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'Europa' Orbits Eclipse With 21 New Projects

Eclipse is more than just an open source Java IDE -- it's at least 21 projects more. The Eclipse Foundation today unveiled 21 different projects encompassing more than 17 million lines of code.

The new release train called Eclipse Europa is the largest release yet from Eclipse as it continues to build community and features in its quest to become the de facto open source standard for IDE  development.

Last year in its Callisto release, the Foundation rolled out only 10 projects and 7 million lines of code.

Ian Skerrett, director of marketing at Eclipse, told internetnews.com that having a predictable release cycle is critical to enabling the wider Eclipse ecosystem of user and developers to build out their own products.

Skerrett argued that Europa participation was not focused on any Eclipse Foundation project; rather, each project volunteered to be part of the release train.

The core Eclipse architecture is such that everything is a modularized component that enables plug-ins. Moreover, each component has well defined APIs  that allow teams to layer functionality on top of each other.

Skerrett highlighted a few of the new Europa projects as ground breaking. One of them is the Eclipse Modeling Framework (EMF), which now supports Java generics that allow for more sophisticated and flexible models.

Also, the Eclipse Mylyn project hits version 2.0 in Europa with a a new task-focused user interface to the IDE. Typically, when developers are working on bugs or features, they usually have associated files or resources. Without Mylyn developers need to navigate and find those resources on their own.

"With Mylyn it has a learning mechanism of associating the files with a specific task," Skerrett explained. "It's a great productivity enhancing tool."

Another highlight is the Eclipse Dynamic Languages Tool Kit project, which now provides support for Ruby  in addition to Tcl . DLTK is an effort to develop an IDE for dynamic languages other than Java. Skerrett noted that DLTK now has pretty much the equivalent functionality of the regular Eclipse Java IDE now.

Even though Europa is the biggest release yet from Eclipse, it's not entirely inclusive of everything that Eclipse has to offer. Among the interesting projects not part of the Europa release are ATF (Ajax Toolkit Framework), RAP (Rich Ajax Platform) and PHP IDE.

According to Skerrett, those projects didn't feel they could meet the Europa release dates but he expects to see them on the release train next year. The 2008 Eclipse release will be called Ganymede, in keeping with the Eclipse theme of naming releases after the moons of Jupiter.

Eclipse isn't the only open source IDE in town. The Sun Microsystems-led Netbeans effort is still around and still competing against Eclipse.

"I think Netbeans compares extremely favorably with Europa," Kuldip Oberoi, product line manager of developer tools and emerging technologies at Sun, told internetnews.com.. "They are trying to introduce predictability and that's a good thing. Netbeans has been doing that for years."

Oberoi does not see Netbeans or Sun joining with Eclipse, but that's a good thing in his view.

"The competition between the platforms benefits the entire Java development space," Oberoi said.

The next major version of Netbeans, version 6, is set for release later this year.

Eclipse, however, is apparently not overly concerned about what the Netbeans community is or isn't doing.

"We don't spend a lot of time doing detailed comparison between Netbeans and Eclipse," Eclipses Skerrett said. "In our minds Eclipse is much more than a Java IDE and is servicing a much wider community."