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Keywords: Eclipse, Java development, programming tools

Title: Eclipse 3 Live

Author: Bill Dudney

Publisher: SourceBeat

ISBN: 0974884367

Media: Book, ebook

Level: Introductory

Verdict: Recommended for developers interested in switching to Eclipse

SourceBeat is a small publisher with a different take on the whole book publishing scene. Acknowledging that technology moves at a faster rate than books do, SourceBeat have adopted a model of publishing that makes for frequent and incremental releases of books. When readers buy a SourceBeat title they get a year's worth of upgrades if they buy the electronic version. It's a subscription rather than a straight purchase. Obviously this does not apply to people who buy a hard-copy.

The company is focused on producing books on open-source software, with titles covering Spring, Plone, Jakarta Struts and more. Including, of course, this book which covers Eclipse 3.0. Being traditionalists at heart, the version being reviewed is a hard-copy version of the December 2004 revision.

The book is an introduction to the use of Eclipse as a Java IDE, as such the use of the Eclipse for other languages or for plug-in development is not covered. The focus is very much on showing the reader how to get the best out of Eclipse for general Java development. No prior experience of Eclipse is assumed, so the book opens with instructions on downloading and installation and then it's down to work.

The first three chapters do a good job of using Eclipse to write, run and debug code. The writing is very clear and manages to pack a lot of useful information in to relatively few pages. Unlike most Eclipse books the screenshots here are from the Mac OS X rather than Windows, but while there are differences in look and feel between platforms the functionality is the same across all versions so this isn't really a big issue. The coverage is very good, and the author makes sure that some of the lesser known editor functions, such as the use of Local History to generate diffs with previous versions of a source file, are properly discussed. Also worth pointing out is that there is also an example of how to set Eclipse working with an external tool, something that some introductions skip completely.

If the first three chapters are about becoming with the basic edit/run/debug cycle, the next three chapters are about using Eclipse with standard industry tools: Ant, CVS and JUnit. These are the standard ways of generating complex builds, team working using CVS for version control and creating unit test and test suites with JUnit.

The final three chapters look at one of the strengths of Eclipse - automated refactoring. Devoting three chapters to this topic also differentiates this book from many of the other introductory books. However, this coverage does reflect on the importance of refactoring for many developers. The three chapters cover a range of refactorings, and each of these is illustrated first with an 'anti-pattern' of code to be changed and then walks through the changes. Again the writing is clear, the examples well chosen and it clearly demonstrates the value that Eclipse can provide.

For the developer wanting to switch to Eclipse there are lots of good books on the market. Choosing one above the others is tricky as each has particular strengths. Bill Dudney's book scores highly because it focused on using Eclipse for core development tasks, for it's focus on refactoring and because the writing is clear and enthusiastic. It certainly gets a TechBookReport recommendation.

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Contents © TechBookReport 2005. Published April 20 2005