EclipseWebEnabler Review

Have you ever been on the road or away from the office when you are struck by an idea for a new features and wanted to debug or prototype your application but found yourself without access to the code base? What if you where able to connect to the Eclipse running on your work desktop from anywhere in the world using a browser? Well, now you don’t have to wonder. EclipseWebEnabler is a Eclipse plugin from IBM AlphaWorks that allows you to connect, interact, and manipulate an instance of the Eclipse IDE via FireFox. Basically, the plugin converts the Eclipse SWT-based UI to XUL which can then be delivered to a browser via the Jetty server.

For EclipseWebEnabler to work you do need an instance of Eclipse to be running on your desktop. Once the Jetty server embedded with the EclipseWebEnabler plugin has started you can point your browser to it, any change you do in browser will be reflected in Eclipse, and vice versa. You can edit Java code files in FireFox and the new edits will be reflected in Eclipse, in near real time.

EclipseWebEnabler Plugin

Even though I think that the EclipseWebEnabler plugin is innovative, I soon discovered that it doesn’t enable completely or well. EclipseWebEnabler, as of this writing, is lacking a lot of fundamental features. Closing source files from FireFox is not implemented. The ia no code syntax coloring or highlighting at all. You can’t resize views. There is too much flickering when moving between source files. And there is no security whatsoever.

Even with it’s obvious shortcomings, I think that the EclipseWebEnabler plugin take the price for Most Outrageously Innovative Idea 2007 award. I haven’t seen an application features this thought provoking since GWT took the price in 2006.

Once the kinks are worked out, it might be possible to write a fat client application using the Eclipse RCP and then have the EclipseWebEnabler generate a web version for said application.

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