One of the earliest members of Eclipse is about to borrow what is arguably the most popular feature of the rival NetBeans.
Genuitec LLC, known for its MyEclipse integrated development environment, is about to demonstrate NetBeans’ Matisse user interface on an Eclipse tool at the EclipseCon conference next week.
Matisse is light years ahead of VI [Eclipse Visual Interface], said Genuitec president Maher Masri, explaining the move.
Sun Microsystems began NetBeans as an open source framework to develop Java tooling. Shortly thereafter, IBM spun off Eclipse from its Java tooling efforts as an open source project. To date, Eclipse has drawn far more third-party support than NetBeans.
To get an idea of how Genuitec mixed and matched features, it helps to understand that the main differentiation between Eclipse and NetBeans Java tools frameworks is that each supports different sets of visual screen controls. While NetBeans supports Swing, Eclipse is bound to the AWT visual controls.
Genuitec decoupled the Matisse UI from Swing so it could generate AWT. It would accomplish this by using the JSR 198 standard for Java IDE plug-ins, which is awaiting final approval by the Java Community Process.
Approval is a foregone conclusion, as the JSR-198 expert group includes all the major Java household names from Borland to BEA, IBM, Oracle, SAP, and Sun. Even the Apache foundation is involved.
In effect, Matisse won’t become part of MyEclipse, which itself is an IDE plug-in to the Eclipse framework. Instead, it would become a separate plug-in to Eclipse, and thereby interoperate with other Eclipse plug-ins (including, obviously, MyEclipse).
Technically, Genuitec is simply demonstrating the feature and says that incorporating it will depend on whether its registered user base approves. That’s part of the company’s standard modus operandi, where it demos features and then straw polls users.
Admittedly, from an intellectual property standpoint, it might appear that Genuitec could be skating on thin ice adapting a NetBeans feature outside its home turf. However, it claims that the Sun Public License for NetBeans (which encompasses Matisse) is in fact more liberal than the widely used GPL or LGPL open source licenses.
A closer look at the SPL places this assumption under question, as contributors can retain copyright to their own offerings while sharing joint copyright interest to the contributed code.
Looking ahead, Genuitec disclosed features that are being considered for the upcoming 5.0 release, tentatively set for midyear. Specifically, it will provide templates so you can automatically generate user interfaces when you configure back end database persistence, using either Hibernate or Enterprise Java Beans.
The company is also working on simplifying generation of database structures. Today, you can generate an entity-relationship diagram (ERD), or data model, from a database. In the next version, they hope to make this process two-way, enabling you to generate a database structure from the data models.
Additionally, they are looking to build atop the Eclipse web tools framework to simplify exposing Java-based services as web services definitions (WSDL), and accepting SOAP requests for those services.