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My Eclipse Review

I had to do some grueling work on the Roller persistence layer this weekend, the kind that requires lots of searching, replacing, trial-and-error experimenting, testing, and debugging.  I decided to make the job fun by trying something new: Eclipse.  Normally, I use WinCVS and VIM for my development.  Sometimes I use JBuilder when I need to throw together a quick Swing UI or Netbeans when I need to do some debugging.  Here is the story of my first real experience with Eclipse:

To start out, I downoaded the latest Eclipse 2.0.1 release for Windows.  I also downloaded the Solare Eclipse, Jalopy, and Tomcat plugins recommended by Jeff Duska.  The install went smoothly and installing the plugins was easy, I just unzipped them into the Eclipse plugins directory.

CVS integration
Once I got Eclipse up and running, I setup a CVS repository within Eclipse that points to Roller's SourceForce CVS repository.  Even though CVS over SSH is normally a bitch to setup, it worked on the first try with Eclipse.  Next, I used the Checkout-As-Project feature of Eclipse to checkout the Roller sources into a brand new Eclipse project. Generally, I found the CVS UI to be excellent, especially the file and directory diff tools.

Ant integration
The Roller build process uses a lot of code generation and this code generation is driven by XDoclet tasks in an Ant script.  So, I couldn't just point Eclipse at the Roller sources and hit the build button.  I used the Eclipse External Tools feature to setup Eclipse to run Roller's Ant build script.  Again, this feature worked on the first try.  

JUnit integration
I wrote some simple unit tests to test my changes and then did my work.  Once I was done, I found that the Eclipse debugger's Run->Debug... feature allows you to automatically find, run, and debug into JUnit tests.  Again, this feature was amazingly easy to set up.

Tomcat integration and the debugger
Once I finished up my work on the Roller backend, I had to make some corresponding changes in the Roller UI.  I found it very easy to use the Tomcat plugin to launch Tomcat in debug mode to debug my changes. The debugger UI was pretty impressive and very responsive.

Overall, I was very impressed.  Netbeans can do most of things I have described above, but they always seem like a struggle to me.  This was my first time with Eclipse and things just seemed obvious to me.  I hate to say it because Netbeans has served me well and I really like Swing, but Eclipse has a much more streamlined, intuitive, and snappy user interface.  Eclipse is a pleasure to use.

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