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Reasons to use Eclipse and SWT?

Posted by simongbrown on November 14, 2003 at 9:19 AM PST

I popped down to the JSIG today, the topic of which was Eclipse. Unfortunately I had a 2pm meeting so could only stay for the first presentation by Berthold Daum (author of Eclipse for Java Developers) which was an overview of Eclipse, SWT and plugin development.

The first part of the session took a look at Eclipse itself, and Berthold gave a good overview of the tool, the workbench, the various views, perspectives and so on. Following on from this was a look at some of the features that Eclipse provides including things like code completion, code assist, refactoring, etc. Overall this was technically a good presentation although it didn't leave me wanting to download the tool and give it another try. If you've been following my blog, you'll know I'm a big fan of IntelliJ IDEA and I have a personal license to prove it. In terms of the content covered in the presentation, feature for feature there's nothing new that I can't do with IDEA. Apart from the obvious advantage (i.e. price), why should I switch to Eclipse?

The next part of the presentation looked at SWT - the Swing alternative that Eclipse uses and that we (as developers) can use to build our own desktop applications. Again, this was a good presentation that covered topics ranging from the SWT architecture to the various widgets it provides. For me, the interesting part of the presentation was the summary of the pros/cons for using SWT. Advantages quoted include richer (native) widgets and integration, more stable and more responsive than Swing. Disadvantages quoted include SWT only runs on a limited number of platforms, widgets (can) have different behaviour on different platforms and deployment is an issue because of the native code. So, to summarise my understanding, SWT takes all the things that Java tries to achieve (platform independence, compatibility, etc) and throws them out of the window for something that is perceived to be faster, richer and more stable than Swing? I think I need some more convincing, particularly with the advances that J2SE 1.4.2 has provided in this area.

Just as a last point, there was a quick poll done about how many people have used Eclipse and, unsurprisingly, about half of the audience (about 40 people) raised their hands. Whether you like it or not, Eclipse is gaining a large "market" share. There's been a lot of discussion about Eclipse/SWT, but why should developers make the switch to either of these two tools?

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