Salesforce.com’s Eclipse plugin for targeting the company’s Force.com platform provides seamless development for organisations aiming for the cloud
About two years ago, Salesforce.com introduced its Force.com offering, through which the Software as a Service (SaaS) giant invited developers to create cloud-based applications that would run on Salesforce.com’s own infrastructure.
I must say that when I first heard about Salesforce.com’s efforts to allow development for the cloud through their own Force.com site, I was a bit skeptical about the initiative. However, as I started to use the tools and feel my way around, my doubts gave way to intrigue.
Salesforce.com has assembled a somewhat overwhelming array of development tools for the service, enough to ensure that developers of various skill levels and tool persuasions, should find a fit path to developing a Force.com application. I found options spanning from filling out form-based applications through a web interface to writing raw code right from my desktop.
Among the numerous tools provided along with this service is a powerful plugin for building Force.com applications right from within the Eclipse Integrated Development Environment, which I recently put to the test. All told, I think that Force.com is a very promising addition to Salesforce’s existing line of services, and well worth further evaluation, particularly for organisations already using Salesforce applications.
Force.com and Eclipse
I focused on the Force.com IDE, an Eclipse plugin that enables developers to work from their desktops as they develop software for deployment on Force.com servers – an approach that reminded me of the Amazon AWS Toolkit for Eclipse that I reviewed not too long ago. As with that Amazon plugin and most other Eclipse plugins I’ve tested, installation of the Force.com IDE was a snap. The version of the plugin I tested didn’t yet support the latest Eclipse release, version 3.5, but since Eclipse lives inside its own isolated directory on my computer, I had no trouble maintaining simultaneous 3.5 and 3.4 installations.
Development for the Force.com platform is a bit unusual compared to traditional Eclipse development in that almost all aspects of the development actually take place on the Force.com servers. As such, when I created a new Force.com project in Eclipse, I was asked to provide my Force.com credentials, which were freely available through the Force.com developer site. As I worked in Eclipse, my code was compiled not on my local machine, but on the remote Force.com servers. Likewise, when I tested and ran the code, it all took place remotely. Yet, I found the integration rather seamless, and got the feeling that the code I was working with could just as have been running locally.