FRC using VS Code and Eclipse together for WPILIb programming

I’ve tried using VS Code. I enjoy uisng it for things like JavaScript, Python and Markdown. With Java, I feel like I’m hitting my head against the wall. I’m too used to a “full powered IDE” so an editor makes me aware of what I rely on. (I tried IntelliJ as well and that felt productive easily.)

The nice thing is that 2019 FRC projects are “just” gradle projects. So there is no reason I can’t use both VS Code and Eclipse together! VS Code for creation a new project and deploying. Eclipse for virtually everything else.

Creating a project from VS Code

Just like when I was first trying VS Code, creating a WPILib project is easy. Just like the screensteps say!

  1. Click “W” icon in top right
  2. Choose template for a new project
  3. Choose Java
  4. Choose command based project (or whatever you prefer)
  5. Enter directory – this can be the same directory for all projects since they each get their own folder.
  6. Enter project name
  7. Enter team number
  8. Click generate project

Importing the Project in Eclipse

Since the project is just a Gradle project, you can import it into Eclipse

  • File > Import
  • Existing Gradle Project
  • Enter the root directory that the project is in. For example suppose your directory was “frc” and project name was “NewRobotProject”. Then the root directory would be “…/git/frc/NewRobotProject”. In other words, the directory with your build.gradle file.
  • Click Finish
  • Wait a minute or two. The bottom right will say “Synching Gradle project workspace”. It will show the percentage as the import occurs.

Editing in Multiple IDEs/Editors

At this point, you have a normal Eclipse project.   All the features and keyboard shortcuts from Eclipse are there. For example, open a command and click on the super class name (Command.) Press F3 and it takes you right to the source code. Eclipse knows where it is because Gradle told it.

If you edit in multiple tools, you just need to know how to refresh from disk in each one.

In Eclipse, right click the project and choose refresh. (Or click F5)

In VS Code,mouse over the project name and choose the circle refresh arrow.

Deploying the Project from VS Code

Since the VS Code and Eclipse projects are pointing at the same directory, you only have one project. This means you can simply:

  1. Click “W” icon in top right
  2. Choose “Deploy Robot Code” from the menu


five hours of real coding in Visual Studio Code

I tried to code for real in Visual Studio Code for the first time. This means not just dealing with my first impressions, but actually trying to get something done. I spent five hours coding today. The project I was working on uses Maven, Selenium and JUnit 5.

I tried to *only* use VS Code for the five hours of coding I did today. Learning any new tool is frustrating. I didn’t complete the development task I wanted to. But I made a decent amount of progress. And more importantly, I have a better understanding of the VS Code environment.

What I re-learned

I learned these when I was playing last time. But this time, I used them a bunch.

  • Shift Command/Windows P – Lets you type in the name of what you want to do. Useful when you don’t know the keyboard shortcuts or location of anything! I used it a lot for organize imports!
  • F12 – drill down into a class

What I learned for the first time

  • F2 – renames a method
  • The left explorer view has a “Maven Projects” section. This provides a visual way to run Maven clean/install/etc. it also provides a visual way to run effective pom. Or at least it did until I disabled the Maven integration. See the “challenges” section for why.

What I liked

  • Running a junit test is easy. Click “run test” over the class name or method name. This causes the test to run and a green (or red) status to appear in the bottom left line with how it went.
  • A green check or red x also appears next to each test method which you can click to see the test result details.
  • Extract to method is easy. Just highlight the code and click the lightbulb.
  • The git integration is good. It is clear on how to pull/push/commit/stash
  • Typing code was relatively easy.


  • F2 does not rename a class completely. It does rename the “public class” line. But it doesn’t rename the file. There was a github issue logged about this in August. It was closed because it was going to be resolved “soon”, but still seems to be a problem.
  • JUnit 5 tests in classes that end with * run normally but report as if they were skipped. This means integration is partial. If you open the test class, the green check or red x are correct. And the test explorer recognizes integration tests as tests. But the bottom bar status and test report show as skipped. I had to temporarily rename my test to * and name it back before committing for this to be usable. I reported this as an issue in the vscode-java-test project
  • There doesn’t appear to be an easy way to make the editor (the part where you type code) full screen. You can choose the command “Maximize editor group and hide sidebar”, but the problems/terminal/etc group is still at the bottom along with some visual clutter on the right. This means you actually have to drag stuff around. In Eclipse, you just double click the “title” and get full screen. More importantly, in Eclipse you double click again to get your original view back. This was requested back in 2016 so I doubt it will be added.
  • Printing something in JUnit doesn’t play well with the Maven integration. Seriously, even if you remember to switch the output tab to “test output”, nothing gets output. I quickly learned that I wasn’t the only one with this problem. It was also logged as a defect this month and sounds like it is being worked on. In the meantime, I disabled the Maven plugin. This isn’t terribly inconvenient because of the Terminal tab. I can still run a Maven build right from my editor.
  • You have to create packages and classes “manually.” This is annoying from deeply nested packages. It is also annoying to have to type the package declaration when creating a new class. This is because VS Code has the concept of folders/files vs packages/classes

What I had to fall back to Eclipse for

There were two tasks where I decided to use Eclipse rather than VS Code:

  1. I needed to paste a very long string. Eclipse adds the line breaks and string concatenation to make this elegant. VS Code does not. I could have spent 15 minutes doing it by hand, but I let Eclipse do it for me.
  2. Eclipse is really good at showing all the differences visually between two Strings in an assertion. (See #1 for my long string.) I could have read the text assertion to see the differences. But again, Eclipse is just so good at this.

creating a new VS code gradle project

I need to create a really simple Gradle project from scratch for my Oracle Code One hands on lab. I also need need to gain more experience with Visual Studio Code since we are using it soon for FIRST robotics. Seems like a good opportunity to combine my tasks here!

First, I re-read my first impressions of VS Code blog post. That reminded me of the keyboard shortcut to get context sensitive options. Ok. now I’m ready to get started.

(I intentionally didn’t use an archetype to get more experience using the editor)

Installing Gradle extension

I installed the Gradle Language Support plugin. Not sure if I needed it, but the syntax highlighting is nice. I don’t see a wizard option to create a Gradle project. This means I have to create an empty project

Creating a new project

I created an empty folder on my filesystem. Then I added that folder to VS Code. This created an empty project with the name I wanted.

Create the build file

I tried click “New File” on the editor. That created an untitled file that I couldn’t figure out how to rename. I could figure out how to delete it so I did that.

Then I used the keyboard shortcut to open help and choose “File: New”. Great that prompts me for a name. (I then realized that I could have just right clicked to have the new file option.)

I then typed a small gradle build file

apply plugin: 'java'</div>
repositories {
<div>  mavenCentral()</div>
<div>dependencies {</div>
<div>  compile group: 'org.apache.commons', name: 'commons-lang3', version: '3.8'</div>
Create directory structure
I then created the src/main/java and src/test/java folders. I was able to right click to create the folders so this was easy enough.
Create Java packages
I couldn’t find an easy way to create packages/classes, so I created a bunch of folders and a file with the extension .java. This did work and the IDE let me type in my class.
However, when i did the same for my unit test, I was not able to open the empty file. At this point, I gave up and went back to Eclipse. I need to poke at this when I have more time.
Also, it appears the FIRST robotics plugin overrides the behavior of the default gradle run.
Editing a project
I created my first project in Eclipse. The second was a copy of the first with some renames and minor behavior changes. I copied the first project on disk. Then I opened that folder and made all the edits in VS Code. That was easy; even autocomplete worked as expected. My only problem with the second project was running the gradle build and I think that’s the FIRST robotics plugin.
Other observations
  • Since I created my folder/project inside a git repo on my machine, VS Code was smart enough to detect this. It was also helpful for seeing what I forgot to add to the .gitignore fil.
  • I feel like I got dropped into someone else’s home. I was able to do everything I needed. But not in an efficient way.