Eclipse 3.3-M7, or, intelligent paper yet again

Eclipse 3.3-M7 (release note) has a new Quick Access feature whereby Ctrl+3 gives you an Enso-like interface to get at any eclipse command. You just start typing and it gives you a narrowing set of options, subdivided by type (e.g. editors, views, perspectives, commands, menus, properties) to make it easier to find what you need. You can use camelcase (you always could for opening types in eclipse, though not for the preferences filter, and now you can also use it to find anything else: “ip” will get you to a short list including the new Introduce Parameter Object refactoring). It remembers your previous selections and keeps them at the top of the list or chooses them automatically if you type the same abbreviation.

In terms of technology this may not be new, but in terms of making an interface easy to use, especially for non-techies, it feels like a huge step forward. If you can’t quite remember what the command is called or what the keyboard shortcut or menu dropdown might be, you can look for it quickly and easily in a non-threatening human-language-friendly way. More apps (and several of our apps are full-featured enough to qualify) should have this kind of functionality built in. At the very least (since of course what developers work on is a business decision), we should be able to offer the possibility, and having a reusable component we could just drop into existing or new projects would probably be a huge advantage.

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