Tasktop working with Microsoft to improve Eclipse on Windows 7

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I spent the early years of my career with MacOS and then Linux as my primary OS. When the focus of my work moved to tool building, I decided that I needed to use the OS that was most common in the tools’ target audience. In the Eclipse ecosystem, that’s Windows, which captures more than three quarters of Eclipse IDE downloads.

The great thing about Eclipse is that architecturally, thanks to the amazing SWT framework that IBM created, Eclipse provides a native experience on your OS of choice. But last April, when I moved my primary OS to the Windows 7 RC, I noticed two things. The first was a feeling reminiscent of when I first started using Windows XP early 2001. Windows 7 was slick, responsive, and brought the desktop client to a new level of refinement. The second observation was that Eclipse and Tasktop, which I spend the majority of my time in, looked like dated Windows XP applications.

Today we’re happy to announce that Tasktop is working with Microsoft to help make Eclipse look and feel like an exemplary Windows 7 application. It is great to see Microsoft supporting this effort, since it will impact a broad range of users of the Eclipse IDE, as well users of commercial Eclipse-based IDEs such as the SpringSource Tool Suite IDE, and Eclipse RCP applications such as Tasktop Dev Pro for Windows. Read more about the Microsoft initiative behind this on Vijay Rajagopalan’s post on the Microsoft Interoperability blog.

The majority of Eclipse’s current Windows 7 interoperability comes from the previous efforts of the Eclipse SWT teams and from the backwards compatibility of Windows 7. So you can happily run Eclipse on Windows 7 today. This allows us to focus entirely on leveraging the new features in Windows 7 and on look-and-feel enhancements. Here are a couple of highlights of the initial scope of the effort. Note that all contributions will be made to Eclipse.org under the EPL.

Taskbar Progress (Eclipse bug 293228)

Windows 7 provides a new visual representation of progress on taskbar icons. This feature removes the need to Alt+Tab to an application just to check on the status of a long-running job, such as a download. The plan is to integrate this with Eclipse progress in order to allow some key jobs, such as a full builds and runtime launches, to indicate their status on the taskbar. We already have a working prototype of this functionality, which I’ll show later today when I arrive at Eclipse Summit Europe.

windows7-progress1

Taskbar Jump Lists (Eclipse bug 293229)

The redesigned Windows 7 taskbar allows applications to expose frequently used features or files. We plan to incorporate this with Eclipse commands and actions that will benefit from quick taskbar based access.

windows7-jumplist

We have some additional enhancements planned, including updating the widget colors and styling to match the Windows 7 look. SWT walks a very careful line in terms of leveraging native widgets, following accessibility guidelines and using desktop themes. Enhancing that experience would not be possible without the technical expertise of the Microsoft Windows and Eclipse SWT teams, whom we have to thank for the high quality Eclipse on Windows experience that we have today. Thanks to this new open source collaboration, what we’ll soon have is the icing on that cake.

If you’re interested in tracking progress, or chiming in with what else you would like to see implemented to streamline the Eclipse experience on Windows 7, refer to Eclipse bug 293226 and its subtasks.