Programming AVRs is fun, but sometimes the manufacturers development environments make code maintenance a chore. If your looking for a free, cross platform, high quality piece of software for programming AVRs Eclipse is a good choice.
Moving to an Integrated Development Environment (IDE), such as Eclipse is a logical step up from learning to program basic functions. By using an IDE you will be able to work easier and work with a range of tools inside the same program. you will be able to easily package and reuse your code and you will have access to advanced functions like refactoring and code analysis. For details on these benefits please have a quick skim over Step 12: Quick Tour of Cool Features.
In this instructable I will show you how to install and configure Eclipse to program AVR micro controllers (aka. Micro Controller Units or MCUs). I will also provide a quick run through uploading to your MCU and I will briefly cover some of the cool feature Eclipse has to offer.
Step 1: Why?
Eclipse is cool. Like, really cool. Compared to something like the Arduino programming software, the Eclipse IDE is the proverbial Swiss army knife.
For example, the Arduino development environment only lets you work in one file at a time. Also if you want to rename a variable you have to do a find/replace. If you want to take some code and wrap it in a method, you have to do it by hand. Eclipse can help with these otherwise tedious tasks and more. More generally speaking, moving to a fully featured IDE like eclipse is a step up from less full featured environments.
Note: Yes, Eclipse can be used to program the Arduino - however the set up for this is slightly more complex and the specifics of using Arduino in Eclipse will not be covered here.