Hot skills: Eclipse takes the RAP for Ajax-based projects

The Eclipse Foundation's Rich Ajax Platform (RAP) enables Java developers to build Ajax-enabled web applications and desktop-based rich client applications from the same code-base.

What is it?

The Eclipse Foundation's Rich Ajax Platform (RAP) enables Java developers to build Ajax-enabled web applications and desktop-based rich client applications from the same code-base.

Ajax is only one of the latest targets for the Eclipse project, which began by focusing on enterprise application development. Eclipse was conceived as an open standards-based set of frameworks and tools for building, deploying and managing Java software. But support for other languages has been added, including C++ and PHP.

Eclipse was begun by IBM, which invited other vendors to join it. Many were reluctant to contribute until IBM made the initiative independent by setting up the Eclipse Foundation, and contributing three million lines of code from its former VisualAge IDE products. The vast majority of Eclipse "committers" are still full-time IBM employees, and suspicion about IBM's dominance of Eclipse was revived when a proposal for the next generation, e4, was put together by IBM staff and intimate partners, including small companies set up by former IBMers who had retained close links with the company. IBM hasn't helped by calling Eclipse "our next-generation tools integration platform".

In the meantime the code base has swollen to 17 million lines, and there are now more than 60 projects addressing everything from embedded and device development to business intelligence reporting tools and service oriented architecture.

Eclipse is an open source project, and the Ajax platform, Java IDE and other products can be downloaded free.

Where did it originate?

The Eclipse Foundation was set up in 2003. Members include IBM, Oracle, BEA, SAP, Borland, HP, Nokia and Motorola.

What's it for?

Most developers come to Eclipse via the Java Development Tools IDE. But at the heart of the various Eclipse initiatives is the Rich Client Platform, which includes the OSGi component-based interoperability environment, the Standard Widget Toolkit, the Eclipse Workbench, and JFace, which supports model-view-controller programming. Eclipse uses a plug-in architecture, which enables new functionality and tools to be integrated seamlessly. A huge base of plug-ins is already available, and developers can add their own. Among other projects and platforms is the Eclipse Web Tools Platform, which provides editing tools for HTML, JavaScript and CSS, and database access and query tools.

What makes it special?

Eclipse aims to provide a fully open and unified alternative to Sun's various Java platforms and Microsoft's .Net.

How difficult is it to master?

The website has starter packages for Java developers and C/C++ developers looking for an IDE, and for people developing Java EE applications.

What systems does it run on?

Linux, HP-UX, AIX, Solaris, Mac OS X and Windows.

What's coming up?

An annual "simultaneous release" from all the various Eclipse projects takes place in June. Longer term, e4 (Eclipse 4) aims to reduce and simplify the code base, which is not only bewilderingly large, but overly dependent on IBM employees. The recently announced Eclipse Runtime project will extend the lightweight Equinox run-time, already used by IBM, BEA and Oracle, to provide a unified component model that runs across all operating systems and computing tiers -including the different programming and deployment models imposed by Java SE, ME and EE.

Rates of pay

Java developers with Eclipse from £30k.


See for downloads, tutorials and other resources. IBM's developerWorks has a lot of material, including an introduction to Eclipse for Visual Studio users.

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