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IBM Web Tools Platform for Eclipse

Posted by davidrupp on September 3, 2004 at 8:56 AM PDT

You gotta love IBM. First they open-source the Eclipse project. You can say what you like about SWT vs. AWT; in my book, Free + Open + Highly Functional == A Good Thing.

Then, just for fun, they unleash their Web Tools Platform on an unsuspecting (yet hopefully appreciative) world. It seems unjust to call this thing a 'plugin' -- it's an uber-plugin. The main bundle is about 55MB, which is almost as big as the Eclipse 2.1 SDK release was. (Remember Eclipse 2? Ah, the good ol' days! ) Eclipse 3 isn't quite 90MB. So this is a massive contribution.

What do you get in exchange for tying up your bandwidth for a 50+ MB download? I was just looking for a good, free JSP syntax-coloring plugin. The WTP provides that and a whole lot more. See the above-referenced website for all the details.

The Getting Started document will help you, well, get started. It has a full list of the plugins you'll need to install before installing the WTP. Installing any plugin to Eclipse is pretty easy -- unzip the plugin, copy everything from the 'features' directory into your Eclipse installation features directory, do the same for the 'plugins' directory, restart Eclipse, and you're good to go.

There is a small gotcha here -- Eclipse 3.0 caches plugin information to provide quicker startup. To make sure it picks up the new plugin(s), you need to start Eclipse with an argument of '-clean'; this tells Eclipse to flush its plugin cache and load everything fresh this time. This is detailed in section 2.2 of the Getting Started document.

Here's a rare example of a thing that's more complicated on the Mac than it is in Windows. In Windows, you right-click on the Eclipse executable and add the '-clean' option to the command in the 'Target' input field. Apply your changes, run the executable, and you're done. Not so the Mac.

On the Macintosh, the executable (Eclipse.app) is really a package -- a bundle of executable and resources that's actually an integrated directory structure. This bundle structure is what makes it pretty easy to plop an application down anywhere on your filesystem and not have to worry about a central registry or any arbitrary restrictions on where executables can live. You can even move it around and be pretty sure of not breaking anything. Try that on a Windows machine!

So, in order to set the '-clean' option for Eclipse on the Mac, here's what you do:

  • right-click (or ctrl-click) on the executable (Eclipse.app)
  • click on "Show Package Contents"
  • open the "Contents" folder
  • double-click on the file "Info.plist"; this will open the file in the Property List Editor application, by default
  • expand the "Root" node
  • expand the "Eclipse" node -- on my Mac, this gives me a list of 10 sub-nodes. YMMV.
  • click on the node right before the '-vmargs' node
  • click the "New Sibling" button at the top left
  • in the text input field, type in '-clean' (without the single quotes)
  • quit the Property List Editor application, saving your changes
  • You can use this sequence to modify the command-line arguments to any Java executable on the Mac that's bundled as an application.

    I'm posting this entry from a Windows machine, so I don't have access to screenshots at the moment. If anyone thinks it'd be helpful, I'll try to update later with some images.