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   Eclipse: the new Emacs? (and the XML story)

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  • To: XML Developers List <xml-dev@lists.xml.org>
  • Subject: Eclipse: the new Emacs? (and the XML story)
  • From: David Megginson <dmeggin@attglobal.net>
  • Date: Mon, 05 Apr 2004 10:36:47 -0400
  • User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv:1.6) Gecko/20040401 Debian/1.6-4

After flirting with it for a year or so, I've been giving Eclipse another 
try for the past few days and have become convinced that it will end up 
being the new Emacs: like Emacs, Eclipse is open source and consists of a 
basic platform that provides a set of standard user interfaces and services 
that are useful for many things other than software development.  Eclipse 
already has a collection of third-party plugins (both open source and 
commercial) to rival Emacs' collection of modes, and I'm sure that if it 
doesn't do e-mail yet, it will soon.

I'm not ready to switch over to Eclipse for everything, but I am trying it 
with a couple of Java and C++ projects (its CVS integration is as good as 
Emacs').  While doing so, it occurred to me that if I end up doing a lot of 
development in Eclipse, I'll probably end up writing my XML documents in 
Eclipse as well, the same way that I've been writing SGML and XML documents 
in Emacs for the past 15 years.  So I downloaded and installed two different 
XML editing plugins, both derived from standalone editors:

1. oXygen (commercial with free trial)
2. XMLBuddy (free download for the basic version, closed source)

Both provide some useful features, such as integration with the Eclipse 
outline view, syntax highlighting, validation, automatic formatting, and (in 
oXygen's case) built-in well-formedness checking.  Neither provides an 
attributes dialog, as far as I could find (just autocompletion for attribute 
names), and both lack basic features from Emacs/PSGML like element splitting.

Unfortunately, neither editor is anywhere near ready for prime time.  I 
tried loading a 410K XML document into each of them (a bit over 100 pages 
printed), with the following results:

1. oXygen works at first, but eventually causes a memory-exhaustion error 
after a bit of editing.
2. XMLBuddy becomes slower and slower, until it takes a few seconds for each 
keystroke to register.

So, really, these tools are suitable only for writing short XML 
configuration files or faqs, not books or manuals.  I'm guessing that the 
problem is an object explosion: the programs probably use Java objects for 
everything, instead of optimizing internal storage with arrays and building 
objects only on demand (it's the same kind of problem that shows up with 
naively-written Java-based DOM libraries).

There is a third Eclipse XML editor plugin, X-Men, that is Open Source.  I 
didn't install it yet because it has some prerequisites that I need to 
figure out, but since it's Open Source, when the time does come to start 
writing XML documents in Eclipse, I'll be able to go into the source code 
and fix any bottlenecks myself.

I'd love to hear other people's experiences with Eclipse and XML.

All the best,



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