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Eclipse 3.1 M4 - "Cool New Stuff," Says JDJ's Eclipse Editor Bill Dudney

Dudney Annotates the "New and Noteworthy" Features of the Latest Release

The Eclipse team is well on the way to the 3.1 release. The current release is M4 with M5 to follow in less than two weeks (M5 is due Feb 18th). Given all the cool stuff that is planned for the 3.1 release I've been itching to make the move, but alas my day job was getting in the way of using a beta. Well my day job is still crazy but we had about a week of non-crazyness so I made the plunge to 3.1M4. I've been using it for about 4 weeks now and here are my notes on the 'new and noteworthy' stuff in the M4 release.

There are tons of cool things in the M1 to M3 releases too. I'll try to do a 'retro' commentary on them before the release of M5.


Ant debugger
- yes you read that correctly. You can now debug your ant files. All the typical stuff is there, breakpoints, stepping etc. To invoke the debugger you have to launch from the Ant View. Select 'Debug As -> Ant Build'. The next thing to do here would be to make it possible to run an Ant build script in debug mode and be able to step into the implementation of the tasks.


J2SE 5.0 Features
- tons of cool stuff going on here but I've not had a chance to really use any of it yet because of earlier mentioned day job getting in the way. I hope to be on 5.0 by mid to late March so I'll have lots more to say then. However just a few quick highlights of what's new. Searching is able to understand most of the 5.0 syntax (generic types etc), code assist is working with annotation types, navigation with the F3 key is working, autoboxing is now in the compiler, quick fixes for generics. There is too much to give property treatment here and since I've not had a chance to dig in my self I'll leave it at that. If you are playing around with 5.0 though you should definitely take a look at the M4 release.

Multi-Working Set Support - Its now possible to specify multiple working sets at the same time. This is a big win for code organization on big projects. Essentially it turns the Package Explorer into a working set explorer. In other words your working sets become top level elements.

Spell checking properties files - Key for me since I rarely spell my own name right. Not as helpful as it could be because meat passes where meet should be, ah if only we could have the computer read my mind instead of me typing out my thoughts.

Navigate from a property to usages - this is a really cool feature. From the properties editor you can click through to where the property is referenced in your java code. Java Editor preferences rearranged - still hard to find what I'm looking for but better. One of the coolest things added in M4 around the preferences is a navigation history. We now have a 'back button' so that Eclipse remembers where we have been and can take us back there. The back button and history work for all preferences, not just the JDT set.

JUnit Tests - The JUnit view now has a really cool button to rerun the failing tests first. So for example if you have 20 tests for a particular class and the final 2 tests were failing. Instead of having to wait for the other 18 to pass you can run the 2 failing tests first. Cool!

Variables View - you can specify a logical way for a variable to be rendered in the variable view. So instead of seeing all the gory detail for your class in the variables view you can specify that you only see what you want. You access this very cool feature in the preferences Java -> Debug -> Logical Structures.

MultiProject Import - you can now import more than one project at a time. I rarely use this feature except when upgrading so its not that important for me but cool anyway. It will be a big time saver for the folks with lots of projects that upgrade only on the official release cycles.

Team and CVS

CVS Commit Review - when you commit the dialog now contains the files being committed, so we can be more accurate in commit messages (I'm sure this will change my really bad habit of putting 'changed some stuff' into my commit messages).

CVS file type support improved - When you add a bunch of files Eclipse no longer assumes unknown files are binary. Instead it pops up a dialog with the list of file extensions and gives you a chance to specify. It defaults them all to binary so you can just click the finish button if you don't care. This is a great feature but was very slow for me when adding a bunch of files to a repository.

Platform Core

Eclipse Startup - you can now start eclipse from the command line as a jar file. java -jar ?eclipse/startup.jar'

Platform Text

Shared editor preferences - finally! Now all the text editors in Eclipse will share a common set of settings. Of course that will make me irritated when I want my XML indented 4 and my Java indented 2. But I won't complain because I complained that they did not share a common set of preferences.

Hyper link support - now in all editors. The Java editor support was generalized and put into the core text editor.

There is tons more to write about that was new and noteworthy in M1 to M3. I'll try to get that put together RSN.

More Stories By Bill Dudney

Bill Dudney is Editor-in-Chief of Eclipse Developer's Journal and serves too as JDJ's Eclipse editor. He is a Practice Leader with Virtuas Solutions and has been doing Java development since late 1996 after he downloaded his first copy of the JDK. Prior to Virtuas, Bill worked for InLine Software on the UML bridge that tied UML Models in Rational Rose and later XMI to the InLine suite of tools. Prior to getting hooked on Java he built software on NeXTStep (precursor to Apple's OSX). He has roughly 15 years of distributed software development experience starting at NASA building software to manage the mass properties of the Space Shuttle.

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