article Print

Why It Is Cool Eclipses most powerful feature is its extensibility: Because Eclipse is a broad collection of projects, there are a wide variety of packages available that plug into Eclipse and extend its capabilities. One example is the CVS client that installs with the standard package. Unlike other plug-ins, the CVS client is easily configured, and after a few simple clicks, it works properly and can be used to check out code from your favorite CVS repository. The interface is extremely easy to use, giving good visibility into the entire repository via a file navigator widget. Once projects are checked out locally, CVS features such as compare and commit are made available by right-clicking on the file icons in the work space navigator. The entire interface is integrated seamlessly into Eclipses front end, and it is implemented in a way that is far superior to other attempts at the same, such as SlickEdit 2007, which spawns a separate CVS interface window from a drop-down menu option. The Eclipse CVS client is easily one of the best such clients available for Windows today. The Eclipse text editor is also a very polished component of the IDE. Its smart line selection and Auto Syntax Completion are similar to Slick Edit 2007 in many ways. Quick access to its menu of keyboard shortcuts is available through a pop-up that can be invoked by pressing Ctrl+Shift+L. This Key Assist feature gives a two-column overview of Eclipses standard editor features.
My favorite of these is Open Call Hierarchy, or Ctrl+Alt+H, which opens in the lower frame of the docked IDE layout. The call hierarchy of a selected function is displayed as an expandable tree, providing powerful visualization into your application. After discovering this, I found myself relying on it to quickly navigate through my source code layers and complex call stacks.
Other cool features are Move Lines (Alt+Arrow), which shuffles lines up and down, and Find Declaration (Ctrl+G), which lets you jump to the definition of a variable, structure or function. Some of Eclipses default configuration choices are difficult to understand. For example, by default, the build command does not save all files prior to compiling. What developer wants to manually save each unsaved file he or she has edited prior to executing the build command? The option to enable this is not easy to find, either– from the Window menu, you have to select Preferences, then General, then Workspace. Then you have to check the appropriate box on the configuration panel to enable auto-save on build action. Eclipse also defaults the builder type to External Builder, which, unless configured, does not work with the system GCC installation. To switch to the internal builder, you must select it through the project properties C/C++ build panel.
Dark Side of the Moon While exploring the different options accessible from the menu bar, Eclipse twice hit run-time errors. And, in both cases, error dialog boxes popped up that required canceling. But error dialog boxes were only a harbinger of even more gruesome horrors. After creating a work space, and adding a few projects to it, I installed the Ruby plug-in. After installing the plug-in, Eclipse did not open the previously loaded work space automatically, as it had done every time previously. Instead, I had to use the "import" feature to open the work space. But, upon doing so, Eclipse began recursively copying the entire work space contents into subdirectories. The result was an application hang in the import wizard and a long path containing copies, and copies of copies, of folders, source and project files. Worse still, the path length exceeded the Windows max path length spec, which blocked me from being able to delete the content. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis in programming environments and developer tools.


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