March 19, 2007

Improved IDE Overlays for Capstone Courses

Since 2004, Capstone courses have offered optional "Eclipse overlays" -- workspaces that make it easy to use the Eclipse as a Java code editor. Though the overlays have been popular, instructors and students have asked for more features and fuller support for the entire Eclipse tool set.

Now we're taking this system one giant step forward. With recent updates to two of our most popular courses -- Spring and Hibernate -- Capstone also introduces an overhauled Eclipse overlay system, with much greater emphasis on usability. While the command-line/Ant frameworks installed with the labs remain the primary product, we're working hard to make sure the experience of studying a Capstone course using an IDE is a rewarding one.

  • Projects are now laid directly into the individual example, demo, and lab directories, and share the output directory of the DOS scripts or Ant builds in the core lab image. This means that students can build or test either from the command line or using Eclipse, and get consistent results; they can even build in one environment and test in the other.
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  • Projects have pre-generated "builders" that carry out post-compile tasks similar to those done by scripts or Ant builds. There are still some supplemental tasks that must be carried out from the command line, but we've dramatically reduced the incidence of this. Again, the result is a more seamless and satisfying experience using the IDE.
  • For our Java EE courses, we've begun to support Eclipse WTP, which offers various productivity features for Java web applications, and allows students to build, deploy, and test -- all within the IDE.
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Check the outline of any Capstone course to learn what level of IDE support it offers. Spring and Hibernate are the spearheads for this effort, but Capstone will now begin rolling out enhanced IDE support as part of regular course maintenance, so you'll be see a lot more of these new and improved overlays. Instructors, as always, we welcome your comments; enjoy!