Build A Slick Modern Eclipse IDE for non-Java Developers in 5 Mins

Since the first release of the Eclipse IDE some 15 years ago, I’ve hacked and customized it for fun and profit. In recent years I’ve expanded my coding practice beyond Java to include all things web, Node and lately Python. In this article I’ll share my 5 minute recipe for assembling your own small modern extensible coding environment for non-Java development. The process involves starting with the simple Eclipse platform, add a small but very cool set of plugins and tweaking the final UI layout for a clean efficient development experience.

Below is a screenshot of the slick non-Java dev environment described in this article for coding and debugging HTML, JS, TypeScript, CSS, PHP, Python, Json files, and many others. Additionally this configuration provides access to a customizable build-pipeline for each project, unlike anything found in Eclipse previously. If this sounds cool to you, let’s get started.

Yes this is Eclipse with the Darkest Dark theme and icons in a custom perspective

Prerequisite: Eclipse requires Java 8 or greater. If you do not have Java installed start here.  

Disclaimer: In addition to being an avid developer I am also a Genuitec co-founder, the company that develops the DevStyle and CodeMix plugins for Eclipse that are used in this discussion. The CodeMix plugin is available as a 50 day free trial for professional developers then only $30 and free for students upon request.

Download the Eclipse Platform Binary (2 min)

The first step is to download and extract the Eclipse platform binary for your system. The Eclipse Platform contains no developer tools, thus making it the fastest, smallest and most basic version of Eclipse available.

  1. From your browser open the list of Eclipse downloads and scroll down to the Platform Runtime Binary list similar to that shown below.
  2. Select and download the version of Eclipse for your system. 
  3. Extract (unzip) the Eclipse platform files to a writable directory of your choosing.

 

Launch Eclipse (30 secs)

  1. From the installation directory locate the Eclipse executable and launch it, e.g., eclipse.exe on Windows or eclipse.app on Mac
  2. When Eclipse first starts up it will open a dialog requesting the path of a new directory in which it will store projects, preferences (a.k.a. settings) and metadata. This is known as the Eclipse workspace directory. Enter the path of an existing Eclipse workspace or to a new directory that will be created as part of this initial launch process.  

 

Install Plugins (1 min)

The version of Eclipse running lacks any tools. So in this step we will empower Eclipse by importing and installing 4 plugins. The plugins are:

  • Eclipse Marketplace plugin (open-source, free)
  • Git Tools plugin (open-source, free)
  • DevStyle plugin (commercial, free)
  • CodeMix plugin (commercial, 50+ day eval)
  1. Begin by downloading the files from either this Google doc folder or my Githhub Eclipse configuration project. You will need the files eclipse-dev-plugins-min.p2f and eclipse-dev-prefs-min.epf. 
  2. Open the Eclipse Import dialog from the Eclipse File menu
  3. From the Import dialog expand the Install node and select Install Software Items from File followed by the Next button
  4. Browse to the eclipse-dev-plugins-min.p2f file you downloaded and select Finish to begin the plugin importing process.
  5. Lastly upon completion of the plugin installation Eclipse will ask you if you want to restart. Choose NO at this time.

Import Preferences (1 min)

With the new developer tool plugins installed we need to configure them by setting their preferences; this includes configuring the Eclipse look and feel.

  1. Once again we start by opening the Eclipse Import dialog from the Eclipse File menu
  2. From the Import dialog expand the General node and select Preferences followed by the Next button
  3. Browse to the eclipse-dev-prefs-min.p2f file you downloaded and select Finish to begin the preference importing process.
  4. Lastly upon completion of the preference import process Eclipse will ask you if you want to restart. Choose YES at this time.

Configure the Eclipse Window Layout (30 sec)

After the restart of Eclipse the workbench window will be styled with the Darkest Dark theme from the DevStyle plugin. The layout of the window may be a little misaligned. This final step is to activate the CodeMix-Custom window layout, a.k.a. 

  1. In the top-right corner of the Eclipse window select the Open Perspective button 
  2. A list of window perspectives will appear. Select the CodeMix-Custom perspective followed by the Open button

The Eclipse window should appear similar to the screenshot at the top of this article. From this layout you can navigate and edit code, run terminals, browser problem markers, launch and monitor build tasks, set and manage breakpoints, launch the debugger and check in and out code from Git without changing Eclipse perspectives. I find this much more productive than the disruptive classic Eclipse behavior of changing perspectives for example between coding and debugging.

Enjoy (1000s mins)

The CodeMix plugin is crazy powerful by providing you almost all of the coding, debugging, task execution and extensibility features of Visual Studio Code integrated along with the familiar features of Eclipse in a single developer tool. 

Browse and install VS Code extensions by selecting Help menu > Code Mix Extensions… The CodeMix Extensions Manager view will open providing a list of installed extensions as well as access to a catalog of other VS Code compatible extensions that can be installed into CodeMix. 

Final Notes

I hope you find this simple yet powerful version of Eclipse for non-Java development extremely useful. The layout is influenced from tools such as JetBrain’s Android Studio and Visual Studio Code. I designed the uncluttered minimalistic UI to be much simpler and cleaner than the default Eclipse toolbar and menu configurations. Lastly, you can learn more about the CodeMix and DevStyle plugins here. I will update this document and the files it references anytime Eclipse, CodeMix or DevStyle are updated. 

#HappyCoding