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Setting up Eclipse for QMK Development

Eclipse is an open-source Integrated Development Environment (IDE) widely used for Java development, but with an extensible plugin system that allows to customize it for other languages and usages.

Using an IDE such as Eclipse provides many advantages over a plain text editor, such as:

  • intelligent code completion
  • convenient navigation in the code
  • refactoring tools
  • build automation (no need for the command-line)
  • a GUI for GIT
  • static code analysis
  • many other tools such as debugging, code formatting, showing call hierarchies etc.

The purpose of this page is to document how to set-up Eclipse for developing AVR software, and working on the QMK code base.

Note that this set-up has been tested on Ubuntu 16.04 only for the moment.


Build Environment

Before starting, you must have followed the Getting Started section of the Tutorial. In particular, you must have been able to build the firmware with the qmk compile command.


Eclipse is a Java application, so you will need to install Java 8 or more recent to be able to run it. You may choose between the JRE or the JDK, the latter being useful if you intend to do Java development.

Install Eclipse and Its Plugins

Eclipse comes in several flavours depending on the target usage that you will have. There is no package comprising the AVR stack, so we will need to start from Eclipse CDT (C/C++ Development Tooling) and install the necessary plugins.

Download and Install Eclipse CDT

If you already have Eclipse CDT on your system, you can skip this step. However it is advised to keep it up-to-date for better support.

If you have another Eclipse package installed, it is normally possible to install the CDT plugin over it. However it is probably better to reinstall it from scratch to keep it light and avoid the clutter of tools that you don't need for the projects you will be working on.

Installation is very simple: follow the 5 Steps to Install Eclipse, and choose Eclipse IDE for C/C++ Developers at Step 3.

Alternatively, you can also directly download Eclipse IDE for C/C++ Developers (direct link to current version) and extract the package to the location of your choice (this creates an eclipse folder).

First Launch

When installation is complete, click the Launch button. (If you extracted the package manually, open the Eclipse installation folder and double-click the eclipse executable)

When you are prompted with the Workspace Selector, select a directory that will hold Eclipse metadata and usually your projects. Do not select the qmk_firmware directory, this will be the project directory. Select the parent folder instead, or another (preferably empty) folder of your choice (the default is fine if you do not use it yet).

Once started, click the Workbench button at the top right to switch to the workbench view (there is a also checkbox at the bottom to skip the welcome screen at startup).

Install the Necessary Plugins

Note: you do not need to restart Eclipse after installing each plugin. Simply restart once all plugins are installed.

The AVR Plugin

This is the most important plugin as it will allow Eclipse to understand AVR C code. Follow the instructions for using the update site, and agree with the security warning for unsigned content.

ANSI Escape in Console

This plugin is necessary to properly display the colored build output generated by the QMK makefile.

  1. Open Help > Eclipse Marketplace…
  2. Search for ANSI Escape in Console
  3. Click the Install button of the plugin
  4. Follow the instructions and agree again with the security warning for unsigned content.

Once both plugins are installed, restart Eclipse as prompted.

Configure Eclipse for QMK

Importing the Project

  1. Click File > New > Makefile Project with Existing Code
  2. On the next screen:
  • Select the directory where you cloned the repository as Existing Code Location;
  • (Optional) Give a different name to the project¹, e.g. QMK or Quantum;
  • Select the AVR-GCC Toolchain;
  • Keep the rest as-is and click Finish

Importing QMK in Eclipse

  1. The project will now be loaded and indexed. Its files can be browsed easily through the Project Explorer on the left.

¹ There might be issues for importing the project with a custom name. If it does not work properly, try leaving the default project name (i.e. the name of the directory, probably qmk_firmware).

Build Your Keyboard

We will now change the default make target of the project from all to the specific keyboard and keymap combination we are working on, e.g. kinesis/kint36:stapelberg. This way, project-wide actions like cleaning and building the project will complete quickly, instead of taking a long time or outright locking up Eclipse.

  1. Focus an editor tab within the project
  2. Open the Project > Properties window, then select the C/C++ Build list entry and switch to the Behavior tab.
  3. Change the default Make build target text fields for all enabled builds from all to e.g. kinesis/kint41:stapelberg.
  4. Verify your setup works by selecting Project > Clean....