SysAdmin's Journey

Share Your Eclipse Plugins and Configurations Across Platforms

Over the years, I’ve come to know and love Eclipse. Though it has roots in Java, ironically, I use Eclipse for just about everything except for coding Java (if I wrote Java code, I’m sure I’d use Eclipse). Eclipse is great for browsing Subversion, coding PHP, coding Perl, and even coding shell scripts. For die hards like me, there’s the viPlugin that allows you to use all the vi commands you know and love within Eclipse. About the time you get your perfect Eclipse setup established, you buy a new laptop on a new platform. Or, in my case, I have three “primary” development workstations, each on a different OS. The rest of this article will show you how to hook Dropbox into your Eclipse installation, allowing you to share your plugins and configurations across different versions of Eclipse, on different machines, and even on different platforms.

Truth be told, doing this type of setup with Eclipse was actually easier to do with older versions of Eclipse. Since they’ve moved to the p2 provisioning system, it became a little harder to do, but still very possible. After much googling, I finally came across this StackOverflow question that gave me the pieces I needed to set this all up.

A little prep work on the frontend will save us a huge amount of time in maintenance. Note that I use Dropbox in this article, but any similar service should do. We’ll setup our Linux install first, since we can script things a little easier there. Go ahead and install Dropbox and Eclipse - they’re both very straightforward installations.

Let’s assume that our Dropbox directory is directly under our home directory, and our eclipse installation is in ~/eclipse. Let’s setup some environment variables and create our directory structure:

export DROPDIR=~/Dropbox
export ECLIPSEDIR=~/eclipse
mkdir eclipse-custom
cd eclipse-custom
# Create our shared extension dir
mkdir extensions
# Create our workspace dir
mkdir shared-workspace

With our directory structure setup, it’s time to pick a plugin to install. Let’s do PDT. The key here is that we start Eclipse by pointing it to a new configuration directory which lives on our Dropbox account, and install the new extension. This will force Eclipse to install the plugin to the Dropbox directory, instead of the local directory. Start Eclipse like so:

eclipse -configuration $DROPDIR/eclipse-custom/extensions/pdt/eclipse/configuration

Note that you can change the ‘pdt’ portion of that path to whatever you choose, but you must include the trailing eclipse/configuration portion. Once in Eclipse, go ahead and install PDT just as you normally would, then exit Eclipse.

Now that we’ve installed the PDT extension to a shared location, it’s time to point our local Eclipse installation to it. I wrote a quick script to do just that:

mkdir $ECLIPSEDIR/links
cd $DROPDIR/eclipse-custom/extensions
for d in `ls`; do
  echo "path=`pwd`/$d" > $ECLIPSEDIR/links/$

This script creates a directory named ‘links’ in your Eclipse local installation, and creates a file for every extension that contains one line containing the path to the target extension. Now, start Eclipse. For some odd reason, the extensions wouldn’t actually install until after I restarted Eclipse a second time, so you may need to do the same. You should now see your plugin in Eclipse.

Please note that if you’re doing cross-platform development, you’ll save yourself some headache by not sharing the subclipse plugin. There’s too much of that plugin that depends on the underlying OS to share effectively.