Two plug-ins rev up Eclipse
M7 NitroX 2.0 and MyEclipse Enterprise Workbench 3.8.3 smooth Java and JSP developmentFollow @peterwayner
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Anyone who wonders whether there is any middle ground between the rough-and-ready approach of open source and the staid polish of proprietary software should examine the MyEclipse and NitroX development environments. Both are commercial collections of plug-ins and tools that add a number of useful features for developing server-side applications to the free Eclipse open source IDE.
The two environments come from companies with different approaches. M7’s NitroX is focused on creating Web applications. It comes in three different versions at three different price points, but the core of all three is AppXRay, a deep introspection technology that integrates the name spaces of the Java and XML configuration code. The simplest of the three versions offers help debugging JSP code for $299; the middle version adds support for Struts applications for an additional $200; and the high-end version includes tools for creating and debugging JSFs (Java Server Faces) for another $200. There are some discounts for multiple licenses.
MyEclipse Enterprise Workbench from Genuitec offers a broader range of slightly weaker tools for a yearly subscription of only $29.95. Some of the tools are open source plug-ins created by others, but Genuitec polishes them up and adds some generally good documentation before releasing them in one big package.
MyEclipse comes with plug-ins that automate some of the work for producing a Web application with Struts, but the collection also includes tools for tasks such as configuring database connections with the Hibernate framework. There’s even an SQL browser.
Both of these projects are working to replace many of the features for creating EJBs and JSP pages that IBM originally included in its flagship IDE, WebSphere Studio Application Developer. IBM stripped these out and released the core as Eclipse, no doubt choosing the name as a not-so-subtle jab at Java’s nominal owner, Sun. Eclipse has flourished, attracting a number of developers who create their own plug-ins. Many of these plug-ins are open source but some are proprietary. The result is a nice mix of common code shared by all and proprietary code owned by someone with an incentive to make it as slick as possible.
M7 NitroX for JSP, Struts, and JSF
The NitroX and MyEclipse environments are both good examples of how proprietary tools can coexist with open source. Any dedicated Java/Struts Web application programmer will probably want to turn to the NitroX toolkit first, if only because it’s the most extensive. The AppXRay feature seems to be devoted to the proposition that a programmer should only type a name once. AppXRay comes with many code-completion tools that can see deep inside of Java code modules and XML configuration files. After you give some method, field, or configuration option a name, AppXRay will probably find it and put it in the right pull-down menu for the next time you want to use it.
AppXRay goes much deeper than the standard debugger, by parsing and storing much of the information from XML configuration files. This is a welcome addition, because programming with modern frameworks such as Struts is a hybrid between Java and XML. Most programmers can tell you stories of how all of Java’s fancy type-checking does nothing to prevent bad data in a misconfigured XML file from ruining their applications.