Eclipse – not just for developing Java

Most folks who use Eclipse use the wonderful Java Development Tooling (JDT) and thus associate it as a Java IDE. While it is true that it is a great Java IDE, it is much more than that. While many have used the Ant Editor, it strikes most folks as being complementary to Java development. By the way, I had a chance to try out the new Ant Editor improvements of 3.1 M3. I liked the way you could navigate to referenced targets via F3, as well as the code folding. Control-click works as a way to hyperlink to a target, except on Mac OS X, where that keymapping interferes with contextual menus. So the Ant Editor is getting better and should be much improved over 3.0 by the time 3.1 comes out.

I tried out the RubyEclipse plug-in recently, because while I love vi, I wanted to see if Eclipse could support Ruby development better. It did help, providing me a Ruby project, though no Ruby files. I had to create “simple files” with Ruby code in them. I named them with the common Ruby extension “.rb”. I went into the Ruby Perspective, which has 3 panes: Ruby Resources (similar to Java Perspective’s Package Explorer), an Outline View and an editor area. I double-clicked on the “hello.rb” file, which opened up the Ruby Editor. This showed me syntax highlighting (which I had to change via the preferences to set to nice colors). Running it as a “Ruby Application” prompted me to set up the Ruby interpreter in the Preferences. Since OS X ships with Ruby 1.6 in the /usr/bin directory, I pointed it there. If you’re on another platform or if you want to get the latest version of Ruby, go to the Ruby Home Page. Once that was set, running showed the Ruby output in the Console View.

While the RubyEclipse plug-in still has a ways to go to match the JDT, using it demonstrated to me that Eclipse indeed is not just for developing Java. This is one of the great design decisions behind Eclipse: that it should support any kind of IDE tool (which later was expanded to supporting any Desktop Java Application with the RCP.) In fact, the JDT was forbidden to use any kind of internal APIs, forcing the Eclipse Platform team to surface up the proper APIs needed for any tool. The C/C++ Development Tools (CDT) was the first to benefit and the first to show that Eclipse is a multi-language tool platform. Tidbit: The CDT team’s motto is: “Better than JDT or go home.” :)