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Keywords: Eclipse, Java IDE, development tools

Title: Eclipse

Author: Steve Holzner

Publisher: O'Reilly

ISBN: 0596006411

Media: Book

Level: Introductory

Verdict: Recommended

Aside from being a huge bone of contention within the Java community (both in terms of tools platform development and because of its use of SWT), Eclipse also has a reputation of having a steep learning curve. No one doubts that it's a feature rich and extensible development platform. However it's the fact that it's much more than a basic IDE that makes it appear forbidding to the first time user. There's just too much of it to swallow in nice easy chunks. Author Steve Holzner recognises this fact and therefore the focus of this book is firmly on helping the reader learn to use Eclipse for Java development rather than as a framework for IDE/plug-in development.

Starting in nice easy steps for us mere mortals, the book opens with a chapter entitled 'Essential Eclipse'. As the title suggests this walks us through the absolute basics of downloading, installing and running Eclipse. Like the best tutorials it answers most of the obvious questions and yet plants a lot more in return. It shows how to enter code, compile it, correct errors and run it.

With these basics dealt with, the book then adopts a task-oriented approach to showing how to use and run Eclipse for Java development. The second chapter looks in more detail at cutting code, looking beyond basic code creation to things like refactoring support, Javadoc and so on. Like the first chapter it stands well as an extended tutorial, with good examples and plenty of screenshots.

Testing and debugging get a proper look in chapter three, with the emphasis on using JUnit for building unit test cases and test suites. The debugger also gets a more detailed run-through, with good examples that show the capabilities that Eclipse provides.

Team working, using CVS, is the topic of the next chapter. While it's no match for a dedicated CVS text, the book shows how it's supported from within Eclipse and gives the reader more than enough to get started. Discussion of other source control systems is sorely missing at this point. Given the number of plug-ins for other systems, from Microsoft's Visual SourceSafe to Subversion to PVS, some additional material here would have been a good chance to capitalise on a real example of the open architecture of Eclipse. That other great open-source tool for Java development, Ant, gets chapter five to itself.

Once the mechanics of coding, building and debugging code are out of the way the focus moves on to look at specific types of development, starting with GUI programming. Mirroring history, we get a chapter on applets, AWT and Swing, followed by two chapters on SWT. The V4ALL plugin is used fairly extensively in these chapters.

Web Development follows next, with a chapter that looks at JSP and servlets. This starts with installing and testing Tomcat so no prior experience is assumed. Likewise for the chapter on developing Struts applications.

By this point most of the core material has been covered, and covered well. Beyond this we get a couple of chapters on developing a plug-in. While this is interesting the material doesn't really match the usefulness of the core 'using Eclipse' chapters. Similarly the final chapter, which looks at Eclipse 3.0, despite the fact that this hasn't been fully released yet.

If you've feared moving to Eclipse because of the perceived complexity of the beast then perhaps this is the guidebook that you need to help you on the way. It's well written, to the point and clearly structure to get the Java developer productive as quickly as possible. Recommended.

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