Getting Started with Eclipse - Part 1

By: Michelle Kempner

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Michelle lives and works in New York City where she is a Java Developer for Schematic, one of the nation's leading interactive agencies.

Eclipse is an open-source IDE widely used for Java development and developed by the Eclipse Foundation. Eclipse, in conjunction with plug-ins, can be used as an environment for any number of programming languages. There are plugins for ColdFusion, .NET, PHP, and even Ada and LISP. In addition, Macromedia has joined the Eclipse Foundation and built a Flex IDE, formerly code-named Zorn, based on the Eclipse editor. An alpha version of Flex Builder 2 is available now.

Installing Eclipse

Eclipse can run on almost any operating system, including XP, Linux and OS X, as long as Java is installed. OS X should have Java already installed, but XP and Linux users will need to install a recent Java J2SE SDK (Software Development Kit) from Eclipse does tend to use a lot of memory, so it is a good idea to have at least 512 MB of RAM. Eclipse is about the easiest program to install. Simply download the most recent version and then unzip it to a sensible directory (e.g., C:\Program Files\Eclipse). If you ever want to install Eclipse on another machine, you can just copy the directory from one machine to the other (but you still have to install Java first).

On Windows XP, Eclipse is launched from the eclipse.exe file in the unzipped folder. It is probably a good idea to create a shortcut because once you start developing in Eclipse, you'll never want to go back to anything else! The first time that you launch Eclipse, you will be asked to set a location for a workspace. The workspace is the location where your code and any related files will be stored. You should take a minute and think about a really suitable directory for this. It should be somewhere outside of your Eclipse directory and somewhere that you could store a number of different projects (e.g., C:\EclipseWorkspace). As with the Eclipse installation directory, you can also copy your workspace to another machine.

NOTE: The filenames and paths mentioned in this section will be different on different platforms.

The first time you open Eclipse, you will see a Welcome screen that you can always return to by selecting Help > Welcome. From the Welcome screen you can learn more about Eclipse through samples and tutorials.

Figure 1  You can return to the Welcome screen by choosing Help > Welcome

The first tutorial supplied by Eclipse is a "Hello World" example just like the one we are going to do in this tutorial. The Eclipse tutorial opens in a pane in the editor so feel free to run it while you follow the instructions on the next page. When you are done familiarizing yourself with the Welcome screen, click the arrow at the upper right to go to the Workbench.

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Eclipse Foundation, Java, J2SE, workspace, project, "hello world", debugging, breakpoint, IDE, Zorn, Flex Builder, javac, plug-in