Getting started with Ajax on Eclipse
Posted by Shane O'Sullivan on October 26, 2006
I recently tried to get up and running with the Eclipse Ajax Toolkit Framework, which contains many useful, though very early in development, features to make developing Ajax based applications easier. However, it turned out to be ridiculously difficult to get working. First I downloaded a v3.2 version of Eclipse, got the prerequisites (including the Web Standards Tools package) and tried to install the ATF package, but to no avail. I then tried downloading a bundled version of the WST package and installing the ATF on top of it, and once again it told me I was missing some plugins. Updating the entire platform through the Software Updates tool didn’t help either.
Finally, I found an amazingly simple tool that fixes all this for you. One of the Eclipse partners, Yoxos, has a web-based tool that allows you to configure your own copy of Eclipse, adding in whatever plugins and features you like. They have a list of the most popular configurations, but, unlike the bundled Eclipse distros, they allow you to mix and match different configurations before you download them. Yoxos also saves you the trouble of having to enter in many different update sites for the various different projects of Eclipse, something I always found extremely irritating. Why Eclipse can’t manage to have a single update site that encapsulates every project on Eclipse.org, I’ll never know. Yoxos also include other open source Eclipse packages that are not part of the Eclipse project, such as Aptana, a very cool Ajax development environment for Eclipse.
All this very cool, but the ATF has a number of steps you must perform (see here) before it will work. The Yoxos distribution goes some way towards solving these.
- It automatically downloads a distribution of Dojo and places it in the correct plugin resource folder (eclipse\plugins\org.eclipse.atf.personality.dojo.runtime_1.0.1\resources if you’re interested). Personally I prefer to make my own builds of Dojo, rather than taking one of the canned builds, but that’s a personal choice and the bundled one might do you just fine. Note that Dojo 0.4.0 was just release this week, and you may want to update to that instead.
- XulRunner is not downloaded and installed, so you’ll still have to follow the instructions here to get that part working.
However, these three little steps are miniscule compared to the headaches I had trying to set it up on my own, so give it a go. Some things to note
- Yoxos rebrand Eclipse so that their logo pops up in some places. I don’t mind, but some people might.
- They also offer an optional second update mechanism, which I prefer to the usual Eclipse tool. It integrates with their web tool to make sure you have all the plugins you need, without you having to enter in the various update sites and resolve the plugin dependancies yourself.
Some issues have come to light since I’ve downloaded from Yoxos and played around with it.
- Using the Yoxos update facility (after the initial download) requires you to register with their site, which unfortunately costs money. So make sure that you have everything you need in the initial download if you don’t intend on paying for their service. The Yoxos update tool also caused Eclipse to crash when it found that I hadn’t bought a subscription, though this appears to be a bug rather than deliberate.
- There seems to be some problem with running the Mozilla browser. When I choose to run a HTML file in the Mozilla browser (using the Ajax Toolkit Framework), the tab for the browser would appear, but the actual window never appeared. This means that I cannot use the debugging features of the Ajax toolkit.