A giant in the world of Java programming, Eclipse IDE is considered one of the classic tools of its class
A giant in the world of Java programming, Eclipse IDE is considered one of the classic tools of its class. Some dissenting voices, however, say it’s bloated with features most developers will never use, and that this bloat is slowing it down and making it vulnerable to buggy behavior. Is it true, or is this a case of the green-eyed monster coming from fans of tools that are faster, but simply can’t do as much?
An older app that’s holding its own among the young guns
It’s not the fastest, but Eclipse offers a solid range of function and feature
Eclipse is one of the all-time most popular integrated development environments for Java available today. Java has been around for decades, but it’s still extremely widely used and enables an amazing variety of devices - from super servers to set-top boxes - to run exactly as we need them to.
Part of Eclipse’s popularity is down to the fact that it’s free and open-source. It’s also a flexible tool that’s available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, and there are dozens of installation options tailored to all kinds of developers. But Eclipse’s flexibility doesn’t end there. The IDE can also be used by Java EE, Java, C++, and PHP developers (and more) by paying attention during the set-up phase and picking the desired option while the application installer is in action.
Once it’s up and running, you’ll see that the choice Eclipse offers in functionality is mirrored in appearance, as the app has a completely customizable interface that can be rearranged to your liking. In some cases, this will be aesthetic, but for many developers, it offers new possibilities when organizing and working with code.
Eclipse was originally a Java tool but over the years has changed to allow development in a pretty wide variety of languages. Any extra functionality you might need can be added via plug-ins, of which there are many, and optimized via the customizable layout which will allow you to make visual changes, including having more than one project running at any given time. Given the way Eclipse is set up - and the skill set of the people likely to be using it - it’s also possible to create your own plug-ins if you feel that there’s a missing feature.
As Eclipse is used by so many and has been around for so long, there’s some excellent help available. On the Eclipse website itself, you’ll find documentation, getting-started guides, a wiki, newsletters, and blogs and videos. In a step above and beyond many other tools, there are also old-school touches like a mailing list and IRC (chat), as well as frequent in-person events and a project repository that users can get involved in.
One of the most popular Eclipse features is its built-in incremental compiler. It’s fast, but it also identifies errors as you type, making work faster and more fluid. It also comfortably supports most of the Java servers and offers code completion, syntax checking, and great support for refactoring your applications. All of this extra help checking errors and facilitating work is hugely popular with users and one of the main reasons Eclipse remains at the top of its class, despite the fact that it’s a bona fide development grandpa.
Where can you run this program?
You can install Eclipse on Windows, Mac, and Linux. On the Eclipse website, you’ll find further versions of the installer for different coding languages.
Is there a better alternative?
Depending on the selection of features you require from your IDE, you might have better results with IntelliJ IDE, which is said to be lighter, more feature-rich, and even more customizable. If you don’t need these features, however, there are plenty of people who maintain that Eclipse is the original, and best. It’s also free, while for some alternatives, including IntelliJ, you might need to look to the paid version to find the same options.
Eclipse is a great tool - it’s powerful, well-established, and has some cool features that are very helpful during development work. As time has passed and new features have been added, however (and bearing in mind it’s an open-source tool, so there are naturally fewer resources to primp and polish it), some complain that it’s become buggy and slow. It’s also true that alternatives have come on the market that aim to solve precisely that - they bill themselves as fast and lean. Ultimately, developers will want to look at the feature list - and the fact it’s free - and see if it fits the bill. If you’re on a tight budget, it might do the job nicely.
Should you download it?
Yes - Eclipse is a really solid Java development tool and it’s free. Other, more modern, tools might be faster, but you’ve got nothing to lose by giving Eclipse a try first.
- Has great plugin support
- Excellent documentation and help
- Free and open-source
- Incremental compiler
- Built-in unit testing
- Version control integration is sometimes sketchy
- Search is not particularly powerful
- Plugins don't always work smoothly
- Steep learning curve