Building Cheat Sheets in Eclipse


Abstract

Eclipse provides a built-in mechanism for displaying mini-tutorials called cheat sheets. Cheat sheets are quick-and-dirty instructions for how to perform multi-step processes in Eclipse, displayed on the side of the workbench where you can quickly and easily step through them.

This tutorial demonstrates how to construct cheat sheets for Eclipse. As a result, they'll also run on BEA Workshop Studio and BEA Workshop for WebLogic—and any other Eclipse ecosystem, perhaps complementing your existing tools and plug-ins. The sample download provides three ready-to-use cheat sheets, including a cheat sheet for how to build your own cheat sheets.

Introduction

Eclipse provides native support for a nifty little feature, cheat sheets, which provide quick instructions for standard but detailed tasks. To display the available cheat sheets in your Eclipse installation, click Help > Cheat Sheets or Window > Show View > Other > Cheat Sheets > Cheat Sheets > OK.

Cheat sheets appear as a view on the right side of the workbench, making it easy to simultaneously read and execute the cheat sheet instructions. Here's an example:

Figure 1
Figure 1. Cheat sheet view

Cheat sheets are intended to guide you through a process, so as you complete each step of the cheat sheet, you click on the icon at the bottom of the step and the next step opens automatically. The ? icon allows you to open a help page that relates to that step of the cheat sheet.

You can use cheat sheets provided by others or you can create your own. Cheat sheets are an ideal way to let everyone on the team know how to do standard yet infrequent operations like accessing in-house APIs or connecting to legacy applications. The things that you have written down as a set of steps on a sticky note are candidates for making a cheat sheet. Cheat sheets are stored in JAR files that you can easily share with others.

As you may expect, Eclipse also provides simple tools for assembling cheat sheets as plug-in and dropping the resulting JAR file into your current installation. In a nutshell, you can create as many cheat sheets (each in their own XML file) as you want within a plug-in project, and then export them as a JAR and drop them into your local eclipse/plug-ins folder.

You can create cheat sheets in any instance of Eclipse that has plug-in development features enabled, such as BEA Workshop for WebLogic 9.2.

Writing Your Own Cheat Sheet

This tutorial guides you through making a cheat sheet in Eclipse, from start to finish. In summary, you have to execute the following steps:

  • Set up a project for creating your cheat sheet files.
  • Create an XML file that contains the cheat sheet text.
  • Define the cheat sheet properties.
  • Export the cheat sheet into a JAR file.
  • Copy the JAR file to the Eclipse folder.
  • Access your cheat sheet.

The steps are all pretty simple. Open up your Eclipse and let's begin.

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