I am probably going to make this a series over time so hopefully people will like it and come back for each installment.
Writing programs is a multi-step process that in simple terms the programmer writes the code in a text editor, compiles it with a compiler and links it with a linker which spits out a working program.But there is way more to it than that.
A full software development process is a cycle. The cycle
starts with someone having an idea for a new program, and that leads to someone defining requirements. It might be as simple as the programmer just sitting down and thinking about the steps his program will do or could be as complex as a company holding series of meetings and the requirements being written into documents but no matter how it’s done no program is written without someone deciding what it will do.
Then the programmer or others decide what the design will be, pick a language and start writing code. Then the code is written,
compiled, tested, rewritten, compiled, retested …sometimes over and over and over… And while it’s being rewritten hopefully the code is being saved and tracked in a tool called a software configuration management suite. And then hopefully someone uses it.
SO the tool of the day today is Eclipse!
Eclipse is a modern wonder for programmers. It is an editor for writing your programs, but not just one but a whole slew of them all in one package. And it is also a platform, you can write programs for it. And it integrates a lot of other programmer’s tools like access to your compiler, access to your task system for your requirements or your change requests from your users. It allows you to write java extensions for Eclipse so your program can use the pieces already written for eclipse for your program.
When it comes to editors Eclipse doesn’t just let you type but it uses color and other text constructs to context highlight your code so that at a glance you can tell what part of your code is a comment or a global variable or all of the other constructs of your code. And it auto-suggests completions for what you are typing, making the job of a programmer much faster and more accurate. (And one of the reasons I can crank out so much code.)
And there are many visual editors for different languages available as plugins for Eclipse. You want to make a new program in Java and have a menu bar, buttons, scroll-bars, just drag them to where you want them and then tweak them to perfection.
What language do you want to program in? Just a simple web page and html with a bitof java-script? How about php, python, perl, c, java, .net or FORTRAN? They are all available editors in Eclipse.
Lately as a programmer I have lived in Eclipse. While I have and use other editors like Visual Studio or PFE and even Notepad and EMACS none of them integrates all of the tools as easily and as usefully as Eclipse.
Eclipse is easily downloaded and installed from eclipse.org and you can pick a flavour you want like c++ or Java. Installed by just unzipping the downloaded archive file into the directory you choose (After installing the latest version of Java from oracle.com) and runs just fine on any of the standard OSes.
Once installed you can update and extend Eclipse from the help menu.
Remember that the preferences are on the Window menu and you can change and configure almost everything in the system.
Eclipse keeps files in a workspace directory tree where you create one or more projects, probably one project for each program you are making, and you can tie each project to any of the supported configuration management or task management tools.
From within eclipse, once you have some code written you can compile, either automatically or on demand and then you can run them, debug them, profile (to see if they have issues like using too much memory or if parts of your program are running slow and what is making it slow) and then package them for you users to install.
Eclipse has been used as the basis for Office suites like IBM’s Symphony, it can be used for all kinds of things and has been, just surf the plugins for it at eclipse.org.
So there you go, Eclipse, one of my most important tools for programming.