Building a Rich Client Platform application

While the Eclipse platform is designed to serve as an open tools platform, it is architected so that its components could be used to build just about any client application. The minimal set of plug-ins needed to build a rich client application is collectively known as the Rich Client Platform.

Applications that don't require a common resource model can be built using a subset of the platform. These rich applications are still based on a dynamic plug-in model, and the UI is built using the same toolkits and extension points. The layout and function of the workbench is under fine-grained control of the plug-in developer in this case. Up until now, we've been adding all of our visible functionality to the platform SDK workbench. In a rich client application, we are responsible for defining the application and its workbench.

When we say that the Rich Client Platform is the minimal set of plug-ins needed to build a platform application with a UI, we mean that your application need only require two plug-ins, org.eclipse.ui and org.eclipse.core runtime. However, rich client applications are free to use any API deemed necessary for their feature set, and can require any plug-ins above the bare minimum. The Map of platform plug-ins is a useful reference when determining what plug-ins should be required when using various platform API.

The main thing that differentiates a rich client application from the platform workbench is that the application is responsible for defining which class should be run as the main application. We'll look at how this is done in the context of an example.