Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Using Eclipse for RCP Application Development

Eclipse is free and open-source software that people use to write Java code and develop Java-based programs called Rich Client Platform (RCP) applications. Eclipse is an excellent, if not the best, Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for Java development. My goal of this article it to help anyone who is interested in creating computer applications, even if they never wrote a single line of code in their life before, to decide if Eclipse is right for them.

One popular application created with Eclipse is Vuze, formerly known as Azureus, a BitTorrent client shown at right. A Rich Client Application can be a full-blown program with a menu, icons, toolbars, status bars. It can have tabs, tables, buttons, charts, text boxes, wizards, preferences, dialog boxes, and more. It can be multi-threaded and there are virtually no limitations to your creativity. You could create your own Adobe Photoshop or just simple a program that plays your favorite song when you open it up. Anything is possible.

If you ever used Microsoft's Visual Studio for developing Windows applications with C#, Eclipse is like Java's version of an application used to develop other applications. I started using Microsoft Visual Studio back in 2005, but have since switched to Eclipse. Eclipse matches my programming philosophy and meets my needs much better than VS for the following reasons.

* With Eclipse, you can develop your application once, and create exports for Windows, Mac, and Linux no matter what operating system (OS) you use as your development computer.
* I found that creating an exported product with icons and everything to be much easier and intuitive with Eclipse.
* Eclipse is free and open-source. Microsoft makes you pay for the IDE if you want the full-blown professional version. I like open-source.

I also think VS has its strengths over Eclipse:

* The learning curve in creating your first application is much steeper with Eclipse. Getting used to the Eclipse IDE can be frustrating because it has many quirks, that until you figure out, you spend a lot of time banging your head against the wall. I also found the classes used to simplify the layout of your GUI widgets (i.e. buttons, text boxes, graphics) were better designed in VS.
* Online documentation and available quality books is much better for VS and programming Windows applications in C#.

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