I decided to try out the newly announced Elclipse Tools for Silverlight this morning to see if it was true that a real development environment for Silverlight Web apps now existed for Mac OSX.
My journey started by visiting the Eclipse 4SL page (http://www.eclipse4sl.org/) to download everything required. There are several large installs that must be completed, in-order before you can start using Eclipse 4SL.
Once you have installed these two things, you launch Eclipse, and use the Eclipse software update tool to get the Silverlight ESL support modules. (Full instructions for this are here)
When this is completed, you are ready to start working with Silverlight on a Mac.
This all sounds good, but how does it work in practice?
Well, here are some notes from my experience:
- 4SL has support for Microsoft visual Studio projects. This is great. However, it’s a bit tricky to get them to work. You can’t simply “open” a project. You must first use the [Import] selection from the file menu. This does allow you to keep the Silverlight project in it’s home directory, and not move it to your working folder which is nice touch.
- Once your project is open, there are some oddities that made working with them a bit harder than Visual Studio. First, the background color of Eclipse was white. While this seems minor, it made it so I could not see any of my pure-white XAML objects. Since I’m new to Eclipse, I could not fund any way to configure this. This was very minor, but still annoying.
- The XAML editor is neat, but it takes several seconds to display even the simplest XAML. It slowed-down my work efficiency considerably.
- The project explorer, C# editor and the warnings/errors panel were very well done and useful. I got comfortable with them very quickly.
- However, there is no code-complete support (that I could find), which sort kills the whole thing. Visual Studio is so good at this, it makes living without it very difficult.
- Related to the above, there do not seem to be any “debug” options that I could find. Debug exists in Eclipse, but I could not get it to work with Silverlight. I do not think this is ready yet.
- Crashes: My simple Silverlight app crashed Eclipse the second time I tried to run it. It was a complete, fatal error. I had to restart to get back going again.
- Finally, and this is the most impostant part, my Silverlight app did not run exactly the same when compiled in Eclipse as it did in Visual Studio. I need to look at this further, but since I could not debug, it made the process very hard.
So, what does this all mean? Well, I was very happy to see the Eclipse 4SL work at all! The installation is slick, and the potential exists for this to be a very competitive Silverlight development platform. However, with all the issues I experienced, I will be treating this as a BETA, and will continue to develop Silverlight on VM in visual Studio until the product matures a bit more.