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Where, Oh Where Have My Web Tools Gone?

August 24, 2010

It’s no secret we’re big fans of Rational's RSE tooling (WDSC/RDi/RDP) and we use it all of the time in our development and teaching. But sometimes it drives us up the wall ... and for once we don't mean Rational's approach to pricing.

The Rational tools are all based on Eclipse. Eclipse is a wonderful and dynamic open-source project that’s evolved from its origins as a Java development IDE to supporting multiple languages and many other development-oriented tools. It’s available in multiple pre-packaged versions oriented towards specific development environments, including for-fee versions such as the Rational tools, and as individual plug-ins that can extend the capability of an existing tool.

So everything is wonderful right? Well, not quite. To explain the problems, an example may be in order.

Recently we heard many people were in the process of switching from WDSC to RDP and had discovered Rational "removed" many features that had become part of their daily tool set. The big one that was often mentioned is the lack of Web tooling; specifically, an HTML editor. In one particular forum thread, Scott Klement suggested we could cover how to install the Eclipse Web tools into the Rational toolset. So we set off to find it, and thereby hangs a tale.

Our starting point as always was Google and a quick search for "Eclipse Web Development" gave as the first hit "Eclipse Web Tools Platform (WTP) Project Development." On the right-hand side was a clearly marked "Downloads" button so we clicked that. We arrived on a somewhat confusing page that was clearly aimed at bit-heads who wanted the very latest version of every component. But all was not lost: the page also included text advising that we could use their repository site to install the package in an existing Eclipse installation. Whoopee! That's what we needed, so we took the link and arrived at a simple page that identified the URL to be entered into RDP to have it install the components.

For those of you who haven’t done this before, in RDP click on Help -> Software Updates ... and in the resulting dialog click on "Add Site,” paste in the URL and press "OK.”

So far so good. The site appeared in the list of available software sites and we clicked on the "+" sign to expand the list of available components. And that’s where it all went wrong. We got an error message indicating there was "No repository found at ..." Hmmmm. We checked the URL and found the URL we entered had been modified. Further checking revealed the original URL had included the name Helios, which we knew to be the latest version of Eclipse. Could it be that the "No repository ..." message was a feeble attempt to tell us that we were trying to install the wrong version of the plug-in?

Working on that assumption, we returned to the original downloads page. Sure enough there was mention of another version of Eclipse called Galileo. Was that what RDP was based on? The short answer is no. RDP is based on an earlier release of Eclipse known as Ganymede.  Why was this so hard to determine? Only Rational can answer that, but as far as we can see there is:

 1. No mention of the Eclipse release name in the "About" dialogs and
 2. Not even an Eclipse version number; at least none that was obvious to us

We have since found (many thanks to David Gibbs’ reply to our plea on that if we click on the globe with the lines through the middle on the “About” page, you can find the version of the “Eclipse Platform” feature name from the resulting list. For those of you thinking “that should have been obvious to you,” in our defense, we’ll add that we’ve put other plugins into our installation and the generic feature “Eclipse Platform” entry was nowhere near the top of the list of features on our installation and so we hadn’t noticed it was there. That’s our excuse anyway.

Even this isn't the end of the story. To find which Eclipse name (Helios, Galileo, etc.) matches which release number isn’t a trivial task. To save you from digging through the Eclipse website, you may find this URL handy.

So, we finally determined we’re running Eclipse 3.4.2 and Ganymede was the release we needed; now to find the repository. A Google search for "ganymede repository Web tools" didn't directly show anything, but the second hit was a heartfelt plea from someone reporting a similar "No repository ..." problem. Following the link resulted in us locating the update-site URL and, hallelujah, it all worked. We drilled down to the Web-tools project, selected just the HTML, CSS and Javascript components (there are many Java and XML components included in the package we didn't want) and pressed the "Install" button and everything worked just fine. But what a pain to get there!

We’d originally planned to report briefly on the features in the Web tooling, but it took us so long to get it installed we ran out of time. That will have to wait for another day. But at least you now know what to install and where to find it if, like many RSE users, you need to mix a little HTML work with your RPG.

We'll close this with a plea to both Rational and Eclipse. Please, please, please make it easier for folks to find what version they’re using and where to find relevant plug-ins. Surely it can't be rocket science and when it’s this difficult to navigate, this wonderful tooling will never be as widely used as it deserves to be.

Posted August 24, 2010| Permalink

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