A Vision for the Eclipse Developer's Platform

Our vision is to build leading desktop and cloud-based development solutions, but more importantly to offer a seamless development experience across them. Our goal is to ensure that developers will have the ability to build, deploy, and manage their assets using the device, location and platform best suited for the job at hand.

Cloud-based development is becoming a reality, but with an estimated six million users, leveraging thirty years of investment in the desktop, Eclipse will remain a significant part of the developer’s platform for the foreseeable future. With great Java™ 8 support, innovative refactoring, static analysis, and tight integration with services like source code management tools and issue trackers, desktop Eclipse has a lot to offer.

I know what you’re thinking: thirty years? Yes, thirty. Eclipse itself has been open source for almost a decade and a half, but it leverages the skills and experience of a team that has been building tools for developers for a very long time. Eclipse’s modular architecture makes it very easy to extend, enabling a vast ecosystem to provide all sorts of solutions to every sort of problem that you can imagine. While this architecture is modular and loosely coupled, the do-it-all locally nature of plug-ins tends to result in a rather large footprint on the desktop: everything that you need is in the desktop in a single (albeit loosely-coupled) application.

Orion takes a different approach. Orion has been quietly building steam in the browser-based web (JavaScript, HTML, CSS, etc.) development space. Rather than take control of the developer experience, Orion manifests comfortably as just another tab in your browser. Where desktop Eclipse integrates with external services like issue trackers and code review services using tightly integrated (but loosely coupled) Eclipse-specific views and editors, Orion leverages the existing web-based interfaces. Your code editors exist as a tabs in the browser, sitting beside other tabs and windows open on your issue tracker, code review, Git repositories, and more.

The Che project—recently added as a new project by the Eclipse Foundation—takes on development in the cloud. Che leverages a modular micro-services based architecture to deliver a complete browser-based development experience with support for writing, compiling, building, and testing applications of diverse collections of technology directly in the browser. Che strikes a balance between Eclipse and Orion: like Eclipse, Che provides a comprehensive and immersive development experience; but like Orion, Che leverages distributed services (SaaS). In fact, Che actually uses parts of Orion.

We will continue to reap the dividends of the effort we’ve invested in desktop IDE for years to come. Web- and cloud-based developer tools are emerging as a real alternative, but there’s room for both and it’s important that we make the ability to choose the right set of tools for the job as easy as possible. Moreover, it needs to be possible to “mix and match” solutions and move from one to the other and back again. This will take time and coordination between our project teams.

Over the next three years, the out-of-the-box experience for desktop Eclipse will improve. With the new Oomph project, we have technology that makes it easy to install and configure Eclipse (we’ll deliver this as part of the Mars simultaneous release in 2015). The Oomph launcher knows how to detect whether or not an appropriate JRE is available and provide instructions if one cannot found. It sounds like a little thing, but this will be a huge improvement in the initial experience for a great many users.

Continued focus on quality and performance, out-of-the-box experience, Java 9, and first class Maven and Gradle support also figure prominently in our vision of a powerful developer’s platform.

Eclipse projects, the community, and ecosystem will all continue to invest in and grow desktop Eclipse. Full-function cloud-based developer tools delivered in the browser will emerge and revolutionize software development. Developers will be able to switch between and mix-and-match their tool platform as required. Quality, performance, functionality, and out-of-the-box experience will to continue to improve. This is our vision of the Eclipse developer’s platform over the next three years and the foreseeable future.


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