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Electronic Design

Technology Report -- Eclipse: IDE Or Application Platform?

Eclipse is an integrated development environment (IDE), but its modular construction can easily turn it into something that’s more or something less. Its microkernel architecture means that most of the Eclipse IDE is built on top of the microkernel. Strip out these components and you have a power framework that can be used to build other applications. In fact, a number of companies and open-source projects are doing just that.

Using Eclipse as an application platform may not seem like a great idea until you examine its features in more detail. First, it’s built on Java. The application can potentially run on a wide variety of platforms. Eclipse employs the standard widget toolkit (SWT) to provide portable graphics support.

Second, the kernel has a well-defined plug-in architecture. This allows an application to be built in a modular fashion, and enables it to be extended in the future. It also provides a way for third parties to customize the application.

Finally, it’s possible to use Eclipse plug-ins with the application. This feature’s usefulness varies depending on the application, as does the ease of integration. For example, a source-code management system might be used to track changes in documents created via an application.

One interesting approach for deployment management tools is to add them to the IDE plug-ins. Thus, developers creating portions of the application can monitor and manage the application from the same environment.

A stripped-down version becomes the management platform once the application is completed. This assumes that Java is the language used to manage these Eclipse-based tools. Java isn’t required for the parts of the application not written for the Eclipse platform, as Eclipse supports a range of programming languages. Of course, the main application can also use Eclipse as a base if it’s a conventional application.

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