Tips & Tricks: The IDE in Eclipse for Windows 7

Note: For those who are unfamiliar with the IDE, please refer to this website for a general overview.

Do you wish to wander into the world of Salesforce development, but don’t quite know how to manage the IDE? Struggling to get the IDE installed on your computer? You’ve wandered to the right place–I have some tips that may help you get started.

My first tip to working with the plugin is for those who love and always use the Eclipse IDE for Java (please skip to the next paragraph if this doesn’t apply to you): pretend you aren’t really in Eclipse when coding in Apex. Why? Because almost all those features and shortcuts you know and love about Eclipse don’t work when writing Apex. There is very minimal intellisense (to borrow a Microsoft term), no “Jump to Definition” capabilities (no ability to right click on a method and automatically jump to a method’s definition), no automatic refactoring, and often a lack of text-coloring. In short, just be aware that you are not going to be able to use Eclipse’s full functionality and you will save yourself some frustration.

The IDE offers two methods of installation: (1) as a standalone application or (2) as an Eclipse plugin. If you only plan on developing for the platform, and nothing else, Option 1 would probably work best for you. I, personally, chose Option 2, mainly because I already had Eclipse installed. You can find the installations, along with more details, here.

The second tip is to make sure you have installed both the 32-bit (x86) AND the 64-bit versions of Java 6 if you are using a 64-bit machine, especially if you plan on using the 32-bit version of Eclipse. Why Java 6 you may ask. Well, it turns out that the latest version of the IDE is only compatible with Eclipse Helios (Eclipse 3.6.1 for those of us who love numbers) which in turn runs on Java 6, not 7.

Which brings me to my next tip. Those who are worried about the vulnerabilities presented by an outdated version of Java may be tempted to download the latest version of Java on top of having Java 6. For those people: Go ahead and succumb to temptation. It’s perfectly fine to have multiple versions of Java installed. However, if you do chose such a route but wish to use Helios, you must change the eclipse.ini file for Helios to specify a particular Java virtual machine (JVM). Please click here for instructions on how to do so.

For those who wish to use the IDE but also wish to have the latest version of Eclipse, you’ll need to download both Helios and the other version of Eclipse you want. However, using both versions requires more than just unzipping the two. Please read Eclipse: Managing Multiple Eclipse Installations for instructions on how to use more than one version of Eclipse.

Happy Coding!