My journey through editors starts here. I’ve been using Eclipse for years and for different languages. This mighty beast holds some neat features you only discover when you dig deep.
As I’ve told you in the previous article Eclipse has been my main PHP development tool for a long time. And there’s definitely an attractive amount of features: code completion, code folding, outlines, PHPDoc, a debugger, code formatter, tasks, SCM integration … Especially when you’re a web developer you’re using multiple languages at once. Aptana Studio is an Eclipse based IDE specifically for web developers. There’s support for all major languages, DOM outline and even a live preview.
Let’s be honest. Without Eclipse, Java would be dead. Not because Eclipse is written in Java and its mere existence justifies the whole language. No, I’m talking about the IDE features that make Java development easier possible. Myriads of library includes are inserted by Eclipse automatically. All the syntactic sugar can be written into code templates. Deep class hierarchies can only be examined by the hierarchy inspector. You see, a comprehensive IDE is able to compensate some programming language design faults.
Based on the list here there’s support for about 50 different languages. So if you’re developing in different languages there’s a good chance that you don’t have to grab another editor. That’s important because as a pragmatic programmer you should “use a single editor well” (Andrew Hunt, David Thomas).
An invaluable resource for ways to improve your knowledge at anything programming related is stackoverflow. These are some interesting topics about Eclipse:
One thing I learned about improving editor knowledge is that you can’t memorize everything at once. This might seem obvious but especially when you’re looking for a new editor it’s tempting to read through manuals and many stackoverflow sites. You’ll encounter interesting features, think “Oh, that’s nice!” a hundred times and forget it in the blink of an eye. For me a gradual approach works best. Do some research once in a while and you’ll have these “Wow, I was looking for this feature for ages!” moments. You won’t forget these.
Complexity comes with a price. For Eclipse that’s noticeable in terms of performance rather than money. To be honest, I haven’t used Eclipse for a year or so and I’m sure there have been some performance improvements. But I remember developing PHP on a Core2Duo laptop where I had to wait for code completion tooltips for a second. That’s just not acceptable. An editor should be a tool that seamlessly integrates into your workflow. An extension of your hand. Something you don’t have to think about and that’s just there. For me, that’s exactly the aspect where Eclipse fails. It’s not just there, it fills up your screen with countless windows full of information, features and buttons. When I think of Eclipse as an extension of my hand then I see myself having trouble just moving my fingers to the keyboard. What are your experiences with Eclipse? Thank you for reading! The next article will be about vim.