Eclipse is a famous and multiplatform, extensible integrated development environment. Until few weeks ago my only relationship with Eclipse was to download it and install in Windows environments: some teachers at job use it to write Java programs for Lego Robots, using the libre software LejOS.
This months I am beginning to learn more about Eclipse, because of my studies about libre software. We used it in class to write a Python application, using several plugins for Python, managing the code with Git, integrating the code with a Redmine forge, and so.
As I go on reading about Eclipse and using it, I realise that it is a surprising project, in many aspects.
In this post I will write some things that called my attention about Eclipse: its license, the release coordination, the absence of installer, and the translation project.
Eclipse license and copyright
Eclipse is licensed under EPL (Eclipse Public License), it is a weak copyleft license. This means that you can use Eclipse code to write proprietary programs.
The Eclipse Public License was written in 2004 and had no revision since them: version 1.0 is the first and last version. You can learn more about this license in the EPL FAQs.
Eclipse is developed by a wide range of contributors, both individuals, companies, and organizations. They remain as copyright holder of each contribution, but they must license their contributions under EPL. Eclipse Foundation provides templates for copyright and license notices to be used by contributors.
One release each year (with 2 revisions!)
There is one main release of Eclipse every June, with revisions in September and February. This should be not surprising; the policy “release early, release often” is common in libre software projects.
I wondered how all people working on Eclipse coordinate to release on time. In the Eclipse Wiki you can find a general overview about how the community works to achieve the release goals: there is a cross-project mailing list to monitor and participate in simultaneous-release-specific communication, and there is a document stating the requirements that the community should conform in order to make the yearly release great. The last days efforts are coordinated in the Final Daze wiki.
No [needed] installer
You can use Eclipse for many different things: to develop software in many different languages, to manage your source code with a control version system, to manage your project integrating it with your forge, to write LaTeX programs…
Eclipse has no installer itself. You need to setup (yourself) the tools that Eclipse will use (Java, Python or whatever), then download and uncompress Eclipse in your desired folder, create a shortcut to the binary, open the program and configure it. If you need extended functionality, inside Help menu there is an option to open the Eclipse marketplace, where you can search, download and install all the plugins (you can manage the repository list in order to include plugins from different sites).
What about distribution packages?
There are Eclipse packages in many different Linux distributions, but for example in my case (Debian) the stable packages are for version 3.5 (the last version of Eclipse is 3.7 at the moment).
There is a project called “Linux Tools” for coordinating the Linux world and Eclipse: being the meeting point for package maintainers, integrate the most used Linux tools with the Eclipse environment… This project was created in 2008 and in the last months it seems it is recovering activity, boosted by RedHat.
Eclipse interface is written in English. If you want the program to talk your language, you should download the corresponding language pack, and unzip it in the Eclipse folder.
Translations are coordinated withing the Babel project. For contributing, you need an Eclipse Bugzilla account, and log in into the Babel translation tool (a comprehensive web framework to complete translations).
For the Spanish translators, for example, there is also a wiki page explaining how to contribute and providing some translation rules.