While reading Laurence Moroney’s blog entry about MIX09, I discovered “Eclipse Tools for Microsoft Silverlight” (Eclipse4SL). I have to admit, I wasn’t aware that there was an ongoing project for cooperating Silverlight technology into Eclipse. I think that’s really exciting news!
I have been working in .NET projects, however most of our web development in my former full-time job and my freelance assignments in 2008 were mainly in Java and Eclipse was our principal IDE. My Silverlight experiments from last year solely were due to my personal curiosity. Now getting the chance to integrate hip Silverlight features to my long-time IDE buddy Eclipse is definitely an amazing opportunity. Especially if you are not taking any sides! There are just to many developers, who will talk the “other” IDE/programming language down whatever that might be. I believe that being open to different possibilities just creates a totally new mindset and collaborative experimentation may lead to much more creativity in technology.
Eclipse4SL is still a work in progress; however I decided to give it a try. I upgraded Eclipse to version 3.4 to install Eclipse4SL. The installation is quite straightforward just as any Software Update, you would do from Eclipse. I tried to create a Silverlight Web Project, add a Canvas and Textblock and run the project. Everything worked just fine. There is a palette with controls, containers and shapes. You can drag and drop these items to your UserControl elements, get Code completion help in Source view, add attributes to controls just through a mouse-click. What you can’t do is to tweak the design in design view; everything is done through code or through property settings. At least that’s what I have found out so far! But that is just the same in Visual Studio. When you play around with a Silverlight project in Expression Blend, once you move to Visual studio for the actual coding, you can’t do any design changes without some code. Needless to say that IntelliSense features are much more extensive in Visual Studio.
Advanced Media features and Interoperability are listed in Eclipse4SL’s road-map as Spring 2009 milestones. I’ll be waiting/watching with attention!