Eclipse Start Up Screen

Eclipse is an excellent, highly extensible IDE for Java which was originally developed by IBM and then released as a open-source project. There are some C# and .NET development plugins emerging for it as well...


Normally Java applications suffer because they use the emulated cross-platform controls provided in the Swing framework, which somehow never quite feel right under any platform. Eclipse fixes this extremely nicely by using its own SWT framework which uses the native platform's controls.

Comparing VS.NET to Eclipse (at least versions prior to the 'Whidbey' release) is quite instructive as it shows how the once untouchable MS development IDE isn't on such solid ground as it used to be. Although form and webpage layout is still something that only MS's tools really do, for this author at least VS.NET's form designer has a lot of problems. It regularly corrupts form layouts, deletes controls, removes resources and renders projects unloadable or at least un-runnable without some manual hacking. Not just that, it doesn't allow you to edit custom resources, which is a problematic oversight.

Beyond form design there are quite a few things that Eclipse can do that are not readily achievable in VS.NET:

  • Build using internal build process or ANT scripts.
  • Direct support for running unit tests in the IDE.
  • Refactoring support including extract interface, create method etc, etc.
  • Smart suggest lets you add imports, try-catch blocks, throws clauses and much more just by right-clicking.
  • Compile, run and validate code regardless of whether other unrelated code files in the project do not compile.
  • Back-up of all versions saved to local disk.
  • Genuinely extensible environment allowing new plug-ins to use Eclipse's built-in code editing widgets.

Downloading Eclipse

Eclipse is available here:

You will also need to get the latest version of the Java Development Kit to run it, available from Sun at