Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The best $5 I Ever Spent on Technology

I recently discovered xGestures and someone had better tell my wife because I'm in love!
I've been a long-time user of mouse gestures in Firefox (the plugin I currently use is FireGestures, but there are others). I recently changed to a combination of Camino and Safari, but there aren't any really good gestures plugins available for them.
My search led me to xGestures, and it truly is the best $5 I've ever spent on a piece of technology. Not only does it make my browser more productive (or rather, almost as productive as Firefox on Windoze), but as an added bonus it applies mouse gestures to every application. It's an amazing productivity boost.
For those who aren't familiar with mouse gestures, they are an alternative input mechanism whereby you combine a mouse click with dragging motions in order to trigger a command or action. Basic drag-and-drop is, essentially, a mouse gesture (one that every personal computer user is familiar with); the iPhone and iPod Touch use gestures quite extensively. I've heard them described as "controlling your applications by drawing little mini-pictures with your mouse." Wikipedia introduces them like this:
In computing, a mouse gesture is a way of combining computer mouse movements and clicks which the software recognizes as a specific command. Mouse gestures can provide quick access to common functions of a program. They can also be useful for people who have difficulties typing on a keyboard. For example, in a web browser, the user could navigate to the previously viewed page by pressing the right mouse button, moving the mouse briefly to the left, then releasing the button.

For those like me who make heavy use of the mouse, the productivity boost gained by not having to find menu items or awkward keyboard combinations is outstanding. If you've never used mouse gestures before, it's probably kind of hard to understand the value unless you try them out.
As I've said, I'm in love with xGestures on my MacBook, but there are also similar programs for Windows. I haven't tried any of them out, but some that look promising are:

So, Planet Eclipse readers are probably asking why this is showing up there... Well, I haven't yet configured xGestures to do anything in Eclipse, but I'm thinking about it. Sometime today I'll set up some gestures for the things I do most frequently in Eclipse (like open the Find Type and Find Resource dialogs). But I'm curious if anyone else uses gestures in Eclipse and, if so, what gestures do you use frequently? I'm interested in exploring the power of combining the best IDE and this great "new" input method to make me even more productive. Eventually I'd like to explore the possibility of writing an Eclipse plugin that adds gesture support and contributing it for inclusion in the platform.

Also, if any Windows users have other gestures programs that you like, let us know.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Looking For an Easy Way To Contribute To Eclipse?

Are you an Eclipse user who is looking for an opportunity to get more involved, to contribute something back? Maybe you've considered reporting bugs (or even done so, but not consistently). Or maybe you've even thought about trying to implement a feature or fix a bug with a code patch, but were intimidated by the huge code base and/or ignorant of how to get started with that.
Well, if you happen to also be a Windows 64-bit user there is an excellent specific opportunity for you to get involved. The next major Eclipse release, code named Helios and based on version 3.6 of the platform, is considering offering 64-bit Windows versions of all the EPP packages*. But they need commitment from people who can test and report bugs with the Win64 builds; the team is small and given all the combinations of packages (there are now 9, maybe more by the time Helios is released) and supported platforms (there are currently 6, Win64 would be number 7), it's a daunting task to verify that each one is working correctly. But here is where you can help; if you are on 64-bit Windows you can offer to test the milestone builds of such a package and report bugs if you find them.
This is a low-barrier-to-entry way to contribute real value to Eclipse, by doing something (using Eclipse) that you already do. Plus, you'll get early access to all of the new features, enhancements, and bug fixes that the 3.6 release is bringing!
So, go ahead and comment on Bug 293969 and add your pledge to help test - I'm sure the EPP team would be thrilled to have the help.

* For those who don't know, the Eclipse Packaging Project (EPP) is responsible for producing the various useful packages of Eclipse projects that are the result of the yearly coordinated release train.