June 3, 2009

Eclipse Top Annoyances

Eclipse is one of those love/hate things. I love it and hate it, both at the same time.

The Love

Firstly, it's the best Java IDE on the market, and we successfully use it for years now. In the meantime, there might be other IDEs with an even richer feature set, better integration, nicer UI etc. but we actually don't care very much. I love Eclipse just for what it did to the Java and Open Source community, and it definitely has been pushing the edge for a couple of years now.

BTW, of course I know Eclipse is more than just a Java IDE, but this is my personal short interpretation of "development platform comprised of extensible frameworks, tools and runtimes for building, deploying and managing software across the lifecycle".

The Hate

Well, having said all this... sometimes Eclipse really drives me crazy. There are a couple of annoyances, some of them rather small but insistent, others bothering us since quite a long time.

The strange thing is, all of my complaints are not related to the more sophisticated plugins like Mylyn, WTP, MDT and so forth. (Yes, we use them too, albeit in a sketchy way.) No, the issues annoying me most are shown by the Platform or JDT, and maybe that's why they are actually so annoying.

The List

Okay, here is my list for Eclipse 3.4 (Ganymede):

6. Formatting

We have setup the Eclipse Java code formatter to match the project requirements. There are plenty of options to adjust to your needs, but... sometimes the algorithm is just broken. Take this example:

private Accumulator getSpecificAccumAndSetRuleDefaultValue(
CoverageRule calcStepRule,
CalculationStepInfo calculationStepInfo,

What is this extra line break before the first method argument good for? Instead of aligning the method arguments horizontally, Eclipse messed it up vertically. You can find several other strange formattings where formatted code requires extra space, mainly in long method or class declarations. Here is another example of an extra line break:

public class PersistenceService<R extends PersistentRootObject, D extends HibernateDaoSupport>
IPersistenceService {
5. Blocking Workspace

I have blogged about this blocking behaviour before: sometimes, Eclipse can't save my file while it is building "in the background" and tells me that my "User Operation is Waiting"...

That's just silly, Eclipse should be able to do my save action at any time, if compiling or not. Loosing editor's content (by unintended editing, Eclipse crash or hang-up, whatever) just due to the impossibility to save is just not acceptable.

4. Startup Time

Depending on size of the workspace, you got to wait minutes before you can start editing. That's just too slow. Period.

3. Dialog Window Dimensions

When you open a project's Properties window, for instance, it will show up quite small. I have a large screen and don't like to scroll unnecessarily, so I resize the window to be considerably larger. However, the dialog dimensions are not persisted – when I close and reopen the same dialog, it shows up as small as before. Eclipse just refuses to remember what I like.

For other dialog windows (like Open Type), this works perfectly; why not for all of them?

2. Update Manager

I used to think the new Eclipse 3.4 update manager (p2 Provisioning System) was a good thing, but I'm no longer sure. As end user, you just don't want to mess around with features, dependencies, build numbers... and get strange error messages (see this post of an issue with a custom built Eclipse plugin we struggled with recently).

Additionally, the list of available software is too technical for most end users. Subversive SVN Connectors plugin provides 6 optional connectors, but at least one is required. So, which one(s) do I choose? Instead of having the full list with just the name and version strings, I would rather like to see some typical sets of required features ("typical installation" similary to when installing software on Windows). Alternatively, at least provide some end user level meta information like "This is the default feature", "Choose this item if..." etc.

1. Vanished Project Contents

Sometimes the content of my workspace projects in Package Explorer view is "gone", meaning I can't expand the project nodes any more. Yes, of course there is some content, and fortunately it is still on the disk – but just not showing up in the view.

Project Explorer view still shows the projects correctly. Closing and re-opening them in Package Explorer usually helps.

The Hope

I used to install the latest milestones for some years, but have given up this habit because of stability/quality/compatibility issues with Eclipse core and/or the plugins I use. Hence, I can't tell which ones will be addressed by the Eclipse 3.5 (Galileo) which is going to happen on 24th of June.

So... let's keep our fingers crossed!

1 comment:

  1. I used to wait for the "User Operating is Waiting" dialog to go away on its own, but I recently realized that that in my version of eclipse (latest) I can just close the dialog and keep editing files.

    This dialog is only modal until you close it. Closing it does not stop the queued actions from happening in the background while you continue working!