Seeing the light behind Eclipse

September 19, 2005

Tools are a vital part of our lives. One of the tenants of good bush craft is build the tool first, then use it to do the work. Most outstanding enterprise software products feature outstanding tools. I’m a big fan of good tooling, and a particular fan of Eclipse.

If you are considering developing tools for the enterprise space look first at Eclipse. You would really need to have a very strong reason not to build on Eclipse – leveraging the various sub-projects and the tooling that is already out there should enable you to build functionally impressive and slick looking enterprise tools fast. Unless you are doing “end user” style browser based tools, Eclipse is the business.

I find it astonishing that it took Borland so long to drop their own IDE platform in favour of Eclipse – as a Java developer I dropped JBuilder years ago, Swing was (and despite its advances really still is) too clunky on the Windows desktop. And look at BEA and BEA Workshop, they put a lot of effort into their own IDE framework, and it blew up in their faces. When Weblogic 8.0 launched the Eclipse juggernaut was already unstoppable. BEA had to rethink and back Eclipse. Just recently they bought M7 of NitroX studio fame. It is a pity those good folks over at JetBrains keep putting effort into their tooling platform – if they could just take the best out of IntelliJ IDEA, marry it with Eclipse, and switch all that talent to higher level value add, now that would be something. What can I say about Sun and NetBeans? If only Sun could get past that name, and do a little embrace and extend. Actually, I think Sun is a great company and you don’t need me to tell you there is engineering talent to burn there, but sometimes that talent is misguided. But who knows, if NetBeans is the only competition left for Eclipse, then maybe its a good thing. Competition breeds innovation, and Eclipsers need to keep innovating. Thankfully the healthy development community involved with Eclipse, its subprojects etc., are showing every sign of doing so.

One of the things I love about Eclipse – apart from all the (growing list of) tooling goodies you can reuse and extend – is SWT. In fact I’m a total convert to SWT – I would rarely now choose Swing over it for rich client applications.

Eclipse is one of those things – like Java, JavaEE (well, in some form anyway) and XML – that will most probably span many computing generations.

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