Ten Minutes With Eclipse Helios

On June 23rd, Eclipse launched their new release (v3.6), named Helios. Always wanting to keep on the cutting-edge, I promptly downloaded it and gave it a whirl. Here’s a few impressions after just a few minutes of goofing around with it.

As with all of the previous versions, it’s just a download and unpack to get working. As such, any added plug-ins won’t be there, and will need to be added again. Helios milestone releases have been available for some time, so there shouldn’t be much lag on any of those (usually).

The splash screen is trivially changed; Galilleo for Helios is about all. The welcome screen has a different look, but roughly the same content (and after you use it a bit, you stop looking at that, right?). Closing the welcome screen will (by default) show the JavaEE perspective, and that also looks the same.

In short, pleasant or frustrating (as your expectations may be), everything looks the same at first glance. Second glance, even. At first blush, the only things that were different were related to missing plug-ins.

I added my two favorite/most critical plugins EclEmma (http://eclemma.sf.net — add http://update.eclemma.org as an update source) and the Subversive SVN Team Provider (http://www.eclipse.org/subversive/ — it’s already in the list), and my workspace returned to its normal view (after adding my user credentials for my repository). Without anything more than adding the plug-ins, I was able to open an existing workspace, synchronize with the repository, run my tests and get the coverage reports, and all seemed to function as before. Even my Ant scripts ran without a hitch.

At the same time, really the only complaint I’ve had about Eclipse in the recent past is an oddity where a WebContent folder in one Dynamic Web project will appear in another, if it’s added to that second project’s classpath (in my case, the second is a test project for the first–I’m one of those guys that prefers to keep them separate). I guess that brings up my other Eclipse gripe; one project, one classpath–Eclipse projects still can’t separate tests from the rest of the source in a project.

With a little cheekiness, this seems, then, like they only changed the splash and welcome screens. This is outstanding from a minimalist “upgrade and get back to work” approach.

I’ll spend a little more time with it and try to have a more thorough review. for now, though, take this as one guy’s stamp of approval that (plug-ins as a caveat), the upgrade to the new stuff should be pretty smooth.

To get the update, just hit the Eclipse Downloads page (http://eclipse.org/downloads/) and right at the top is the JavaEE version (I strongly recommend starting with that version and adding plug-ins, rather than start with a more basic version and adding the JavaEE and web bits to it). It’s pretty good about guessing your OS, so there should be an appropriate link just to the right—if it’s wrong, bonk the JavaEE link (the title in the list) and pick from the resulting page. There are 32-bit and 64-bit versions for Linux, Mac (Cocoa, if it matters), and Windows.

I suggest a coordinated effort to switch over as some of the project and workspace files (plug-ins, features, settings, etc…) may have changes that will impact those that are sharing work, but who have not upgraded. I didn’t notice anything changed; synchronizing with my repository after running the updated IDE didn’t flag any workspace or project files. There may also be some incompatibilities with other plug-ins (such as JBoss Tools) that aren’t ready for 3.6; but both EclEmma and Subversive (as quick checks) worked without a hitch, and m2eclipse installs OK (but the workspace I tested with doesn’t use Maven, so I didn’t test it).

In other news, the people at NetBeans (http://netbeans.org) also released version 6.9, on June 15, if you want to check that out, too.

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