Help us help you

I am the target of a lot of email from the community. Messages that I receive generally fall into three different buckets: Eclipse project stuff from committers and project leads, requests for price quotes, and pleas for help. I do get lots of other types of email, but these are the three big categories.

Today is a pretty busy day with regard to price quotes. These requests tend to come in the form of a request for “Eclipse Juno”, or “Eclipse Indigo SDK” (curiously, I rarely get quote requests that use the proper names of any of the packages we distribute, e.g. “Eclipse IDE for Java Developers”). My response is pretty standard:

Eclipse is free and open source software that is distributed royalty-free under the terms of the Eclipse Software User Agreement[1].

Please let me know if we can be of further assistance.


I do modify my template when the request is for an older version of Eclipse. I’ll try to provide a link to what they’re actually asking for from the archive (assuming that I can sort out what they’re actually asking for), along with a short note informing them that a newer version is available and recommended.

Lately, I’ve been receiving a lot of the latter type of email: pleas for help. I think this may coincide with the start of a new university cycle; I’d wager that most of the people making these requests are first year university students. One thing is clear: getting started with all the moving parts required to get even Java development in Eclipse is hard for some first year students. But that’s a discussion for another time.

Most of the email pleas that I receive from what I expect are desperate students, are short on detail. Very often, the requests are along the lines of “it doesn’t work”, or “it won’t compile”, or “I’m getting this error”. Sometimes the writer will tell me that they tried asking the question in the forums but have not received an answer. Sometimes they include a threat along the lines of “Please help me, or I’ll have to find another IDE”.

For starters, the threat isn’t helpful. I want to help. You don’t need to threaten.

I’ll check the forums to see what kind of traction their question has received. Very often, the forum question contains as much information as the email. Very often the question is unanswered in the forum (unless it’s one of the forums that Ed Merks monitors).

If your question is not answered, then maybe you need to provide more information. Many of the folks who monitor the forums quite reasonably regard a terse question as a request from you to do your work for you. The folks who monitor the forums are busy people who are taking time out of their busy schedules to provide help. Help them help you.

When you ask a question on the forums, you need to provide information. What platform (Linux, Windows, Mac) are you running on? What version of the Java runtime environment? What version of Eclipse? What else do you have loaded? What exact steps did you take to get to the error condition? What steps have you already taken to mitigate the problem? What error messages (exact text) did you encounter?

Please read How To Ask Questions The Smart Way. Please note that the authors of this paper aren’t able to answer your questions about Eclipse, so don’t ask them. But this document will help you help us answer your question.

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