Comment: Is e4 Missing that Killer Feature?


Committer for the Riena and RAP projects Elias Volanakis, has posted a blog declaring that “e4 might be the “Windows Vista” moment for Eclipse.” He has been playing around with the M3 release of Eclipse e4 and, despite being a fan of the milestone’s CSS theming and trident animations, overall he is not impressed.

To Volanakis, e4 may be different – but those differences do not necessarily make it any easier to use. e4 uses dependency injection via annotations, and to Volanakis’ mind this muddies the waters for the beginner who isn’t sure how to write classes. Whether annotations are actually easier than interfaces/abstract classes, may be down to individual opinion, but there’s no denying that supportive, contextual information on annotations would make it easier for newbies to get to grips with e4’s annotation libraries.

Another potential sticking point for newbies, is e4’s size. Volanakis places the Eclipse e4 download at 230 MB, complete with “UI clutter” – this is too big and confusing for the newcomer, if Volanakis is to be believed.

But, the big problem with e4 is that it lacks that “killer feature.” Its reach is perhaps too conservative. Getting to grips with a new platform is a difficult process; Eclipse has to offer some incentive to make the switch worthwhile. Volanakis has yet to see anything that makes him desperate to make the leap to e4.

Senior Software Developer at IBM and Eclipse Platform UI committer Boris Bokowski, has spotted Volanakis’ blog and posted a reply admitting that CSS styling and skinning is not going to be enough to convince the community to make the switch to e4, but he admits he isn’t sure what “killer feature” e4 might deliver. So, e4 isn’t secretly cooking up that elusive “killer feature.” More encouragingly, Bokowski explains away the download size. The e4 bundles themselves amount to just over 2 MB. It’s the 3.x Eclipse SDK (167 MB) and the Eclipse Modeling Framework SDK (27 MB) that bump up the file size. The 230 MB is the e4 platform, plus compatibility layer, plus everything from the current Eclipse SDK. Bokowski reassures us that “clearly it is not the long-term goal of e4 to always ship with everything from 3.x.”

Meanwhile, Bokowski’s admission that e4 is missing that “killer feature” has drawn a flurry of suggestions as to what this “killer feature” should be. These include the removal of IDE dependencies and orientations; providing ways to use Equinox Registry and OSGi services with no hard coupling on Eclipse Extensions; support for Groovy, Scala and Clojure; tighter integration with Maven, Tycho and Hudson; and a more OSGi centric approach.

However, a considerable number of visitors to Bokowski’s blog post, seem happy with how e4 is shaping up. Styling “should reduce cost of UI customization,” enthused Mickael Istria “ability to change dynamically with a few clicks the CSS of the application and its styling is very interesting because it will allow designers to work without the help of developers.”

Is CSS styling a so-called killer feature? Or are you expecting more from e4?

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