In the last 4 months or so, I have made several posts on Eclipse, which I had started to use at my previous job. Overall, my experience with Eclipse up to now had been fairly positive, with the exception of some minor quirks. Unfortunately, this has changed significantly in the last two weeks, at my new job.

At my previous job, our applications were built on top of J2EE, but we did not use JSP. Instead, our Struts actions generated XML output which was then rendered into HTML using XSLT templates. Therefore, I never even realized that Eclipse does not support JSP out of the box. It does not even provide syntax highlighting!

At my new job (as well as most other J2EE projects, I assume), we do use JSP pages, and being able to edit those using the same convenience features that I enjoy when working with other Java code (syntax highlighting, auto completion, etc.) is an absolute requirement for me. It looks like web application and JSP support is within the scope of the Eclipse Web Tools Platform Project. Unfortunately, the charter of this project, as well as the downloadable packages and other information on this project, are extremely confusing to me. Part of this is due to the generic nature of Eclipse, which tries to be much more than just a Java IDE. For example, the first milestone release is now available, and while the website mentions that this includes both WST (Web Standard Tools) and JST (J2EE Standard Tools), it is unclear to me whether this release already contains everything that is needed in order to edit JSPs within Eclipse. This is further complicated by the fact that the Eclipse Web Tools download site contains several “Initial Code Contributions”, from IBM, ObjectWeb, and Genuitec. I am not sure if these need to be installed in addition to the core package, or if these are now obsolete. The fact that no dates are presented for these contributions doesn’t help… The downloaded archives seem to contain different packages (that live under the contributor’s namespace) than the core web tools package, but it is possible that the code was just rolled into the new Eclipse packages.

So far, I have been unable to get JSP support working in Eclipse. I have tried only installing the core web tools package, as well as additionally installing the Genuitec updated IBM contribution. After the latter step, I now have some duplicated tabs in my preferences (for example a second “Server” entry in my project properties), which leads me to believe that either of the contributions are mutually exclusive with the core web tools package. I have been able to create a web project (a new type of project that is now available) and point it to my Tomcat server, but JSP support still does not work.

I would appreciate any comments on how to get this working. Personally, I feel that it is unacceptable for any Java IDE (open source or commercial) to not support at least basic web application functionality such as JSP editing. I don’t care about EJB and deployment support (which Ant is better suited for anyway). I could also understand some restrictions in the JSP support, for example lack of auto completion for tag libraries. But to not even support syntax highlighting for JSP pages is very lame. Don’t get me wrong - I appreciate everybody’s efforts on Eclipse and recognize the tremendous work that has been done, but the priorities appear to be a little off. As far as I know, the vast majority of all Java projects are server-side, and I assume that almost all of these involve JSP. Either integrating this functionality into the core IDE or making it very easy to install this functionality by means of a plugin should be a top priority.

Until I get this working, I guess I’ll have to switch to JEdit, which at least gives me basic JSP support including syntax highlighting. I may have to talk my boss into buying me an IntelliJ IDEA license after all (or rather upgrading my IDEA 3.0 license to 4.5)…

A similar shortcoming is Eclipse’s lack of support for XML. Luckily, this is easily resolved by installing the free version of XML Buddy, which contains the most important XML editing functionality. In fact, the Pro version, which adds much improved support for XML Schema and XSLT, only costs $35. I may very well suggest this purchase as well, as it would be useful when working with XML Schema, and only costs about one tenth of the more sophisticated XML Spy.