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Keywords: Eclipse, Java IDE, development tools
Title: Eclipse 3.0 Kick Start
Author: Carlos Valcarcel
Publisher: SAMS Publishing
Verdict: A wide-ranging and useful introduction to Eclipse and a selection of additional plug-ins
Books are always a sure sign of the health (or otherwise) of a technology, tool or methodology. And, judging by the steady flow of new titles, Eclipse continues to be in a state of rude good health. In this 'Kick Start', author Carlos Valcarcel aims to give the Java developer a fast-paced introduction to this powerful but complex IDE that is making new converts all the time.
No prior experience of Eclipse is assumed, and the book opens with an introduction that includes download and installation instructions for those who have don't even have the software yet. From there the book dives straight into showing the reader how to use and extend Eclipse to get the most out of it.
Part one of the book covers basic usage for the Java developer, and focuses on the various components of the JDT (Java Development Tooling). The first chapter looks at the different structural elements of the Eclipse work bench, including perspectives, views, editors and so on, and in particular how these are used in the JDT. This is followed by a chapter that runs through the process of developing a simple project, giving an overview of all of the essential components aside from the debugger. It includes writing code, customising the editor, writing JUnit test classes, running the code and so on. In effect it's a single chapter tutorial that touches on the core functionality used by Java programmers.
Debugging gets the whole of the next chapter, which is the right thing to do considering that it's a key benefit of an fully-featured development environment. In addition to stand-alone code, the chapter also looks at the more complicated task of remote debugging. Eclipse majors on support for refactoring, and this too gets a whole chapter. If you've never used an IDE that supports refactoring then this is a definitely a chapter that will be an eye-opener.
The book also covers writing GUI's using the Visual Editor Project, though it only covers using Swing rather than Swing and SWT. A fully worked example is included, specifically a graphical front end to a database is developed to show how it all fits together. Unit testing is covered again in more detail as chapter 6 goes into considerable detail on using JUnit to develop tests and test suites. The final chapter of part one of the book looks at how Eclipse integrates with the CVS version control system.
The second part of the book moves beyond the core Eclipse environment into the world of third-party plug-ins. There is more to Eclipse than the core environment, and part of its success has been the extensive ecosystem of plug-ins and extensions that do everything from add support for additional languages (everything from COBOL to PHP to Python to? well, you get the idea), to support for specific products, technologies, platforms and so on. Many Eclipse books don't really go into much detail in this area, but here there's detailed coverage of three major plug-ins - MyEclipse (for J2EE and Struts), the IBM Web Services Software Developer Toolkit and Omondo for UML support. Of course there's also a chapter that looks at how to download and install a plug-in, so that the reader is able to seek and use any of the hundreds of plug-ins that are available.
The final part of the book looks at how Eclipse can be extended. This begins with a detailed look at the plug-in architecture before moving on to create some sample plug-ins.
The book ends with four appendices which cover navigation through the Eclipse help system, setting up a CVS server, running Ant tasks and a quick survey of a selection of additional editors (including editors for XML, JavaServer Pages and for properties files).
In terms of coverage, this book includes all of the key topics a developer would need for getting started with Java. In many respects it covers the same ground as Steve Holzner's book for O'Reilly, although this book does look at a wider range of plug-ins. Both books are also well-illustrated, with plenty of screen-shots to keep the reader on track. Holzner's writing style is simpler and more direct, which certainly makes it more appealing to many readers. In contrast this is a book where the writing is a bit more convoluted and where it pays to read the book while sitting in front of Eclipse so that you can follow things line by line. These stylistic differences aside, this is a book that provides lots of value and provides the Java developer new to Eclipse with lots of support and useful information.