Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Help Us Help You with CDT

With the release of the latest Eclipse 3.6 and CDT 7.0 in Helios we on the CDT team have taken a deep breath, stepped back, and looked hard at what the needs of C/C++ developers will be for the Indigo release next year. We already have some good ideas which you can read here, but we wanted to hear from everyone, not just those on the CDT mailing list.

With that in mind, Marc-Andre Laperle took the time to put together a small survey for everyone to help us determine the priorities for CDT 8.0 development. If you can take a moment, go to the SurveyMonkey site and give us your input. We'd very much appreciate the input.

Also, note the nifty new project logo for the CDT Project, contributed by Andrée-Anne Boisclair. You can view all the variations here.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Documentation goodies in 3.4

Just a quick update on the new Eclipse 3.4 documentation goodies that improve doc creation, including:

- TOC editor for quick and easy table of contents creation

- Context help editor for fast linking of page content with help context IDs. Man, has this made my life easier.

- Plug-in Spy for actual confirmation of help context IDs within a dialog or view.

That's not to say everything is perfect yet but things sure are looking better with each release.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Deploying our documentation to the web

Posted some future documentation plans on the Creating Carbide.c++ Developer Blog that concern the Eclipse Infocenter and Carbide documentation.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

EclipseCon 2008 summary

Just spent most of last week at EclipseCon 2008 for the first time. It was a great trip where I met a host of people and really had a chance and time to investigate some technologies I was interested in. Basically I had some ideas on how other Eclipse project technologies like BIRT and Mylyn could be merged into future releases of Carbide to help our users in their day-to-day development. I left with a few ideas churning in my noggin, and while they still need some investigation they do look promising.

One bit of technology I really became enamored with was Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA), an XML based method of organizing and mapping documentation so that it can easily be output in different ways to create exactly the right manual for the job. Will see how if goes converting a small Carbide manual into DITA format to see what happens very soon now.

A big thanx to Dr. Lee Anne Kowalski for explaining it all, both in her presentation and during lunch breaks at the User Assistance table. Her presentation on 10 common UA problems solved a couple of issues that I had observed in my Carbide docs and had yet to track down. Now I don't have too, yeah!

Finally got to meet some of the CDT team including Doug Schaefer, Chris Recoskie, and others, just to put a face to the names. Good to meet you all, hope to see you next year.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Plug-in Spy happiness (again)

Thought I'd try a small experiment with Plug-in Spy. While it works great from within the 3.4M5 release I use everyday to manage and test my doc plugins, would it also work with our standalone product? Even if its based on the 3.3 sources.

Copied the org.eclipse.pde.runtime plug-in to the Carbide\plugins folder and relaunched.

Pressed ALT+SHIFT+F1 and BAM! Works like a champ.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Help Improvements Keep Coming

With the release of 3.4 M5 there is now a Context Help editor to accompany the Table of Content editor previously released. Nice!

For one that works on a product's help material it's really great to see more support inside Eclipse for creating and managing help content. Using Dreamweaver is fine but there is no way to really do quality control without a lot of manual testing. Having an editor for the material decreases the number of mistakes that can creep into an edit, which means I can deliver the docs Carbide needs faster and with more accuracy than before. w00t!

And in conjunction with Plug-in Spy the creation, verification, and deployment of help has become much more robust. Still owe Chris Aniszczyk a few beers for adding Help Context IDs to Plug-in Spy which has made the "where'd the context ID break" game played here simply go away.

Maybe I can pay up at EclipseCon.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

My pre-release relief

So, it's nearly done. CDT 4.0 will be out the door with the rest of the Eclipse 3.3 goodness and all I can say is, whew.

This release marks the first time I've publicly contributed to the Eclipse movement, the first time I was able to look beyond my cube and the work involved there in shipping Carbide.c++ and really try to make some difference with the tools we've been using as the basis for our product every day for the last 2 years.

And it wasn't for lack of desire, just time and energy.

When our group came to Nokia we were using an aging code base for a proprietary product, who's interface was not well liked by our customers due to its different design origins. It was also a pain to add features to as its support for multiple architectures, operating systems, compilers, etc. had made it somewhat fragile over the years. We wanted to get away from that tool and into something different, and the something different we settled upon was Eclipse and CDT.

Some of the things that made the switch appealing was the fact that we could improve and add features quite easily, and generally work to solve our customers problems with less fear of "breaking" another product. Whereas in the old days we tentatively worked to add a feature here and there, it was always done carefully and with trepidation that something would surely break. However, with Eclipse it was "how can I add this feature, let me count the ways" versus "good grief, how do I add this feature without breaking everything. The shear scope of the flexibility was empowering. It was not without some learning curve though.

On the docs side of the house the entire process for producing and contributing docs changed. How they were organized, updated, and maintained changed. Its been a rollicking time learning, growing, and expanding my knowledge in this area, and hopefully helping others in the company expand theirs as well. Since several groups within Nokia were moving to Eclipse it was somewhat heartening to know that the problems I had investigated and solved last month could be passed on to others to help solve their problems too. Progress has been both rapid and the improvements many as each release went out the door.

Once our last product release was final, I felt it was time to contribute some docs help to the Eclipse and CDT communities so that everyone in the community could benefit, not just our customers. Docs are always the last thing people think of to do and are as we all know, not an engineers favorite part of the project, so being able to assist in this area is pretty rewarding. Doing so addresses a critical component of the release, it makes the release look more like a polished product, and hopefully, helps us garner a few new members to contribute in the future.

Its been a great time so far and I am now seriously looking forward to the next release and what can be done with the docs in the interim.