Sunday, August 26, 2007

Eclipse: tools for IT people too

Although we have a policy of running OSS software exclusively here at eclipse.org, we also have a policy of not altering the source code of key software components. You know the drill: you hack into the code for all the right reasons, only to realize that months later, upgrading that hacked code to a newer version is a chore, if not impossible, depending on how much customization you've done. We do make small exceptions where it makes sense - such as the Bugzilla templates or, more recently, the Wordpress-mu code, which was altered to allow for authentication against the Bugzilla database.

Upgrading "hacked" code is pretty straightforward with Eclipse. The diff and merge tools (courtesy of the Platform Compare component) are second to none for this type of job. I start by loading the new, unmodified code in one Eclipse project and the copy of the hacked code into another project. I then use the Compare with Each Other utility, where Eclipse finds all the differences in all the files, also showing added or removed files. The compare tools then allow me to merge the changes one-by-one.

Merging code is a time consuming process, but Eclipse allows me to do it without losing my sanity.

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