The fastest ways to open editors in Eclipse using the keyboard

Something you do a lot in Eclipse is open files such as classes, XML files and property files in editors. But using the mouse to hunt through the Package Explorer folder hierarchy takes a long time, especially if you forgot where the files are located. The problem gets worse the more projects and files you have in your workspace, so there must be a better way of opening editors.

Luckily, Eclipse has a number of ways to open editors easily using the keyboard. Couple these with oodles of keyboard shortcuts to navigate between editors once you’ve opened them, and you’ve got enough tools to stay away from the mouse and make coding go a lot faster. I’ll discuss some of the more efficient options and then give a summary of when to use which method.

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Quick ways to navigate Eclipse editors using the keyboard

You’ll often end up with a lot of open editors in Eclipse and consequently needing to navigate between them. You can use the mouse for this, but that often disturbs your flow when your typing, slowing you down.

That’s why there are a number of ways to navigate between editors in Eclipse using only the keyboard. Combined with the ability to quickly navigate views using the keyboard, it’s an easy way to work faster and almost get rid of the mouse (reducing company spending… well, slightly).

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The fastest ways to navigate views in Eclipse using the keyboard

With so many views in Eclipse (around 50 for a default install), it can become difficult to navigate them all, especially when you don’t want to reach for the mouse all the time. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post on how to manage keyboard shortcuts, learning how to use the keyboard efficiently can save you oodles of time later on.

Fortunately, Eclipse has a number of ways to navigate between views using only the keyboard. I’ll discuss the Show View shortcuts, the Show Views dialog, Quick Access and then view cycling, with some advice on when to use which one. There’s also a bonus tip on how to activate the editor with the keyboard once you’re done with a view.

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Switch and close editors faster with the keyboard using Eclipse’s Quick Switch Editor

I spend a huge amount of my programming time in editors, editing, switching between them and closing them. This means that managing editors has to be as efficient as possible, which means that, for one thing, I shouldn’t be swapping between the mouse and keyboard all the time to work with editors.

Luckily, there is a way to manage editors using the keyboard (and it doesn’t involve the laborious Ctrl+F6). It’s a feature called Quick Switch Editor and it makes working with editors a lot more enjoyable.

Quick Switch Editor works by popping up a list of all open editors (sorted by editor title) to the right of the editors tabs. The list is searchable so you don’t have to navigate long lists with the arrow key and searching supports wildcards. On top of that, you can also close editors from the list. Here’s a quick glimpse of what it looks like:

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Instantly show a class/file in the Package/Project Explorer in Eclipse

While working on a class or XML file, you’ll often find that you want to work with the actual .class or .xml file in the Package Explorer, Project Explorer or Navigator views. You may want to copy, move or delete the file or do stuff that are only accessible in these views (eg. browse all files in the same folder).

Eclipse has a feature called Show In, that’s almost like a Quick Open. It instantly navigates to the current editor’s file in a requested view and positions you directly on the file in that view, no matter how deep in the hierarchy the file is. It’s also keyboard friendly, which means no more reaching for the mouse.

This feature is perfect for those (like me) who don’t like the Link with Editor functionality on certain views. I don’t like the Package Explorer to Link with Editor as I like to know things are the way I left them (see the rant at the end of the post).

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Split and view the same editor side by side in Eclipse

At some point you’ll want to view the same class or file side by side. You may want to follow related code in different parts of the class or need some code constantly available as reference to change some other part of the class.

Eclipse allows you to split an editor and move it to anywhere in the editor area in the same window, including next to the original editor. Changes made in the one editor are reflected in the other. The feature isn’t very obviously named, but it is easy to use.

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