Is e4 a lemon?

Image credit: So gesehen@flicker, CC BY-SA 2.0.

I have been playing around with e4 (M3+Integration) today and so far I’m not impressed. I’m keeping an open mind, and may change my opinion at a later time.

At the moment however,  I would dare to say that e4 might be the “Windows Vista” moment for Eclipse. High hopes, but at the end of the day not groundbreaking enough to be interesting for a wide audience of developers (=regular java devs, web devs)

There are some things I like a lot and would like to see in 3.x, such as:

  • CSS theming
  • trident animations
  • getting rid of the *Advisors

The biggest drawbacks in my opinion:

#1  NOT simpler,  just different

From my POV app development is still too complex for the avarage developer.  Here is why:

  • Using dependency injection via annotations instead of having interfaces / abstract classes makes it very hard for beginners to figure out how to write classes. It is not obvious what annotations are available at any given point (@Inject, @PreDestroy, etc). The type hierarchy does not help for finding similar implementations – since there is no hierarchy
  • The e4 workbench designer for the workbench model (.e4xmi) is nice, but unstable (failed to load my simple example). Editing the .e4xmi by hand or a tree-like emf editor is cryptic and less user friendly than the plugin.xml editor
  • The plugin.xml is still necessary. So with the .e4xmi file we now have two .xml files that are relevant. I would like to see just one or none.
  • Still too many technologies to master: Extension Points, OSGi, Workbench Model, EMF, Annotations, SWT, JFace.

“Simplify the programming model” is stated as e4’s first objective (e4-summary.odp), but  I don’t think this is true at present.

#2 Still big and intimidating

I often hear the Eclipse is big, bulky and intimidating. The Eclipse e4 download packs 230 MB and all the UI clutter we are used to – but many newbies find confusing.

#3 No killer feature

If a customer asked me about migrating to e4 for a product that launches in Q4 2010, I couldn’t really recommend it. At this point I don’t see any “must have features yet — especially for the folks that have 3.x apps up and running.

This is bad and a bit of a catch-22 situation:

  • Without some “must have”  features people are going to stay with what they already know (3.x) instead taking the risk of using something new
  • The longer people wait to use e4 the longer it will take to reach critical mass and a high level of maturity (i.e. most bugs found)

Looking forward to your opinions – especially if you disagree.

Kind regards,