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RIA & Ajax: Article

Eclipse: A Solid Desktop, Rich-Client, or Embedded Application Framework

Eclipse forever changes the way developers think about writing Java applications

Once the starting platform has been determined, building an application is simply a matter of writing plug-ins to add features to the basic Eclipse framework and branding them appropriately for the intended audience. For example, a large application is typically written as multiple custom perspectives and supporting views using many plug-ins. Alternatively, to integrate a suite of small applications, perhaps each one can be a single perspective in its own plug-in. Along those lines, Eclipse can also be used as a portal to integrate all of a company's homegrown applications. The possibilities are truly endless. And, just to prove the point, here's a very wide assortment of Eclipse-based applications from all over the world.

GumTree is an Open Source graphical user interface framework for building scientific instrumentation consoles as shown in Figure 2.

EclipseTrader is an Open Source set of plug-ins for the Eclipse RCP dedicated to the building of an online stock trading system, featuring shares price watching, intra-day and historical charts with technical analysis indicators, level II/market-depth views, news watching, and integrated trading. The main view is depicted in Figure 3.

Azureus implements the BitTorrent client protocol through Eclipse RCP plug-ins and comes bundled with many invaluable features for both beginners and advanced BitTorrent users. Azureus is typically one of the most downloaded applications at SourceForge and interface looks native on any platform, thanks to SWT, as shown in Figure 4.

Qanyon World Factbook application was written to explore using Eclipse RCP in a distributed environment. Similar to the CIA World Factbook web site, the Qanyon World Factbook should display country information, albeit in a rich client environment, as shown in Figure 5.

Going Forward - What's Next for Eclipse?
Eclipse is continuously evolving and will continue to grow both vertically further into the software tools space and horizontally into completely new market segments. Interestingly, the growth into new industry verticals will be for the same reasons that Eclipse was formed in the first place. Although Eclipse was initially formed to build an integration platform for software tool providers, the separate availability of the RCP changes everything. Rather than being a platform exclusively for tool providers, Eclipse has become a general-purpose platform that has simply been leveraged initially in the software tools arena. With this seminal change, Eclipse will begin drawing participants from other verticals who want to cooperate in the same way that the current group of tool providers has. In the near future I expect to see interest in building infrastructure for productivity applications, reporting tools, security, process workflow, and business intelligence among others. Now that Eclipse is completely open and inclusive across the entire software industry, its membership and growth will explode in the coming years.

Another vehicle of Eclipse's future growth will likely come from completely outside the software industry. Consortia from such diverse industries as healthcare, automotive, and finance regularly set software platform and interoperability standards. However, without a portable, cross-platform implementation of the standards, each consortium member must independently construct its own, solely based on the industry specifications. This tremendous duplication of work is both expensive and error-prone. Collaborating on building a common set of specification-compliant infrastructure would universally cut costs while insuring interoperability. But what competitors require before they can cooperate is a level playing field that benefits all of them equally. When they begin to research their options, they will find that Eclipse's maturity, extensibility, and royalty-free redistribution model is very attractive as the base for their collaborative development efforts.

Eclipse is constantly expanding, evolving, and surprising all of us. So much so that it would have been impossible to envision where it has gone in its first few years of existence. And, going forward, doing a reasonable job predicting what is next for Eclipse seems just as difficult. There's only one thing for certain; the future is arriving every day and no one really knows what it holds. Software visionary Alan Kay once said, "The best way to predict the future is to invent it." And, whatever the "next big thing" is, one thing is increasingly likely; it will be built on Eclipse.

About MyEclipse
An innovative, comprehensive, and affordable Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for Java, J2EE, and open standards technologies. MyEclipse Enterprise Workbench is a full-featured enterprise-class platform and tool suite for developing software applications and systems supporting the full lifecycle of application development. Facilities and features usually found only in high-priced enterprise-class products are included in MyEclipse, which extends the best practices and technology available from the latest Eclipse 3.1 SDK. Based on open standards and the Eclipse platform, MyEclipse redefines software pricing, support, and delivery release cycles by providing a complete application development environment for J2EE, WEB, AJAX, XML, UML, and databases and the most comprehensive array of application server connectors (25 target environments) to optimize development, deployment, testing. and portability.

About Genuitec
Genuitec, LLC is an Eclipse-based company offering innovative Java and J2EE development tools. It offers training and expert consulting and development services for the Eclipse SDK and rich client platforms. A sponsor of Eclipse Plug-in Central, Genuitec joined the Eclipse Foundation early in 2003 and is currently on the board of directors, actively participating in the organization's strategic development and direction. Genuitec was founded in 1997 and is headquartered in Plano, Texas.

More Stories By Todd Williams

Todd Williams is Genuitec's VP of Technology and leads its Eclipse Technology Consulting Practice. He has over twenty years of industry experience in the development of computing infrastructures, large scale distributed software architectures, and the optimization of development processes, techniques, and tools. Todd has been Genuitec's representative to the Eclipse Foundation since 2002 and currently holds an elected seat on the Eclipse Foundation's board of directors.

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