I think that everybody agrees: choice is good. And with Eclipse comes lots of choice; just look at Eclipse Plug-in Central (EPIC) (which is pretty much the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Eclipse plug-ins). Given that choice is good, it may seem strange that there are so many discussions about features that should be included with a standard Eclipse download (currently the Eclipse SDK). A lot of folks out there really want an Eclipse IDE that comes standard with a GUI builder, XML editor, J2EE support, etc. But if it’s included in some standard download, doesn’t that preclude choice?
We all think that having choices is good, but when it comes down it, having choices means that you have to put in some effort to research the various options and make an educated choice. EPIC makes it easier by providing a rating system, so you can leverage the hard work of others; it’s reasonable to assume that a feature that’s highly regarded by others might be the right choice for you. Still, you have to do some amount of research to find features.
I don’t mean to make it sound like I think folks who don’t want to make their own choices are in any way lazy. We make lots of choices in our day and sometimes, we just want tools that just work. I think that a lot of us would agree: it’d be cool to have an Eclipse distribution that includes all the features we need "out-of-the-box".
Today, we have a few options in the form of Eclipse distributions. If you want a handy all-in-one download packed with the features you need, check these out. If you don’t want to assemble your own IDE, you can get a prebuilt one here. Some of them even come with installers. Think of these in the same way that you think of Linux distributions: very few people use "pure" Linux (I’m not even sure where you find such a thing); most folks use a distro that bundles Linux with some customization, a bunch of handy applications, and neat-o installer. As far as I am aware, the fancy installer isn’t part of the Linux that Mr. Torvalds produces. Hopefully you get the point.
The Eclipse Packaging Project was recently proposed. This project intends to make it easier to build distributions of Eclipse. At this point, the project is just a proposal, but there is a very active community developing around it and I expect that a creation review will occur shortly. The focus of the project is to provide the infrastructure required to create Eclipse products with proper installers and what-not. Along the way, several exemplary products will be created.
Anyway, if you want to get add your input into this project, the eclipse.technology.packaging newsgroup is the place to go.