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Extend Eclipse's Java Development Tools: Refactoring

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The refactoring capability of Eclipse's Java development environment is one of the most useful features it provides. This article will introduce you to the steps for creating your own refactoring as a natural extension of Eclipse. Portions of the solution presented in this article were excerpted from the recently published book, The Java Developer's Guide to Eclipse.
This article originally appeared on IBM Developer Works.
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What is possible, where to start, and how to proceed

Level: Advanced

Dan Kehn, Senior Programmer, IBM July 22, 2003

The refactoring capability of Eclipse's Java development environment is one of the most useful features it provides. This article will introduce you to the steps for creating your own refactoring as a natural extension of Eclipse. Portions of the solution presented in this article were excerpted from the recently published book, The Java Developer's Guide to Eclipse.

Eclipse has received much fanfare and accolades because of its powerful Java development environment. That -- coupled with the team environment and other base capabilities -- makes Eclipse a compelling integrated development environment, which is great news for Java developers. Moreover, Eclipse is an open source project. But what makes Eclipse truly exciting is the possibilities of extension that it offers you.

A number of commercially available products, based on Eclipse, show the practical implications of this way of delivering integrated products. IBM WebSphere Application Developer and Rational XDE, for example, demonstrate the impact that Eclipse has already had. These products and others based on Eclipse diminish the user's learning curve because of their similar user interface. Sure, this is valuable to large software houses, but what's in it for the "little guy"?

That's where the extensibility story of Eclipse gets interesting. Not just integration for those who have large development organizations, but also for anyone willing to invest some time in learning a few Eclipse frameworks. "Oh no," you may be thinking, "not more frameworks; I don't have the time to learn more frameworks." Don't worry; it will be quick and fairly easy. And before that little voice in your head has time to say it, no, this article will not be a trivial "hello world" extension of Eclipse. Rest assured, you'll see practical value and a clear demonstration of how you can enhance your productive use of Eclipse's Java development environment. You may even be a little surprised to see that it takes only a few dozen lines of code to do some fairly amazing things.

This article will show you what is possible and where to start, and give you a firm appreciation for what's involved in getting there. Though extending Eclipse is an advanced topic, you can start with only passing knowledge of how to use Eclipse's Java development environment (and be sure to check out the suggested reading in Resources for further study).

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