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Community Perspective: 20 Years of the Eclipse IDE

Wednesday, December 15, 2021 - 16:09 by Paul Buck

I was an IBMer on assignment to Object Technology International when the Eclipse IDE technology was developed by OTI and contributed to open source at the Eclipse Foundation.

Throughout its first twenty years, the Eclipse IDE has played a vital role in the careers of countless software professionals. To help us celebrate this milestone, we reached out to some of the community members who use and contribute to the platform to find out why they got involved, what they’ve learned so far, and what they expect for the future:

How were you introduced to the Eclipse IDE?

Chris Aniszczyk - CTO, Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF): In the very early 2000s, I first tried out Eclipse while at university to speed up my Java learning (as a brief respite from Vim). I eventually ended up at an internship at IBM in 2003 where I worked on graphical tooling for IBM security products to simulate policies (using Eclipse GEF).

Manoj Palat - Engineer, IBM: Very very long ago, in another world — or company, at least — my manager mentioned to me that there was a popular Java IDE called Eclipse. Little did I know that later in time I would be actively contributing to the Eclipse IDE.

Jay Arthanareeswaran - Software Developer, IBM: It wasn't much of a choice in the beginning for two reasons: 1) I was just beginning my life as a Java programmer and my team used the Eclipse IDE. 2) There weren’t many options available and it was a great leap from text-based editing tools.

What made you decide to get involved?

Jay: At one point, Eclipse and Java were beginning to mean the same for many young developers like me. Being a Java certified Java programmer, getting involved with the Eclipse IDE was the natural choice.

Chris: I started my Eclipse journey as a simple user of the IDE as a student, and eventually got involved through my job, which led to me attending my first Eclipse event. I was also fortunate to have Ed Merks — from EMF fame — as a mentor early in my career who propelled my involvement with the Eclipse community and the Foundation. Through that experience, I’ve had the honor to be elected to the Eclipse Foundation Board of Directors to represent the committer community, which I still do to this day.

Manoj: The excitement of working in open source, especially in such a widely used product that stands the test of time. That alone was a big motivation to get involved in developing the Eclipse IDE.

How would you summarize your experience with the Eclipse IDE?

Manoj: Great — if it's a one-word answer. As a user as well as a contributor, I have seen the Eclipse IDE from both sides. The different, sometimes contrasting, objectives from both sides bring synergy to provide great features.

Jay: Nothing short of fascinating. Being involved with Eclipse for twenty years as a user and twelve years as a contributor makes me immensely proud.

Chris: The Eclipse IDE not only made me a better developer by teaching efficient development practices, it also taught me how to collaborate with peers in the industry that worked in different organizations. In the early days of Eclipse, collaborating on open source across organizations, to benefit a platform used by all, was still a fairly new concept. The Eclipse IDE and Foundation helped mature the state of corporate open source collaboration and teach many companies how to build in the open.

Which features that have been added to the IDE stand out to you?

Jay: It excites me to know all the new cool features with every release. Notably, the ones that aid debugging, like trigger points, for example.

Chris: As the former lead of the Eclipse PDE project, Eclipse made it fairly easy for developers to create plug-ins for new programming languages and use cases that just wasn’t possible in previous generation tools. When I first got started my favorite feature was ECJ (the incremental Java compiler). ECJ shortened the developer feedback loop to make it easier to see if something worked immediately. At that time, no other tool had that  feature. I also love the Ctrl+3 quick access feature.

Manoj: While it may sound self-centred, as a project lead and committer responsible for bringing the latest Java support to Eclipse IDE on time, every time, this feature is at the top of my list.

What excites you about the future of the Eclipse IDE?

Chris: I’ve been amazed to see the Eclipse IDE ship consistently high quality code on time every year, that is the mark of a true mature open source community. I’m personally excited about some of the future directions involving cloud native IDE experiences that bridge the desktop and web worlds using projects like Eclipse Theia.

Manoj: Eclipse being cloud-ready is one thing that would help Eclipse propel forward to get ahead of competition. Eclipse Che and Eclipse Theia combined with Language Server Protocol with JDT as the Java language provider is indeed the way forward, to secure a bright future for Eclipse as a Cloud IDE.

Jay: The ever growing fondness in the community towards Eclipse despite the competition is what makes Eclipse's future as promising as ever.

The Eclipse IDE has been on an amazing journey and touched the careers and day-to-day livelihood of millions of developers. It will be exciting to see what the next 20 years have in store.

To learn more about the progress we’ve made in the first twenty years of the Eclipse IDE, and to celebrate this milestone with us, visit our anniversary page.

You can download the latest version of Eclipse IDE here.