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.



first impressions of VS Code (visual studio code)

FIRST Robotics is using VS (Visual Studio) Code as the default IDE next year so I’ve developed a sudden interest in learning it :).

My overall impressions

It is much faster to get started with VS (Visual Studio) Code than Eclipse. And for the simplified use cases for FIRST robotics this makes sense.

Initial install

I installed it about two months ago. That was easy. I went to the website and downloaded. I didn’t have time to do anything then so my only experience was when I double clicked a .java file when preparing for my QCon Java 11 presentation. It’s a nice editor so cool that it opened out of the box. Not so cool that it changed my defaults for opening files without telling me.

Also nice that VS Code prompts with a suggestion to install the Java extension pack when I opened the Java file.


Since I didn’t do anything, the first order of business was to upgrade to the latest version. VS Code makes this easy. One  a Mac, you go to code > check for updates. It downloads quietly in the background. Then you go back to Code and choose restart to download.

Like Eclipse, the release notes automatically open. However, since I’m completely new to the tool, everything is new to me so I didn’t read it.


The FIRST website suggests some plugins. To start with, I installed:

  • Java extension pack – includes the plugin for Maven
  • C++
  • WPILib – this is a custom download (vs being part of marketplace at this time).

I like that it uses a Marketplace like Eclipse. I also like that you just click “reload” to have the downloaded plugins take effect (rather than having to restart the whole IDE). I also like that the extensions menu has an install from VSIX option. Really easy to install a plugin that you downloaded from the internet.

I’ll install more plugins after getting the lay of the land.


The VS Code getting started is good. I like that it includes the keyboard shortcuts for opening the command palette.

  • shift+command+P = mac
  • shift+ctrl+P = windows

It was harder to find the windows keyboard shortcuts than expected. The website help “knows” I’m on a Mac so tells me about the Mac ones. But I’m going to be helping students on multiple operating systems. (It was clear in the FIRST robotics docs, but I would have liked this to be clear on the Microsoft website as well)

Creating a first project

I used the WPI wizard to create a new project. It was easy to use and fast. The file structure is standard for a Gradle project so it felt familiar. I opened the file and tried to make a change. Then VS Code started “downloading the internet.” This is also normal for Gradle. I was just expecting it to happen on file creation or first build rather than when I pressed ctrl+space for autocomplete.

I like that you can use the command palette to run commands without having to use the mouse or memorize a lot of keyboard shortcuts.

Playing a little

Many of the keyboard shortcuts are standard so autocomplete and closing tabs works as expected. If a file has warnings it (and the package name) are in green. Similarly, errors are in red. I imagine this is customizable if someone is red/green colorblind. I’m surprised the defaults are ones where this is a problem.

How to open multiple projects

I immediately wanted to compare two projects in the same workspace. This is easy. You go to file > add folder to workspace. This creates a “multi root” project.