So I had a coding assignment to do the other day (it’s job seeking time again unfortunately) and I decided to to take the opportunity to test drive Eclipse 3.3M6 and Ant 1.7. Trying out software while also trying to make a good coding impression is probably a dumb idea and I don’t think I’ll be doing it again but still there’s never any better time than the present.
NetBeans has overtaken Eclipse as far as I am concerned, simply because Sun has managed to live up to the cross-platform hype with their Swing interface and seems to have lots of different interfaces to projects from other IDEs and various deployment platforms.
On the other hand I wouldn’t try and corral a legacy project into NetBeans. Eclipse is still my fave for that (and while things like the Web Tools project can be a mare to install and get running they do bring Enterprise functionality to an IDE that previously made you pay for it). So then is it worth getting excited about Eclipse Europa?
Sadly the answer seems to be no. There are a couple of nice tweaks to the interface but nothing major. In fact although I’ve used M6 at home a couple of times now I’m hard pressed to bring to mind what exactly is different (the refactoring dialog is a bit better for example). Stranger still, some aspects actually seem worse. Code Intelligence and Completion used to be Eclipse piece de resistance with NetBeans being a distinct second. This time though I had exactly the same issues with Eclipse as I did with NetBeans, wacky suggestions from obscure packages rather than the more obvious choices from, say, java.util or even the project I was working on. The good news is that Eclipse seems to learn quickly from previous choices and after an evening of coding was back to it’s usual self. Only some of the code templating seems to still be quirky.
Overall though after a years worth of feverish competition between NetBeans and Eclipse I was disappointed that Eclipse seems to be running out of steam or perhaps new ideas. Now my first thought was that perhaps there are only so many features that an IDE needs and perhaps we’re getting close to completion on them. That seems disappointing unambitious though and if there was nothing else to do I would say that some of the basics could do with a thorough revamping. Eclipse’s text editors are nothing to write home about with a lack of features that are standard in normal programmer’s editors (drag and drop seems particularly weird although there might be progress in 3.3) and options for the editors are still accessed via the labyrinthine preference menu rather than the intuitive right-clicking of the editor tab.
I’m not sure where Eclipse is going at the moment but I would be disappointed to see it just stand still, that’s good for no-one. Oh and before NetBeans gets all the love I do have to say that I was completely baffled by some Swing programming I was doing the other day in the NetBeans (not via Matisse), the problem turned out to be that I was running my class rather than the project and one rebuilds the application jar while the other doesn’t. There’s probably some logic in that but I don’t quite see it (probably because it’s tucked away in the run profile somewhere).