Java IDEs have come a long way and most people who know anything about Java IDEs and more specifically open source IDEs would know the competition that is going on between Eclipse and Netbeans projects. I have worked with both; Eclipse first and then Netbeans. At the moment my preferred IDE is Netbeans though I am not entirely dismissing Eclipse; there are some pretty cool features in Eclipse (and other IDEs based on the Eclipse framework) that I have not seen in Netbeans. For example, an Eclipse based IDE like MyEclipse features an interesting feature that allows graphical creation of JSF navigation files. At the moment, these XML files are hand coded in Netbeans which frankly is a just a chore; there is a much better way of wasting time :).
I hope the preceding paragraph has convinced you that I like both Eclipse and Netbeans and at the moment much of my time is invested in the latter. I have been following up on Netbeans development and future releases so as to get an impression of the features that are going to show up. That’s the reason why I don’t mind downloading a milestone build and actually installing it. The following are my impressions about Netbeans 6.0 M7:
- Speed improvements: compared to the current stable release, Netbeans 6.0 loads faster though this is not a scientific comparison. Also, keep in mind that not all the features that are available in the current stable release are available in the milestone build.
- Streamlines UI: The UI looks more streamlines and less cluttered; there are some changes to color coding which I like. There are new icons used for Save, New File/Project, Open project etc. These icons look like icons you are likely to find a Linux desktop environment like GNOME or KDE (more GNOME than KDE IMHO).
- Better Code Legibility: In the current stable release key words are purple in color while everything else is black. Netbeans 6.0 M7 introduces green as the color of class variables. Method parameters are light brown in color. Comments also include some variety in color coding, compared to the current stable release.
NB: While it may be possible to change color coding in the current stable release, it is refreshing to have a more appealing default color coding – makes code much more readable without the additional hassle of custom configuration.
- IDE Support: there is possibly a better way of putting the title of this but there are improvements and expansion of the support that the IDE provides to coding. Netbeans 6.0 M7 improves on current stable release of the IDE by providing more options to warn and generate Javadocs comments. I particularly like this because it will improve the quality of code produced.
Generation of code has become a common feature for both Eclipse and Netbeans especially when coding JavaBean classes with a number of variables that each may need a getter/setter method. Code completion is another great feature of these two IDEs as well as the assistance in figuring out which classes to import and which are not used in the code. Support for importing namespaces and classes along with the related warnings about unused variables is better on Eclipse when compared to Netbeans.
In closing, there is a great deal of good work going into the development of Netbeans 6.0. As it is still in development, there are errors which will largely be fixed as this release winds its way through milestone builds, beta, release candidates and finally stable release. Let’s see what happens! 🙂