New releases of Eclipse are announced annually, with the last version, Kepler, having dropped on June 26 of last year. Each year's product release cycle for the Eclipse Foundation involves upgrades and additions to not just the Eclipse IDE itself, but a whole "train" of projects, tools, and add-ons associated with Eclipse. The current release covers 76 projects and includes 61 million lines of code provided by 340 different committers.
Java 8 support is among the biggest of those projects, and Eclipse's support for Java 8 includes enhancements to the Eclipse compiler specifically designed for what's changed in the language. To wit: One of the big new features of Java 8 is lambda expressions, so the compiler now includes tools for converting anonymous classes to and from lambda expressions, as well as new formatting options for lambdas.
Each revision of Eclipse has typically included other programming tools to address timely concerns. Last year, the big addition was NoSQL, as the Eclipse BIRT (Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools) were bumped up to include support for NoSQL databases like MongoDB and Apache Cassandra. This year, the big new addition is support for the 1.0 version of Eclipse Paho, a suite of messaging protocols and libraries for engineering machine-to-machine and Internet of things solutions.
More conventional programming tasks -- namely, PHP and C/C++ -- also made the cut. Eclipse's PHP Development Tools add support for PHP 5.5, a better-performing PHP editor, and a new package that gives PHP developers a leg up in creating PHP apps in Eclipse. C/C++ mavens, meanwhile, get a new standalone C/C++ debugger as part of the latest revision of Eclipse's CDTproject.
Other Java-related projects within Eclipse also get revisions to keep them in line with Java 8's feature set. Chief among them is support for OSGi R6, the latest version of a standard for Java component model. Worries abound, though, that Oracle may try to strong-arm its own plans for how to modularize Java, although such a plan (code-named "Jigsaw") is not currently scheduled to appear until Java 9.
Last but not least, the UI's been touched up, with new functions like splittable editors and less use of whitespace by default. One of the more prosaic features in that package might turn out to be one of its most beloved by developers in marathon coding sessions: a new dark theme, akin to the one found in JetBrains's IntelliJ IDEA, that's easier on the eyes.
Those looking for Eclipse to tame some of its legendary sprawl can keep looking, as there's every sign it'll continue expanding. Eclipse's size as a project and an ecosystem has come under fire in the past, with plenty of competition evolving to offer slimmer, trimmer options for programmers. The aforementioned IntelliJ, for instance, is itself an open source project -- and has supported Java 8 since December 2012.
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