I received an email yesterday and a blog comment earlier from a nice person at MyEclipse. That's notable for a couple of reasons. First, that's the first person to actually leave a comment on my blog here. 🙂 That in itself is pretty cool.
Second, that contact is entirely consistent with what I've come to expect from the people at MyEclipse. I've been an Eclipse user for many years. I used to use shareware products like SitePad in the classroom, and even had a commercial license for JBuilder back in version 6. I played with IBM's VisualAge for Java when I had to, but tried to avoid it if possible.
When Eclipse 1.0 came out (at the same time as WebSphere Studio Application Developer 4), I downloaded it and tried it and was immediately hooked. WSAD wasn't bad, but it was a version 1 product despite the "4" (more evidence that not all the evil in this world is done by Microsoft). I found WSAD fascinating and frustrating at the same time. I loved the way code assist worked in both JSP's (which VAJ didn't understand at all) and in Java code. I loved the integrated debugger. I loved the way I could deploy to a server and run my apps without leaving the product. But WSAD wasn't terribly stable or easy to use, and it was pretty bloated in size. Of course, I had no idea how much worse that last problem was going to get….
(The latest version of WSAD is now called RAD6. If you don't have at least a gig of RAM, don't even bother checking it out. If you don't have almost 2 gigs, it's not worth the battles.)
Eclipse, however, was much smaller, much more user-friendly, and free. I immediately started using it in my Intro Java classes. Some instructors felt that was asking too much of the students — they shouldn't have to learn an IDE at the same time they were learning the basic language. But code assist rocked, then as now, the syntax coloring helped a lot, and having an integrated debugger at your disposal was very, very helpful. In a normal Intro Java class for me, by Wednesday everyone was asking where they could download the tool. Nobody could believe it was free, too.
The problem with Eclipse was that there was no built-in support for anything from J2EE. You could always add a range of plug-ins to help that, but the choice of plug-ins was always a dicey one and sometimes they didn't like each other. In those days I became enamored of the Sysdeo Tomcat plug-in, which allowed me to create a "Tomcat project" and use it inside Tomcat, which I could also start and stop in the environment. That was excellent, but limiting.
I think I first heard about MyEclipse around 2003. After I got over the initial difficulty (e.g., the fact that the URL was based on "myeclipseide" rather than "myeclipse" :)), I started using it in earnest.
MyEclipse has some very nice features. For example, it completely understands both web and EJB applications. You can create them, deploy them to pretty much any server, and run them there. It's got an integrated debugger that understands the server-side. It does validation of XML files. It's got a _great_ database explorer view — much better than anything in Rational Application Developer or other comparable products. It also understands the major frameworks, like Hibernate, Spring, Struts, Tapestry, and so on.
And the best part is that the product costs $30/year, or $50 if you want the version with UML support.
(As an aside, I still haven't found a UML tool I like, commercial or otherwise. They're all barely tolerable at best and seriously annoying at worst. Rational Rose is among the most frustrating, and that came from the Three Amigos themselves. Yikes.)
Rather than sell the product, MyEclipse chose a subscription model. The benefit is that you can download the latest version at any time, from anywhere. The downside is that if you let the subscription expire you lose all the functionality.
A few semesters ago I contacted the MyEclipse people and asked them for an extended trial license for my Rensselaer students. The normal trial version lasts 30 days. I wanted a version that would last a full semester. I didn't think that was too much to ask, but I've asked other companies for considerations like that and gotten nothing.
I received an affirmative reply from MyEclipse, complete with about 25 licenses, within hours.
That's the way it's gone ever since. Right before a semester (sometimes pretty close to the last minute, too :)), I send a request for extended trial licenses for the students. I always get them back almost right away. It's truly sweet.
Now for some "full disclosure" comments: the company has awarded me a free license for my own use because I recommend it in the classroom. After I exchanged email with them about my blog comments here, they even promised to send me a T-Shirt, which I have every intention of wearing.
I don't know what the upcoming Callisto release of Eclipse (3.2, due 6/28/06) with its integrated Web Tools Project is going to do to MyEclipse. I definitely plan to give them the benefit of the doubt, though. I'm sure they'll work it out somehow.
The bottom line is, I just like the product and the company. That's a tough combination to beat.