A recent poster eclipse.newcomer asked about customizing the look and feel of an Eclipse application. This is something that I’ve been meaning to try out for a long time, so I’ve started my journey down the path of customizing the look and feel of some of my sample applications.
Eclipse provides a mechanism for changing the presentation of an application. This works for any RCP application and can be applied to the Eclipse SDK itself.
The first question is simple: what do you mean customize? It’s pretty common knowledge by now that–through SWT–Eclipse uses native widgets. So how do you customize native widgets? The simple is answer is that you don’t. However, there are many aspects to the Eclipse workbench that are not native, like the tabs that appear above views, the trim around windows and so forth. Also, the manner in which widgets are laid out is not dictated by any native influence.
How to you get started customizing the appearance of your application? A good starting point is (oddly enough) found in the Eclipse Wiki; specifically, the RCP Custom Look and Feel page. On this page, you’ll find a short example. More interesting (IMHO) is a presentation titled “Changing the Look and Feel of Eclipse Applications” by Stefan Xenos and Jean-Michel Lemieux from EclipseCon 2005.
If you’re looking for more, chapter 19 of “Eclipse Rich Client Platform” by Jeff McAffer and Jean-Michel Lemieux discusses customizing the presentation in some depth.