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Mylyn 2.0 Keeps You Focused on the Task at Hand : Page 3

The Eclipse Europa release includes a powerful productivity-boosting tool called Mylyn, which uses novel techniques to help you focus on just the information you need for a given task. Find out how Mylyn 2.0 can make you more productive.

Context Management and Filtering
In addition to the ability to edit your issues directly from within Eclipse, Mylyn provides another very powerful feature with regards to external issues: context filtering. As previously mentioned, context filtering is Mylyn's ability to mask out files and views that are not relevant to the current task.

This feature works the same way for both internal and external tasks. When you start work on a task, you need to activate it using the contextual menu in the Mylyn task list. This takes a little getting used to, but it soon becomes a habit. Once you activate a task, Mylyn will observe your activity and learn which views, files, and even parts of files are of interest for the task at hand. Then, simply by turning on the context filtering (using the blue icon that bares an uncanny resemblance to a well-known cartoon mouse), you enable Mylar to hide all irrelevant information and highlight the more important bits of the remaining information. If you do need to see another file, just deactivate the filtering using the same button and open the file you want. Mylyn will automatically add it to the context.

Filtering is active on virtually all aspects of the workspace (see Figure 5). Irrelevant code is folded; uninteresting files are hidden.

Click to enlarge

Figure 5. Mylar Context Filtering in Action

In the Project Explorer view, only the most relevant classes appear, and within a displayed class, only a subset of the class's methods is displayed. Some methods are even indicated in bold or with a small blue triangle that indicates so-called "land-mark" methods, which are the methods where most of the activity for a particular task takes place. Even the code completion menu lists the most interesting items first.

The context-filtering feature is also flexible. If you disagree with Mylyn's judgment on a particular file, you can easily remove it from the current context using the contextual menu. Another nice touch is context copying. If you switch to a new but related task, Mylyn lets you copy your current task context to the new task.

Mylyn does not limit itself to a boolean notion of "in-context" and "out-of-context" either. If you observe the workshop in Figure 5 closely, you will notice that certain files in the explorer view are pale gray, whereas others are in a bolder gray, and still others are black. The paler the entry, the less relevant Mylyn thinks this file is in the current context.

The Time-Saving, Productivity-Boosting Plugin
Under the modest guise of a system for to-do list management, Mylyn actually is an extremely powerful productivity booster, and certainly one of the most innovative Eclipse plugins around. Viewing and consulting all your tasks and to-do lists directly from within Eclipse is an invaluable time-saver. And by proactively filtering out irrelevant distractions and highlighting key information, Mylyn lets you stay focused on the task at hand and get the job done more quickly and efficiently.

John Ferguson Smart is principal consultant at Wakaleo Consulting, a company that provides consulting, training, and mentoring services in Enterprise Java and Agile Development. Well known in the Java community for his many published articles and talks, he is also the author of the book Java Power Tools.
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