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Tasktop for Eclipse - Get More out of Mylyn

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Beyond the Source

Tasktop extends the reach of Mylyn’s task contexts beyond source code to the documents and web sites you work with. With Tasktop almost all of the information that you interact with while completing a task will be automatically captured as part of a task’s context. Switching tasks displays all related resources, translating into a lot less searching for documents and previously visited web sites and more time getting things done.

Folders linked into Tasktop’s Navigator are visible under the Folders node (Figure 3). Just like what happens with code elements in the Package Explorer, your office documents become part of the active task’s context when the document is opened or is interacted with. You can also opt to have Tasktop manage the editors for these external documents, closing the appropriate application windows upon task deactivation. This helps keep the number of concurrently open application windows down, reducing memory consumption and improving system performance.

Figure 3

When starting a new task, the files you need to work with, whether they are code, images, or other external documents, are not immediately part of the task. With Mylyn, bootstrapping the task context is usually done by either unfiltering the Package Explorer and locating the desired file, or temporarily unfiltering a portion of the source tree using the Alt+Click “trick” ( The same can be done in the Tasktop Navigator, but additionally you can find files using the view’s find text field located within the view toolbar (Figure 4). Simply enter the file name or partial name (“*” = wildcard) and press enter. Results are instantaneous and clicking or opening the desired file will add it to the active task’s context. Clear the find filter and the view will return to the filtered state with the newly found file present in the task context.

Figure 4

Tip: Add Projects node can be added to the Tasktop Navigator view to contain all your development projects. Depress the focus button in the Navigator view and from the view menu select “Customize View…”. On the Content tab select Projects and the node will become available in your Tasktop Navigator view.

One of the more subtle yet immensely useful features of the Tasktop Navigator is its active monitoring of the linked document folders. For example, if you have chosen to link your Desktop folder into the Navigator, when you browse to a site and download a file, the Desktop node will appear in the Tasktop Navigator with the file below it. So instead of having to track down the file (often amongst many other files on the Desktop), it is singled out and presented to you in the Tasktop Navigator. If you downloaded a Java file, you can then drag it from under the Desktop node in the Navigator into a project with a single gesture. Additionally, from within the Tasktop Navigator, you can locate files or folders in the system’s native file explorer by right clicking on the file and selecting “Locate on Disk”. This is really useful when the extra power afforded by the explorer shell is required (i.e. to view thumbnail images of all files in the folder).

Tasktop can also manage web pages you visit in addition to your code and office documents. Tracking the web sites visited requires browsing using Tasktop’s integrated web browser (Firefox integration has been in high demand by users, and is on the horizon). As you navigate to different web sites, the URLs are stored with the active task’s context, and presented in the Tasktop Navigator under the Web node decorated with their associated favicons (Figure 5).

Figure 5

Anchors on web sites get presented as sub nodes in the Navigator easing navigation when revisiting specific sections of lengthy sites (Figure 6). Note that web sites are not recorded when no task is active. Double clicking a link in the Navigator will open it in the integrated Tasktop Browser. Deactivate the task and the web pages are cleared from view, only to be restored to where you last were upon re-activating the task, meaning you can get to work instantly.

Figure 6

Tip: If you are a developer on Linux, and don’t want to use the internal browser, you can set a preference indicating to always open web pages in your system’s default browser (See Window > Preferences > General > Web Browser).

Eventually you will discover there is little reason to create bookmarks since most of the time the pages you need are either restored upon task activation or a click away via the Tasktop Navigator. However, for frequently accessed web apps, Tasktop offers a ‘starred’ list of favourite accessible via either the Navigator or trim (Figure 7). A more traditional hierarchical bookmarking facility is also included along with ( integration. Tasktop also has you covered if you have already invested a lot of time into categorizing your bookmarks, making it easy to access existing Firefox and IE bookmarks (Figure 8).

Figure 7

Figure 8

In addition to the usual features you expect from a modern browser, such as password management, the Tasktop browser includes a number of other features you are sure to appreciate including:

• Default browser support, allowing you to click on bug URLs in an email and having it open in a rich editor within your Eclipse
• Search trim – similar to the search box in Firefox but with the ability to search over integrated web applications, such as wikis and Google Docs
• Secondary browser windows, with the ability to browser focused or unfocused, and drag pages between windows (especially useful if using two monitors and keeping code on the primary one)

With all of your web sites, documents and source code linked to tasks, multitasking becomes an effortless, single-click experience. No more hunting around for the appropriate resources each time a colleague or manager asks you to do something else. Tasktop places all of the documents you need at your fingertips, meaning that you spend less time getting back up to speed and more time producing code.

The one important resource that we have yet to account for is time. Out of the box Mylyn only records the time spent in the Eclipse IDE itself, completely ignoring the time spent working in external documents. Conveniently, just as Tasktop brings external documents to task, so is the time spent editing them held accountable.

Published at DZone with permission of its author, Robert Elves.

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