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I've not yet started working on a new project where everything is done with "Eclipse RCP" which I never heard of until last week. We'll use lots of Java and SWT for GUI. I'd like to get up to speed on this new technology ASAP. (Or else I'll be the company "coffee boy" for the next several months...)

Given a starting point of zero Java experience, zero use of Eclipse and zero use of SWT, zero computer science background (I'm into physics, engineering and art) and only modest experience working on the applications level in any sense, but OTOH, years of low-level programming and doing various neat cutting-edge things in areas that don't overlap at all with the Java or Eclipse worlds, how big a chunk of learning curve do I need to climb?

To be clear, while I need to become more fluent in Java, and learn the end user basics of Eclipse and beyond, I don't need to learn the fundamentals of programming, OO, what a "compiler" is, etc. and am an old pro at Linux, C++, event-driven GUIs and much more.

How to guesstimate how many days I'll need to become competent at working on Eclipse-RCP based apps? (No need to become a master guru. Of course that comes with time.) How to judge my level of skill along the way? How might I come up with a checklist of topics I should cover? What to tell the boss about when I'll be ready to work on this thing?

What books, tutorials, etc are good for this learning curve climb? (No budget for classes, workshops, or books pricier than what I can get at Barnes & Noble.)

(Actually I do have some modest experience in Java, but let's pretend it's zero, to make the question and answers more fun and useful to others.)

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"zero point of Java experience"? This is the tough one. –  user1249 Jul 10 '11 at 9:34
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Honestly it would be impossible for anyone to give you an answer to how long it would take to learn what you've outlined here. Also you're extremely unclear about how much experience you actually have... My recommendation would be to use Google to find yourself some good tutorials in the areas you want to learn. –  Kenneth Jul 10 '11 at 18:06
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It would certainly help to learn Java first. There are tons of resources both online and offline for this... Java is pretty well documented. If you haven't already done so, you should install the Eclipse IDE and develop some simple Java applications to gain an understand of both Java and Eclipse. (You'll obviously need to do this to begin Eclipse RCP development anyway)

I recommend taking a look at Eclipse Plug-ins (3rd Edition)

I used this book to ramp up on my current Eclipse RCP project. It contains much more detail than the various online resources I've found. It'll cover everything you need to become "competent" with Eclipse RCP.

Also note that there are many Eclipse sub-projects out there that can be useful for your project which can involve additional ramp-up time. E.g: EMF

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EMF? As a physicist, that looks like Electro-Magnetic Field :P –  DarenW Jul 10 '11 at 22:23
    
I barely understand anything on that EMF page at eclipse.org I have a ways to go... –  DarenW Jul 10 '11 at 22:26
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These are fairly sophisticated frameworks... it will take some time :) –  lucks Jul 10 '11 at 22:28
    
I am ordering that book... –  DarenW Jul 13 '11 at 5:42
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I started with a limited and functional knowledge of Java and absolutely no knowledge of Eclipse or the RCP framework. I know consider myself fairly knowledgeable in both, but it is a tough climb. The learning curve is fairly steep but both have so many online resources that getting up and running shouldn't be too much of a bear. For a crash course on Java I'd look up Oracle's Java help documentation as it addresses syntax, basic program structure and other basic built-in classes. It's structured in a way that can lead you to Java Certifications. On the Eclipse front, the Eclipse Foundation has a fairly exhaustive set of tutorials from the basic Hello World RCP to more advanced topics like single-sourcing to use both a RCP UI and a RAP UI.

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do you agree that this is impossible to grasp in two weeks, even with Java experience? –  Gabriel Ščerbák Jul 10 '11 at 21:29
    
Though it might be useless to compare durations, about how long did it take you? –  DarenW Jul 11 '11 at 3:14
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