When Eclipse Plugins Don’t

Quick Version

If, after ‘installing’ a plugin for Eclipse 3.4 it’s not visible in Preferences or in context menus, check that your user account has permissions to write into the appropriate Eclipse directories – because Eclipse doesn’t warn you.


For those who don’t know, Eclipse is an IDE heavily used for Java development. Like anything else, it’s a delicate balance of awesome and suckage, and today I got caught out by a pinch of suckage.

It’s a plugin-based platform, which means that anyone can write a piece of software that ‘plugs-in’ to Eclipse to extend or enhance the functionality. It’s a great approach, allowing me to tailor my own installation to my needs. Having recently re-installed Ubuntu Linux, earlier today I was trying to set up my plugins without success.

The Problem

I set up the m2eclipse update site as described in the documentation (pretty standard fare… Help > Install New Software…, paste in the update site URL and choose components to install) but after ‘installation’ was completed there was no sign of the plugin. There should have been new options appearing all over Eclipse, but no. Tumbleweed.

Tried installing the next plugin on my list… Subclipse. Same story. So not a problem with a plugin…

The Solution

…and then it dawned on me. I’d installed Eclipse into /opt, which is all locked down to root, with administrative privileges. Schoolboy error – no permissions for the plugin files to actually be installed under the authority of my user account, which is the context that Eclipse normally runs.

A quick chown to root:admin for the /opt/eclipse directory (rather heavy handed – I should probably have worked out which directories I needed write access to, but I was out of patience), ‘uninstalled’ the plugin in the Eclipse, tried the install again and then I was back in business.

I’m really surprised that Eclipse doesn’t complain when it’s ‘installing’ a plugin in directories to which it has no access. I may not be the sharpest tool in the box, but I’m fairly sure that permissions problems happen to other people too. I might go so far as to find out where you feed back to the Eclipse development community for once. Anyways, this post will help remind me next time I get this wrong, it might help someone out, and if nothing else you might be mildly entertained by my ineptitude.


Author: brabster

Software developer in the North of England

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