Eclipse IDE for web developers

Eclipse PHP IDE

Eclipse is an open-source integrated development environment (IDE) used for computer programming.

This is an ongoing post. Please suggest corrections, explanations, etc. in the comment section at the bottom of this page.

This post will introduce and give a bit of background on Eclipse IDE. It will also discuss some of its great features, the installation process on Windows (based on Windows 10), setting up your first workspace and project, how to set up a remote connection, install a terminal and how to update Eclipse IDE.

Eclipse is very popular for developing Java applications, but through plugins, Eclipse can be turned into a multi-language programming software application. It is popularly used for website development using PHP, HTML, JavaScript and CSS, but support for other programming languages, e.g. Python, can easily be added. Aptana Studio 3, which is even more web development-friendly, can be installed as an add-on to Eclipse.

Eclipse is free-to-use and has all the features one would expect from any proper IDE, including:

  • Syntax highlighting (colour coding)
  • Content assist
  • Code formatting (Ctrl + Shift + F)
  • Code refactoring
  • Error checking
  • Code templates
  • Code navigation
  • FTP connections to a remote server (through an addon – see RSE later)

Syntax highlighting, content assist, code refactoring and code formatting makes Eclipse IDE a good choice for new developers.

Content assist gives hints and tips for tags and syntax and ads closing tags. Through their respective structured text editors, Eclipse offers support for HTML, CSS, JavaScript, JSP, XML and XSD. The structured text editor can be accessed by right-clicking on a relevant file name in Navigator or Package Explorer view and then clicking Open With and selecting the editor.

Error checking aims to detect and list possible bugs in code and code formatting allows all the code to be formatted with the correct spacing with keyboard shortcuts (Ctrl + Shift + F).

A terminal can be installed as an ad-on (see later).

Eclipse for website developers

The default Eclipse download files include almost all the packages needed for PHP, CSS, JavaScript and HTML programming. To be able to connect to a remote website, the Remote System Explorer can be added (see later).

Eclipse for Python developers

Eclipse can be used with multiple programming languages. I’ve also covered adding Python functionality in Eclipse IDE for Python developers. Other options for new Python developers are PyCharm, a Raspberry Pi with Raspbian installed and Geany.

Installing Eclipse IDE in Windows

Eclipse is available for Mac OS X (64-bit), Windows and Linux (32 & 64-bit) operating systems. To use Eclipse (after it has been downloaded and extracted), Java needs to be installed (see later).

Eclipse Oxygen download page

On the downloads page, under Get Eclipse 2019-09 (at the time of updating) -> click Download Packages. For the default version of Eclipse, choose Eclipse for PHP Developers (32-bit or 64-bit) -> Download. The file will download as a compressed zip file.

Download Eclipse for PHP developers
Eclipse downloads page.

There is no need to run any installer. Eclipse is installed by simply extracting the downloaded file into a directory of choice (e.g. c:\eclipse). When it is no longer needed, the entire Eclipse directory can be deleted without running any un-installer. Multiple copies of Eclipse can be created and used on the same machine.

Installing Java

Eclipse needs Java RTE 8 or higher to function. It will also be needed to run, the newer, Eclipse installer. Whereas the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) is needed for running Java applications, the Java Development Kit (JDK, which includes JRE) software bundle is needed for writing (developing) Java applications. For non-Java programmers, JRE 8 is recommended and will be enough. It can be downloaded from Java.com. If the 32-bit version of Eclipse was installed, the 32-bit version of JRE SE 8 will be required and if the 64-bit version was installed JRE 8 64-bit will be required. Also see understanding the Java version and platforms for more information.

JDK and later versions of JRE can be downloaded from the Oracle’s Java section. From the Java SE downloads page, the required Java environment (JDK or JRE) can be selected after which you need to accept the license agreement and select the operating system distribution for download. For Windows operating systems, the EXE-file will allow simple installation. A default installation of Java should be enough. Lately, you will need to create an Oracle account to be able to download some of their files.

Java SE download page
Java Standard Edition Downloads page.

Download JavaCreating a workspace and project

Upon opening Eclipse for the first time, a popup screen will ask for workspace instructions. A workspace is a concept used for grouping related Eclipse settings, related projects and related configuration pertaining to these projects. Workspaces are saved as individual directories.

Creating an Eclipse workgroup
Eclipse workspace pop-up screen.

In the case where a known workspace already exists, the Browse… button can be used to set its location, otherwise, a new workspace can be created. Multiple workspaces can be used. By activating ‘Use this as the default and do not ask again’ Eclipse will automatically use this workspace in the future without prompting.

Eclipse Oxygen welcome screen
Eclipse Welcome to Eclipse for PHP Developers screen.

After the workspace has been determined, the Eclipse welcome screen will be shown with multiple options. From here, ‘Create a new PHP project’ can be selected. The ‘Project name’ will also be used to create a new directory. It can either be created in the same location as the Workspace, at a different location or, by selecting ‘Create project at existing location (from existing source)’. Multiple projects can be created in the same Workspace.

Eclipse project creator
Eclipse Create a PHP Project screen. The default settings can be used for beginners.

In this case, a new PHP project, named, New PHP Project Alpha, was created with the default settings. The workspace will show all the created projects in the Project Explorer.

Eclipse Project Explorer
Eclipse Project Explorer showing all the projects created in that workspace.

New files and directories can now be added to the project by right-clicking on the project name. The + button next to the project name can be used to toggle show or hide view.

After closing Eclipse, the workspace will be saved automatically. To go to the chosen workspace’s Project Explorer from the welcome screen without creating a new project, click on the Workbench button.

Eclipse Remote System Explorer (RSE)

To be able to develop on a remote location, e.g. on a web server, Eclipse has, what they call, a Remote System Explorer. The RSE is installed as a plugin (see below). It is basically a separate explorer, similar to the Project Explorer, but with remote locations.

The RSE enables the use of FTP (among other connection protocols) to connect to remote websites. The RSE can also connect to a local network web directory via SSH or SFTP and can be used to do basic FTP commands such as copying, renaming and creating directories.

Installing the Eclipse Remote System Explorer

While in the desired workspace’s Project Explorer, choose Help > Install New Software. Under Work with: select –All Available Sites– Under filter, type “remote system explorer” and click on the Select All button.

Eclipse install software screen
Eclipse software installer with filtering options to install the Remote System Explorer (RSE).

Click the Next > button. Follow the on-screen instructions to finish installing the software. The RSE will now be available to use in all the workspaces that are in the install directory.

Switching to the Eclipse Remote System Explorer perspective

After the RSE software has been installed successfully, the Remote System Explorer perspective can be activated. Go to Window > (Perspective) > Open Perspective > Other > Remote System Explorer. This step only has to be done once. The perspective button is also available on the top right corner of the workspace.

Eclipse Remote System Explorer view activation

After the Eclipse Remote System Explorer perspective has been activated, it can be viewed by choosing its icon on the top right corner of the workspace. To go back to the (PHP) Project Explorer, its icon can be chosen.

Eclipse perspective buttons
Open perspective, PHP (project) and Remote System Explorer buttons on the top right corner of the Eclipse workspace.

Creating a new remote connection

From the Remote System Explorer, new connections can be created by right-clicking in the Remote Systems window, choosing New > Connection… Multiple remote site connections (accessible at the same time) can be created.

TS Terminal for Eclipse

As with the RSE (see above), an Eclipse terminal can be installed as a plugin. This will show how to install the TM Terminal.

Installing the TS Terminal for Eclipse

While in the desired workspace’s Project Explorer, choose Help > Install New Software. Under Work with: select –All Available Sites– Under filter, type “ts terminal” and click on the General Purpose Tools.

Eclipse TS Terminal installation
Eclipse software installer with filtering options to install TS Terminal.

Click the Next > button. Follow the on-screen instructions to finish installing the software. After the terminal has been installed, Eclipse needs to be rebooted.

Eclipse launch shell

Directories within a local workspace can now be opened directly in the terminal by right-clicking on the directory and choosing Launch Shell towards the bottom of the menu.

Updating Eclipse

To update Eclipse to the latest version, select Help -> Check for Updates.

About the author
Renier busies himself with improving his English writing, creative web design and his websites, photoshopping, micro-electronics, multiple genres of music, superhero movies and badass series.
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