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Eclipse IDE Primer






Eclipse Origin:

In November 2001, IBM released $40 million worth of software tools into the public domain. Starting with this collection of tools, several organizations created a consortium of IDE providers. They called this consortium the Eclipse Foundation, Inc. Eclipse was to be “a universal tool platform — an open extensible IDE for anything and nothing in particular.” This talk about “anything and nothing in particular” reflects Eclipse’s ingenious plug-in architecture.

The initial codebase originated from VisualAge. In its default form it is meant for Java developers, consisting of the Java Development Tools (JDT). Users can extend its capabilities by installing plug-ins written for the Eclipse software framework, such as development toolkits for other programming languages, and can write and contribute their own plug-in modules. Language packs provide translations into over a dozen natural languages.

Released under the terms of the Eclipse Public License, Eclipse is free and open source software. Eclipse began as an IBM Canada project. It was developed by OTI (Object Technology International) as a Java based replacement for the Smalltalk based  VisualAge family of IDE products, which itself had been developed by OTI. In January 2004, the Eclipse Foundation was created. The Eclipse Foundation turned itself from an industry consortium to an independent not-for-profit organization. Among other things, this meant having an Executive Director — Mike Milinkovich, formerly of Oracle Corporation. Apparently, Milinkovich is the Eclipse Foundation’s only paid employee. Everybody else donates his or her time to create Eclipse — the world’s most popular Java development environment. According to IBM Chief Technology Officer Lee Nackman, the name “Eclipse” was chosen to target Microsoft’s Visual Studio product.


Eclipse Introduction:

 Eclipse is an open source, extensible, multi-language software development environment, comprising an IDE (Integrated development environment), and a plug-in system to extend it. At its heart, Eclipse isn’t only a Java development environment. Eclipse is a vessel — a holder for a bunch of add-ons that form, a Java, C++, or even a COBOL development environment. Each add-on is called a plug-in, and the Eclipse that you normally use is composed of more than 80 useful plug-ins. While the Eclipse Foundation was shifting into high gear, several other things were happening in the world of integrated development environments. IBM was building WebSphere Studio Application Developer (WSAD) — a big Java development environment based on Eclipse. And Sun Microsystems was promoting NetBeans. Like Eclipse, NetBeans is a set of building blocks for creating Java development environments. But unlike Eclipse, NetBeans is pure Java. So a few years ago, war broke out between Eclipse people and NetBeans people. And the war continues to this day.



Eclipse Architecture:




Eclipse 3.0 (released on June 21, 2004) selected the OSGi Service Platform specifications as the runtime architecture. The Eclipse SDK includes the Eclipse Java Development Tools, offering an IDE with a built-in incremental Java compiler and a full model of the Java source files. This allows for advanced refactoring techniques and code analysis. The Visual Editor project allows interfaces to be created interactively, thus allowing Eclipse to be used as a RAD tool. Eclipse’s widgets are implemented by a widget toolkit for Java called SWT, unlike most Java applications, which use the Java standard Abstract Window Toolkit (AWT) or Swing. Eclipse’s user interface also uses an intermediate GUI layer called JFace, which simplifies the construction of applications based on SWT.

When you download Eclipse, you get the Java IDE (this is the Java Development Toolkit, the JDT) and the Plug-in Development Environment (the PDE) with it. If you only want to develop Java, it’s easy to think of Eclipse as a Java IDE because that’s the main tool you’ll be using. Eclipse itself, however, is a universal tool platform. The JDT is really an addition to Eclipse—it’s a plug-in, in fact. Eclipse itself is a platform which provides support for tools beyond just Java. These tools are implemented as plug-ins, so the platform itself only needs to be a relatively small software package.

The platform provides the support to the plug-ins. If you want to develop Java, you use the JDT plug-in that comes with Eclipse; if you want to develop in  C/C++, you can use the CDT plug-in. Installing a plug-in is easy, as we’re going to see in our later posts. All you have to do is download a plugin, drop  into the Eclipse plugins directory and restart Eclipse. Eclipse does some checking on each plug-in when it starts, but the plug-ins are not loaded until they’re needed in order to save processing time and memory space.

Eclipse architecture is mainly comprised of Eclipse SDK. Eclipse SDK contains the folowing components:-

  • Workbench IDE – Comprises of JDT, PDE, Workbench UI, Workspace feature, Search/Compare functionalities etc. It’s the basic graphical interface you work with when you use Eclipse. It’s got toolbars and menus for you to use, and its job is to present those items and the internal windows.
  • Rich Client Platform (optional) – comprises of Workbench Text Editor, JFace Text, Outline / Properties functionalities etc.
  • Rich Client Platform (base)  – comprises of Workbench UI (Editors / Views / perspective wizards), JFace (viewer classes to bring model view controller programming to SWT, file buffers, text handling, text editors), SWT (portable widget toolkit), OSGI (standard bundling framework) etc.

The stated goals of Eclipse are “to develop a robust, full-featured, commercial-quality industry platform for the development of highly integrated tools.” The Eclipse foundation has focused on three major projects:

  • The Eclipse Project  – is responsible for developing the Eclipse IDE workbench (the “platform” for hosting Eclipse tools), the Java Development Tools (JDT), and the Plug-In Development Environment (PDE) used to extend the platform.
  • The Eclipse Tools Project – is focused on creating best-of-breed tools for the Eclipse platform. Current subprojects include a Cobol IDE, a C/C++ IDE, and an EMF modeling tool.
  • The Eclipse Technology Project – focuses on technology research, incubation, and education using the Eclipse platform.


Eclipse is today’s premiere Java™ Integrated development environment (IDE). Eclipse is an extraordinary tool, and it fills a long-standing need among Java developers—no longer do you have to suffer through pages of errors scrolling off the screen while using command-line Java compilers. Now you’ve got an IDE that will handle the details for you, letting you get on with writing code. If you’ve never used Eclipse before, your productivity is about to take a giant jump.





Note: Refer to other posts in Eclipse IDE category for further knowledge. 



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