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Eclipse gets its biggest update on Friday. The Europa update to the Eclipse Framework will wrap in 17 million lines of code spanning 21 projects, more than doubling last summer's first synchronized release, Callisto, with a mere seven million lines and 10 projects.

Headlines will focus on new projects such as the dynamic language toolkit for the Web 2.0 crowd, SOA tool project, and the Mylin task-focused user interface for improved multi-tasking (the full Europa list is here). But it the steps towards a roles-based environment that mark a fresh departure for this latest Eclipse update.

Mylin plays a pivotal part in this, as it should help tackle one of the outstanding problems with Eclipse - the large number of projects and plug-ins have created a visually confusing and difficult-to-use environment for some.

"We are widening the breadth of Eclipse [with Europa]," director of marketing Ian Skerrett told The Register. "Europa will widen that gap on everyone else because it brings us into new areas on the server. Microsoft is imitating us... they still have governance problems. You can't enforce licensing restrictions on capabilities, which is what they've done with the [Visual Studio] Express product. The platform needs to be open so people can innovate."

Europa will introduce four download packages consisting of different projects, subprojects and Eclipse infrastructure elements.

The packages target Java developers with the Java Development Tools (JDT) subproject and an XML editor bundle; J2EE programmers with J2EE deployment tools, a Java IDE and Mylin; C/C++ developers with an IDE that replaces the need to separately download the Eclipse platform and Equinox; and those targeting devices and PCs get a Rich Client Platform bundle of source code, Mylin, XML editor and plug-in development environment.

Another criticism of Eclipse is the manageability of plug-ins, which can slow the performance of the IDEs (integrated development environments) of individual developers. IDE. Eclipse plug-ins range in number between 883 and 1,400, depending on sites.

The next synchronized Eclipse update, called Ganymede and due in June 2008, will focus on management and provisioning, in addition to adding yet-more projects to the mass update. Among the new projects are expected a Rich Ajax platform, SOA runtime project and more server capabilities. One goal is to turn Eclipse into a runtime environment for server side applications, moving beyond the original IDE remit and latter rich client focus. ®

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