My first steps with Eclipse Mylyn

This is my long promised posting about my experiences with Eclipse Mylyn. It took quite some time because I did not stick to it all the time but somehow fell back to my old development-habbits where everything and much more was visible on the screen. Maybe this is caused by the always-changing project situation or changing technologies but I cannot completely blame it to that. Nevertheless, let's focus on my experiences :)

Mylyn works by hiding everything from your visual workspace which is not connected to your current task at hand. This means, you only see the files in the Package Explorer and all other many views which were touched during your current task. This also means that you have to create tasks for your work in the Task List, which is a good idea anyway. The Mylyn-filtering is activated in the moment when you click on the small circle next to such a task in the Task List. If you have worked before on that task, your previous state of the workplace (which is called Context here) gets restored, like the open files, the touched methods and landmarks. If this is a fresh task, you're presented with empty views all around. From here you then can open your initial file to work on either by using the "Open Resource" shortcut or by ALT-clicking into the Package explorer, where the hidden files are displayed then.

From that initial file on you just navigate through the structures and methods with your usual Eclipse navigation (F3, STRG-click, or whatever) and Mylyn takes care to just display and highlight the necessary information for your work. It even cleans up the stuff and removes old and never-again places if you didn't came back to them for a longer time. The same thing applies to all content-assists like the method-overview or all of the Find-shortcuts where the list gets two-parted with your context-relevant results at the top and only the remaining hits after a separator.

You can also mark certain methods or files as "Landmarks" which are then displayed in bold text in your Outline or Package Explorer. This is especially handy if you're hunting a bug and found important places you want to remember or where you nailed down the cause but will fix it at a later time.

I also tried to connect my Mylyn Task List with a local installation of Bugzilla to better manage my tasks and make them available even outside of my own workspace. This worked quite good. It's also possible to attach the Context to each task if you're working with an external task repository. This would allow other people on the same repository to open the Context in the same state as it was when you last saved it to the task repo. Easy moving tasks from one person to another :) But we didn't come around to test this, as I've been the only one to work with Mylyn longer than just for a short tryout.

All in all I can say that if you get used to the way how Mylyn hides everything unnecessary from your display and how it presents the important information, the speed of development really goes up and the amount of distraction minimizes. But to get to that point you have to really work through the initial get-used phase which can be somewhat confusing and make you switch back to the previous development-mode where everything is displayed. I also fell into this a few times. But if you stick to it, you'll soon get the benefit of being able to focus!

If you also want to try it out or are just curious how it feels to work with it, take a few minutes and watch the Eclipse Mylyn 3.0 webcast video and read through the Mylyn 2.0 Tutorial (still applies 100% even if it's been written for 2.0) how to get started, you won't regret it!


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