Constructing a Classroom IDE with Eclipse for ARM

For the next semester I will do things differently in my advanced embedded systems programming course (INTRO) at the University of Lucerne: Instead of using the Freescale provided CodeWarrior, we will use a DIY tool chain for ARM with Eclipse Kepler.

Eclipse Kepler Ready for Classroom Usage

Eclipse Kepler Ready for Classroom Usage

That way we we can offer students an open and convenient tool chain for their lab work, course assignments and own projects both at work and at home. So this post is about spending about 30 minutes to build your own tool chain which then can passed to students and coworkers so they have a complete toolchain installed in a few minutes.


The process is the following: instead having every student to install and configure the IDE, I prepare an archive. That way the students do not need to go through extended installation steps, and can be up and running in minutes.

What I have to prepare upfront:

  1. Download and install Eclipse with the needed libraries and tools: Eclipse, gcc, gdb, Segger,  …
  2. Inside Eclipse, install the needed plugins: Processor Expert, eGit, Eclox, P&E, …
  3. Setup workspace environment and variables and export it so it can be re-distributed and re-used.
  4. The result is a layout/zip file with all the needed files for the students.

The students only need to:

  1. Unzip the archive with the Eclipse IDE and tools set up.
  2. Import the extra Processor Expert components (step only needed once).
  3. For a new workspace, import the XML settings.

And then they are ready to be productive 🙂

Constructing a DIY IDE for ARM Cortex-M

The steps below are for Windows 7 64bit, but similar steps apply to Linux and Mac too. To the normal Eclipse and ARM tools, I’m adding the Freescale Kinetis SDK and Freescale Processor Expert to my IDE.

My class is currently using the Freescale FRDM-KL25Z (migrating to a Kinetis K20 and a FRDM-K64F). So what I need for the course is:

Constructing the IDE for the Classroom

I’m using C:\Tools\IDE as my installation folder. Steps are explained in my DIY series (see, but repeated here so everything is in one place.

The steps to download and construct the IDE:

  1. Eclipse Kepler: Got to and download the “Eclipse IDE for C/C++ Developers” ( Extract it into C:\Tools\IDE
  2. GCC ARM Embedded: Go to and download the archive ( Extract it into C:\Tools\IDE\gcc
  3. Cross Build tools: Go to and download the Cross Build file. Extract echo, rm and make into C:\Tools\IDE\gcc\bin (rename the files so they are echo.exe, make.exe and rm.exe)
  4. Kinetis SDK: Go to and download the Freescale Kinetis SDK package ( Extract it into C:\Tools\IDE\sdk
  5. FreeRTOS for Kinetis SDK: Go to and download the FreeRTOS zip file ( Place the files (without the root folder) into C:\Tools\IDE\sdk\KSDK_1.0.0-Beta\rtos\FreeRTOS
  6. Segger: Go to and download the J-Link Software and Documentation pack. Install it into C:\Tools\segger
  7. MCUonEclipse Processor Expert Components: Go to and download the latest zip archive, and extract the Part1_*.PEupd and Part2_*.PEupd files. Place the two files into C:\Tools\IDE.
    We will install them later from Eclipse.

Next, I’m going to install the needed Eclipse plugins so they are present in the IDE. I launch Eclipse (C:\Tools\IDE\eclipse\eclipse.exe). Using the menu  Help > Install New Software I install the following plugins with the provided update site (‘Work with:’):

  1. GNU ARM Eclipse: Use as update site and install the GNU ARM Eclipse plugins.
  2. GNU ARM PEMicro: Use as update site and install the P&E plugins.
  3. Processor Expert: Go to and download the ‘Microcontrollers Driver Suite plug-in for existing Eclipse’ ( Unzip the archive.Use as local update site and install it. Same for use as local update site and install it.
  4. FreeRTOS (Wittenstein) State Viewer: Install
  5. Eclox (optional): Use as update site and install eclox (no need for the ‘hot’ part)
  6. eGit (optional): Use as update site and install it.
  7. Backeteer: (see “Bracketeer: the ultimate bracket plugin“). Use as update site and install it including CDT support.

With this, I have my DIY IDE ready, and the directory structure looks like this:

DIY Eclipse IDE for ARM Directory Overview

DIY Eclipse IDE for ARM Directory Overview

Eclipse Workspace Environment

While I have a functional IDE, there are a few things which need to be setup for every new workspace. In Eclipse I can use the Export function to export the settings as XML, see “Copy my workspace settings“.

  1. ${jlink_path}is the path totheSeggerGDB server, defined as ‘StringSubstitution’ (menu Window > Preferences > Run/Debug > String Substitution) to ${eclipse_home}\..\segger
    Segger jlink_path string variable

    Segger jlink_path string variable

    This is used in the debugger settings for Segger J-Link:

    Segger jlink_path

    Segger jlink_path

  2. ${gcc_path} which points to the GCC ARM Embedded binaries (menu Window > Preferences > C/C++ > Build > Build Variables: ${eclipse_home}\..\gcc\bin
    gcc_path Build Variable

    gcc_path Build Variable

    This is used in the build panel for the tool chain:

    gcc_path in project settings

    gcc_path in project settings

  3. KSDK_LOC Linked resource variable pointing totheKinetis SDK root folder (menu Window > Preferences > General > Workspace > Linked resources) pointing to C:\Tools\IDE\sdk\KSDK_1.0.0-Beta:
    Linked Ressource Setting

    Linked Ressource Setting

    This is used to create linked files to the Kinetis SDK while adding files to the project:

    File Operation to use Link to Files

    File Operation to use Link to Files

  4. ksdk_path which points totheKinetis SDK (${eclipse_home}\..\sdk\KSDK_1.0.0-Beta) with menu Window > Preferences:
    ksdk_path build variable

    ksdk_path build variable

    This is used in the build tool settings e.g. for the header file include path:ksdk_path in compiler settings

This and other options just need to be defined once: I can expert them as XML file and then students can import that into a new workspace.


The above Eclipse workspace settings get exported with the menu File > Export > General > Preferences:

Exporting Eclipse Preferences

Exporting Eclipse Preferences

And then store it as an XML (.epf) file inside the IDE root folder:

Exporting Preferences

Exporting Preferences

With all the needed files in C:\Tools\IDE, I can put everything in a single zip file which I give to the students:

Eclipse IDE with configuration files

Eclipse IDE with configuration files

The need to:

  1. Unpack the archive to C:\Tools
  2. Launch Eclipse, then import the two *.PEupd files in C:\Tools\IDE with the menu Processor Expert > Import Component(s)
  3. For their new workspace, import the settings (File > Import > Preferences) from C:\Tools\IDE\wsp_preferences.epf


It is a little work to have my classroom IDE put together, but compared to silicon vendor provided Eclipse versions, I get *exactly* what I need, even with more features and flexibility. Moreover, I’m not limited to the ARM microcontroller of a single vendor: I have a cross-platform and cross-vendor IDE all together. And with providing the zip file with a few extra files for the students is much easier and faster than to go with the silicon vendor IDEs anyway.

Putting together the above DIY Eclipse took about one hour for me (one time, including downloading and installing all files). With this, I have an IDE with many cool plugins pre-installed for development of ARM microcontroller projects. And students are able debug their first project just in a few minutes 🙂

Happy Constructing 🙂

50 thoughts on “Constructing a Classroom IDE with Eclipse for ARM

  1. Erich, This is excellent. I some how got roped back into teaching next year part time and had some issues with CW in the classroom. I may have to look at this more and see if it is a good direction.
    Great work.



  2. Erich, the toolchain global path is not stored in the project, so you can directly enter an absolute path there, it does not affect project portability.



    • Hi Liviu,
      I do not want (need) the toolchain path in the project, I want it setup for the workspace. I see that my approach does not work cleanly yet (if I start a new workspace, I need to browse/specify the toolchain path in your plugin the first time. How can I avoid that? I want to have the IDE installed, and the students should have everything set up. I thought I saw in the preferences a panel showing the variables you are using, but cannot find it rigth now?


    • Hi Cai,
      yes, but I need to think what would be the best way for this.
      On the other end: if you follow the steps, it takes you less about 30 minutes (depends if you use all features/etc).



    • It already supports the STM32 family 🙂 Yes, Processor Expert and the Kinetis SDK do not apply for the STM32, but everything else does, so yo can use this (e.g. with the Segger J-Link) with the STM32.


  3. Hillbilly Injunear - I'm not really an engineer. I just play one in my mind. on said:

    Brilliant! Great tutorial. Thanks Erich.

    If other MCU vendors had someone like you to thoughtfully explain how to set up Eclipse for their silicon on Windows, Mac, and Linux, there would be tens of thousands of hours saved for their users and the vendors would sell a great deal more of their silicon, AND there would be a whole lot more MCU based inventions created by people who are not engineers but have a great idea and are willing to work hard to make it happen.

    This is why Arduino and Raspberry Pi are so popular, they may not be the best MCUs, BUT they are usable.

    It should not take weeks to figure out how to configure Eclipse to work with a new vendor’s products, but in the last few months I have had to do that with both STM and NXP. They both have “free” IDEs but they are so limited as to be unusable.

    It’s too bad Freescale doesn’t pay you for making their silicon so available to the average technical non-engineer such as myself.


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  6. Thanks for setting up such a great resource, Erich! I just walked through this setup and quickly had a new Eclipse environment up and running for my Kinetis project. Nicely done!

    My hardware is a FRDM-KL46Z and I’m using the OpenSDA firmware and GDB server from PEMicro.

    I’m having a little trouble with the FreeRTOS StateViewer plugin that I’m hoping you can help with. I have opened the three DSF tables views: Task, Queue, and Timer. The Queue and Timer tables seem to work as expected but the Task table is always blank. I’ve noticed that when I pause the debugger and click on the Timer and Queue tabs I can see the memory reads in the GDB server log window. However, clicking the Task tab never generates any memory reads. I did try using the non-DSF debugging and views but they behaved similarly. Have you experienced this behavior or do you have any ideas how I might be able to fix it?



  7. Hello Erich, I’m starting to use mBed platforms after a couple of years with Arduinos. I use a Macbook Pro for my work and wonder if I can install this suite of tools using Wine so that I can use PE which appears to be windows only?


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  10. I just picked up a teensy 3.1 with a Freescale Cortex M4 processor and am looking to port my code from my FRDM kl25z over to it. I’m hoping that an approach like this will get me there as codewarrior doesn’t seem to support this chip/board.

    Most people run a specialized arduino code on it, but I would much rather run straight C++ with my processor expert beans and code from my FRDM board. One issue I forsee is the use of the Half Kay bootloader where the frdm board uses the open sda.

    I’ll do some more research. Thanks a lot for another terrific how to.
    You’re the reason I stick with Freescale chips!



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  14. I Erich, thank you for yours excellents posts.

    I have a problem when I try to install PExDriversuite :

    “An error occurred while installing the items
    session context was:(profile=epp.package.cpp, phase=org.eclipse.equinox.internal.p2.engine.phases.Install, operand=null –> [R]com.freescale.processorexpert.standalone_root 10.4.0, action=com.freescale.updater.customactions.actions.FreescaleInstall).

    I have installed Eclipse luna (an error?)

    Have you have any ideas how I might be able to fix it?


    Jean-Louis Vern


      • Hello, and thank you for your reply.

        When I download the “Kinetis SDK”, it ceases to be rated “beta” and is no longer as “zip” but in executable form.

        Several things are not very clear to me:
        – Should I choose the “minimal” installation or “custom” (selecting all?) (And after crushing “FreeRTOS”?)
        – If you install to “C: \ Tools \ IDE \ sdk” it is not created additional directory KDSK_1.0.0 (-beta). New directories are simply in ..sdk\. I’m not sure that this will not have an impact…



        • Yes, the new v1.0.0-ga SDK comes with an installer. I have not adopted it yet into the DYI toolchain on my side (but I will when I get the time). You can install it into the default installation (which is in C:\Freescale\KSDK_1.0.0) and then copy the files into your DIY toolchain location. Because of the folder name changes and others, SDK beta projects are not compatible with the GA SDK.


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  16. Hi Erich,

    Thank you for the excellent tutorial!

    I was able to install all pieces of software following your steps. Then I tried setting up Eclipse Workspace Environment and couldn’t find Toolchains on build panel as shown on #2. gcc_path in project settings (C/C++ Build -> Settings panel). In other words, Toolchains is missing in my set up. Could you let me know what could be wrong on my set up?



  17. This is great! I have used about 90% of your instructions (and very little variance) to setup the same environment under Mac OS X. Thank you for the help!


  18. Hi Erich,

    Regarding the Kinetis SDK, which one do i download?

    “Freescale Kinetis SDK_1.0.0 – Windows installer” (This is a .exe – i guess i can use winrar to extract)
    “KSDK 1.0.0-GA Eclipse Update 1.0.1” – This is a zip file but appears to be an update

    Also does PE support Luna yet? do you know when this will happen? (i am guessing it will happen when KDS gets updated)



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  20. In step 3 : (rename the files so they are echo.exe, make.exe and rm.exe) There are many files, I don’t now which file I should to rename.


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  22. It’s a nice and kind guide to set up DIY IDE.
    I am trying to do the same for my MCU. Thanks for your complete tutorial.
    By the way, if I take different MCU, which parts of the steps above should be replaced ?

    Liked by 1 person

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