Breadcrumb bar in Eclipse 3.4 milestone 5

February 10th, 2008

A rather unexpected new feature made its way into milestone 5 of the upcoming release 3.4 of Eclipse. As the milestone release notes state, Java Editor now offers a breadcrumb navigation bar which can be enabled via the Toggle Breadcrumb tool bar button or by pressing Alt+Shift+B. Being an active proponent of breadcrumb bar component myself i have decided to enable this feature and play with it for a few hours. At the time being (while it’s all still fresh), i find it very useful.

It elegantly combines the tree structures of project explorer and the outline view (along with fully functional context menus on all items), and since the breadcrumb segment icons are synchronized with the package explorer, i can easily see the familiar overlay icons that are associated with errors and warnings. As a matter of fact, i would even dare say that i no longer need the package explorer and outline views, since the breadcrumb segment selector menus provide filtering capabilities as well. As an experiment, i have decided to use the new breadcrumb bar exclusively for the next few weeks to see if i’m going to miss the old tree views.

As an added bonus, i now have more horizontal space to tile the search view and problems view and have them visible together at the bottom of the IDE window. Here is how my Eclipse is going to look like in the next few weeks (click to see full size in 1024*770):

Eclipse 3.4 M5 breadrcumb bar - thumbnail

There are a few usability issues that hopefully will get addressed in the final release. My top two would be:

  • When the selector arrow is clicked, the mouse focus should be transferred into the popup window. Right now, i can’t click the selector arrow and start mouse-wheeling through the elements.
  • The element selection in the popup list should be single click and not double click.

Right now, the breadcrumb bar navigation in Eclipse feels much slower than in the Vista Explorer because of these two issues. I have submitted these two points to the Eclipse bug tracker (bug 215830).