The Tasktop Plug-ins for Eclipse extend the capabilities of Eclipse Mylyn to other aspects of the developer's workweek. In this article we take a brief look at the core benefits of Mylyn and introduce the Tasktop extensions for streamlining time reporting, calendaring, email and more.
Without Myelin our thought process would be incapacitated. This amazing biological substance sheaths our neurons, dramatically increasing the speed of the signals that propagate throughout the brain. Simply put, we’d be lost without it, and as much has been said by developers who have adopted the software tool of similar name: Mylyn. In this article, we’ll briefly explain the key benefits of Eclipse Mylyn then introduce the features of Tasktop, the productivity extensions being built by Tasktop Technologies (the creators of Mylyn and its task-focused focused interface).
For this article and other publications on Tasktop, Mylyn and the task-focused interface see: http://tasktop.com/resources
Mylyn reduces cognitive overload (brain strain) and improves productivity in a number of ways, but two benefits combine to really catapult a developer to new levels of productivity. First is the elimination of extraneous information. Through the application of its degree-of-interest (DOI) model, Mylyn focuses views to show just essential program elements rather than everything about the system on which you are working. The benefits can be seen immediately when the Package Explorer is focused. A Package Explorer that would usually look like Figure 1, when focused with Mylyn, looks like Figure 2.
Now, which view would you prefer to work with? Exactly. This is probably the number one reason Mylyn has been adopted by hundreds of thousands of developers. Just ten minutes of playing around with the tool and watching one of the webcasts is usually sufficient to get the gist of Mylyn and start working productively (see the Mylyn 3.0 webcast at http://tasktop.com/videos/mylyn/).
The second key tool support added by Mylyn is the Task List. This isn’t just any ordinary Task List. With Mylyn’s Task List, you can organize your work into categories, schedule and prioritize tasks easily, and focus on just what you need to work on now. The Task List indicates the task being worked on, in order to enable the separation of your activity into a different context for each task. Each task’s context includes the degree-of-interest model that forms as a result of your interaction with code. The purple button that precedes the name of each task in the Task List is how you work Mylyn’s magic. Pressing this button activates a task, and until deactivated, Mylyn monitors your interaction with the code forming a degree-of-interest model for the task and filtering the views appropriately. All code elements with which you interact become part of the active task’s context. Depending on the amount of interaction, the element will either stick around, or will eventually be filtered from view. Deactivating the task closes the current code elements and unfilters all views revealing everything, all of your projects and packages. Reactivating the task filters the views revealing only those few important program elements. Code edited recently is opened to where you were last working. Other important but not presently open files are just a double-click away in the Package Explorer, no digging required. This is a killer feature for those developers who work on more than one task a day and are occasionally interrupted to fix some higher priority bug. How much time and mental energy do you spend each day switching tasks? Each task switch requires you to relocate the appropriate files, determine which you were editing and where, completely breaking your flow (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_(psychology)). A mental shift must always take place when changing tasks, but with Mylyn the externalization of this intent is now a single click experience.
This is just a bit of how Mylyn helps developers stay in the flow - spending more time doing what they love, coding, rather than searching and scrolling though the code base. This is the mandate of the Mylyn open source project, but as developers, not everything we do in a workweek involves writing code. There are other important activities including authoring documents, reading online java doc and tutorials, planning, time reporting, and email, lots and lots of email. Supporting these other realities of working life is the domain of Tasktop – the Task Focused Desktop.