Eclipse: Write once, use a lot

One of the most appealing aspects of Eclipse as a run-time platform is that it works on multiple operating systems.

Developers using Eclipse as a base platform for their programs only have to write their code once instead of porting it to each individual OS.

'The idea is that you build your application once and then you can deploy it, in one step, to multiple platforms,' said Eclipse evangelist Wayne Beaton. 'It is the same code base running on Linux, on Windows and on Unix.'

This universality is the reason why advocates call Eclipse a rich client platform. Fat clients, which is to say traditional programs, are written for one specific operating system.

At the other end of the spectrum, thin-client programs need only a browser but can't execute many of the sophisticated operations a fat client can (even with advanced Web programming tools such as AJAX), because the program has no direct access to the OS.

The rich-client approach offers the best of both worlds, a cross-system platform that takes advantages of the native hooks of an OS.

Of course, the idea of writing once and running everywhere is nothing new. In fact, such universality is a major benefit of Java. However, Eclipse offers several advantages over Java.

Eclipse adherents say Java programs tend to run more slowly than applications written for a specific OS. Java applications execute in a virtual machine'the Java Runtime Engine'that sits over the OS. Eclipse, on the other hand, uses the application programming interfaces of the OS

itself, which means the applications are perkier because they deal directly with their host OS. (Different versions of the core Eclipse components are maintained for different OSes. Eclipse programmers translate native commands into a unified set of generic, cross-platform Eclipse commands.)

Another advantage Eclipse offers is that Eclipse-based applications also look, to the user, more like applications written specifically for that OS. They use more of the OS's own cancel buttons, entry fields, and directory trees and other hooks.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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