NESCDT- An editor for nesC in Eclipse

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This is a short description of how to use and develop the nescdt plugin. It is an editor for working with nesC code within Eclipse (as an alternative to other editors). Fundamentally, you just create a new nescdt project in Eclipse and link those folders from your TinyOS installation and your application trees that are needed. The plugin then scans the linked source code and uses this for auto-completion purposes (ie. when a user press CTRL + SPACE after having partially typed a an identifier). Built-in keywords (which you can change (see Development section)) are used for syntax highlighting. The plugin does not touch, nor does it compete with your build system: you still build your applications with make in whatever way you do it today.


Using the nescdt TinyOS plugin for Eclipse

A basic nesC editor plugin for TinyOS-2.x using Eclipse with syntax highlighting and .nc file content detection for the follow types (the same symbols are used as in nesdoc):

  • Inter.gif interface,
  • Mod.gif module,
  • Genmod.gif generic module,
  • Conf.gif configuration, and
  • Genconf.gif generic configuration


The source is included in the plugin jar file, and it is possible to refine it (see the Development section). To install the plugin:

  • Version 0.0.22:
  • Then save it in the Eclipse plugin directory (where the other (jar) plugins also reside), and delete the previous version of this plugin if you have it. It would usually be /opt/eclipse/plugins on a Linux machine (like the Xubuntos distro) or c:\eclipse\plugins on a Windows machine
  • Restart Eclipse (perhaps verify for yourself that it is installed: Help->About Eclipse SDK->Plug-in Details)


Using the Plugin

  • Create a new empty nescdt project



and name it what you want to (for example nescdtsampleproject). The default location is not important as we will use linked folders for the project. The project location just stores the eclipse specific project files. The project is marked (internally) as an nesC project (it later serves to determine which projects in the Eclipse workspace are scanned (for auto-completion purposes) by the nesC scanner); externally it's project folder is decorated with a nC icon. Your new empty nescdt project looks something like this:


  • Create a new folder in the project (right-click on the project) and name it what you want to
  • Import and link to the part of the TinyOS tree or your own code(right-click on the nescsampleproject folder and press import)


  • Choose the Link to folder in the file system option and proceed (this will not change your TinyOS code at all and it will not copy any files on your computer)
  • Repeat the steps above until you have linked all the folders you need for application development
  • When you are done the Eclipse IDE could look something like this (note that the content of the files have been analyzed and that the icons reveal that we have some configurations, generic configurations, modules, and generic modules in the mica2 folder):


  • When you open some .nc file it will be syntax colored (according some some predefined rules in the plugin):


  • There is auto-completion for keywords, types, and all other words found when then plugin scanned the .nc files in the linked folders. Press CTRL + SPACE to get the suggestions.
  • When an interface name is types and the . character is typed, then a list of interface functions is suggested.


Then select a word and press ENTER to insert the word.


Side notes

  • The nescdt plugin is < 100 kB
  • (Experimental) If it detects safe code (looking for @safe, *COUNT, *SIZE, or *SAFE) a rhombus shape is added to the icon. A safe module could look like this Nxtmote-safedemo.png in the file navigator (note that a little rhombus has been added to the module icon).
  • If the CVS decorators annoy you (if, for example, another CVS client than Eclipse's is being used), then turn them off from Window->Preferences->General->Appearance->Label Decorations.
  • I suggest the standard [Eclipse Public License] for the source code as it makes it easy to re-use patterns from many other plugins
  • You can also consider downloading the CDT plugin for editing header files and perhaps C files in Eclipse. Enter the as a new Remote site in the Eclipse update manager and choose the CDT main plugin:


Developing/Debugging on the NESCDT Plugin

The last section was about using the plugin. To develop, customize, or debug the nescdt plugin, you can follow the guide below. In a best-case scenario it would be working in 15-30 min.

Extending and Customizing the Plugin

The immediate places for personal enhancement/customization of the nescdt plugin are:

  • Change the keywords coloring (go to
  • Add or remove items in the keywords list (go to A keyword is for example module which is colored purple in the editor
  • Control which words (in addition to the keywords) are included in the auto-completion scanner (go to the method parseLine in
  • Change the icons used for .nc files and type visualization (go to the icons folder)

Importing the Plugin into Eclipse for Development

Here we start with a blank Eclipse workspace. You can get a new workspace named workspace-plugintest (if you want to) by creating a shortcut and starting Eclipse with a command line similar to this:

C:\eclipse\eclipse.exe -consolelog -data C:\Dokumenter\eclipse\workspace-plugintest

The consolelog makes it possible to see System.out.println from the plugin itself (it is cheating, but useful during development).


Assuming that you have downloaded and installed the plugin (see start of this wiki page) it is now the time to import it into Eclipse for development. Press Import:


Select Plug-ins and Fragments:


Important: Choose Projects with source folders:


Select the nescdt plugin in the version you happen to have:



To show how easy it is to change it, look at the following example. It is code that splits the contents of a .nc file line into string tokens:


Try to place a breakpoint by double-clicking on the bar to the left of the code that you want to inspect (see red arrow below). Then click on the menu to debug an Eclipse Application. It is a second Eclipse instance that will be launched running the imported version of the plugin (not the plugin you downloaded into the ECLIPSEHOME/plugin folder. Eclipse automatically deactivates the permanent plugin in the launched debugging instance of Eclipe):


It will then look like this when you have the two instances of Eclipse running. As a side-note you can see the completion processor has started to scan the .nc source code (red arrow):


To create a new version of the plugin please double click on the plugin.xml file in the project. Then select the Export Wizard. (Consider changing the provider entry to indicate that you maintain this fork of the plugin):


Check the src folder for export when doing a binary build (so you export the source code with the plugin and makes it possible for others to do what you are doing now):



Then export the plugin to the ECLIPSEHOME/plugin directory (it will run next time Eclipse is restarted). It is best to delete the old plugin file (such as nescdt_0.0.12.jar) and increment the version number of the new plugin:


Finally verify that the plugin jar file is in the plugin directory as expected:



If you have some light-weight suggestions: rup.inf(at)