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Microsoft Builds Tools for Eclipse Developers

by Abel Avram on Oct 28, 2009 |

Microsoft has announced the release of a number of tools for Eclipse: Windows Azure Tools for Eclipse, Windows Azure SDK for Java, Eclipse Tools for Silverlight, plus a facelift for Eclipse to look-and-feel like Windows 7.

Microsoft has partnered with Tasktop Technologies, the creator of Eclipse Mylyn, to improve Eclipse in order to make use of the latest features of Windows 7: using the Taskbar Progress and Jump List, search widget integration, new widget colors and style, and others giving Eclipse a Windows 7 look-and-feel. These enhancements will be made available under Eclipse Public License with an initial preview in Q1/2010 and a release targeted for Eclipse Helios in June 2010. Microsoft contributes with expertise in creating a new interface for Eclipse running on Windows 7. Those interested in following the progress of this project can check out Eclipse Bug 293226.

PHP developers writing applications for Windows Azure will most likely benefit from Windows Azure Tools for Eclipse (WindowsAzure4e), a set of plug-ins for Eclipse based on PHP Development Toolkit (PDT). The tools provide:

  • Project Creation & Migration: The New Project Wizard creates a new PHP Web Application targeting Windows Azure. Existing PHP projects can be converted to Windows Azure projects (or vice-versa) using the migration tool.
  • Azure Project Structure & Management: The windowsazure4e plug-in creates the project artifacts that Windows Azure expects, including a Windows Azure Service project and a Web-role Project, as well as Windows Azure configuration and definition files. Project and Windows Azure settings are exposed via the properties window in Eclipse
  • Storage Explorer: As part of the plug-in, a Windows Azure Storage Explorer is provided within the Eclipse environment. The Storage Explorer allows easy management of Windows Azure Storage Accounts. In addition, it also provides a friendly user-interface for performing Create, Read, Update, and Delete (CRUD) operations on Blobs, Queues, and Tables.
  • Azure Project Deployment: Once the PHP application for Windows Azure had been developed and tested locally on the Windows Azure Development Fabric, the application can be packaged up for Windows Azure deployment with a right-clicking on the target project from within Eclipse.

The Storage Explorer was done with Windows Azure SDK for Java in collaboration with Soyatec, France, a company which has a number of other tools based on Eclipse. WindowsAzure4j is yet another project meant to offer Java developers the necessary tools to interoperate with Windows Azure. The main features are:

  • Java classes for Windows Azure Blobs, Tables & Queues (for CRUD operations)
  • Helper Classes for HTTP transport, AuthN/AuthZ, REST & Error Management
  • Manageability, Instrumentation & Logging support
  • Support for storing Java sessions in Azure Table Storage

Another project done in collaboration with Soyatec, announced a year ago and released today is Eclipse Tools for Silverlight (eclipse4SL). This set of tools offer:

  • Increased Interoperability: Eclipse will contain functionality that will help Java Developers build Silverlight applications that work better with Java Web Services using REST, SOAP, JSON and other standards.
  • Silverlight Project System and Silverlight Compiler: Eclipse will contain both an advanced project system for creating Silverlight applications and media experiences as well as a compiler for packaging Silverlight applications for deployment.
  • XAML Editor & Preview with code hinting and code completion: Eclipse will contain an advanced, standards-compliant XAML editor with code hinting and code hinting features which helps detect and correct coding errors.
  • Full compatibility with Microsoft's Development and Design Tools: The XAML and Silverlight projects created by Eclipse will be fully supported by both Microsoft Visual Studio and Microsoft Expression Studio tools.

The features contained by eclipse4SL 1.0 are:

  • Silverlight 2.0 support
  • C# code editor with syntax colorization, keywords and template code completion assist
  • Automatic Build & Run
  • Configurable Web application launch facilities
  • Silverlight Project System and Silverlight Compiler: both an advanced project system for creating Silverlight applications and media experiences.
  • XAML Editor & Preview: advanced, standards-compliant XAML editor with code hinting and code completion features which helps detect and correct coding errors.
  • Move and Rename refactoring
  • Advanced Media Features
  • Cross Platform Capabilities (Mac version)
  • Complete user documentation & Prescriptive Tutorials
  • Defects & Regression Testing
  • Developer Usability Testing

A roadmap has been drawn for eclipse4SL with 2.0 coming during the spring of 2010 and will include: support for Silverlight 3.0, support for out-of-the-browser experience, improvements for the Mac platform, support of multiple projects. 

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