Monday, March 31, 2008

Eclipse is hard to use?

Beside working for IBM Eclipse Suppot Center I'm a PhD student and teacher of Software Engineering course at Poznan University of Technology. During the classes I often ask students to do some tasks in Eclipse (e.g. write some jUnit tests, refactor some code, etc.), however, some of them complain that Eclipse is hard and not intuitive to use. Most of them claim that Visual Studio is more user friendly and that it allows to develop code more effectively. They say that there are too many windows, options, shortcuts, etc. and that it is hard for them to start from stratch.
I started wondering if we could do something to show new users that Eclipse is easy to use and that it has a lot of useful features. Are there any tutorials which shows how to use Eclipse as an IDE? Or maybe there is a need to create tutorials like this? Maybe there should be new UI elements added, which would allow faster start (e.g. Simply Java Project which would require to give the project name only)? Any other ideas what we could do to allow easier start for new Eclipse users (or at least for the lazy ones)?


Tom Seidel said...

The demos created by Mark Dexter are a good starting point, see

Christopher Daniel said...

We hadn't had time to talk, but there is initiative called Eclipse Univeristy Outreach (I'd say early startup phase) which was brought to life to make the process of Eclipse adoption in academic environment easier.

There were some plans, or loosely thoughts, that included:
* sharing courses & ideas
* sharing introductory screencasts & tutorial on very basic level
* working Eclipse first impression (preparing lightweight Eclipse edition and/or creating initial perspective that will not scary users).

Dan said...

"do something to show new users that Eclipse is easy to use"

There's the problem. You shouldn't have to show them. Easy to use is not easy to learn. If the features are not easily discoverable, without tutorials, it's not easy to use.

I use Eclipse every day and I like like it. More people would like it if easy things were easier.

Maarten Meijer said...

I think that one should differentiate between "easy to use" and "already familiar with". Most of them claim that Visual Studio is more user friendly and that it allows to develop code more effectively. is probably explained by this familiarity effect.

I have heard the "what I know is easier to use" many times before: from WordPerfect users that found Windows unintuitive, Windows users that don't want to switch to Mac and vice versa, etc. etc.

Still, try and find task that are indeed more difficult or undoable in Visual Studio or tasks that they have not yet performed there....

Lars said...

This is an introduction tutorial on how to use the Eclipse IDE:

Bartek Michalik said...

there's also project. unfortunately a bit outdated
and why don't U use our Eclipse summer school materials ? :D

Jakub Jurkiewicz said...

Chris said that Eclipse Univeristy Outreach was supposed to provide:"lightweight Eclipse edition and/or creating initial perspective that will not scary users" and this is exaclty was I was thinking about.
Bartek, you probably know how it is when you have 1,5h for classes and you don't have time to learn students how to use Eclipse and slides without the comments are not as good as tutorials.
Thanks Tom and Lars for the links!

Kevin McGuire said...

What I think we need is a stripped down, simplified Eclipse for students, approaching this as an RCP packaging problem. Right now Eclipse is geared towards expert users. Why do we only have one IDE when we have so many kinds of users?

Prof. Peggy Storey at UVic headed some work a few years ago on a streamlined Eclipse for students. The project was called Gild and here's a reference

And Prof. Dwight Deugo from Carleton University (and Eclipse University Outreach, is interested in this problem for Eclipse for students.

I would be interested in participating in such an effort, because in addition to making a more student-useable Eclipse, we'd also drive RCP requirements.

mukanya said...

I'm a Java developer with two years' experience and to be honest I still avoid Eclipse whenever I can. I've tried, several times, to use eclipse and ended up completing the project in either Netbeans or IntelliJ

The eclipse fundi tends to see its abilities and the fact that it comes for free as compensatory for lack of intuition... I've spent the last 30 minutes trying figure out how to make my plain Eclipse installation WTP-capable.

Glenn Tober said...

I am an engineer, not a programmer. I write software to get a job done, sometimes in C sometimes in Python somtimes in etc, etc....I installed eclipse to revive an older project of mine written in plain old C. I get that Eclipse is simple if your a college professor teaching SW. So I am not that and frankly this over bloated beast with its overinflated non intuitive menu choices and sucky help is a pain in the butt to learn