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NetBeans 4.0 Beta Released

Sun Microsystems released the first beta version of its new IDE , NetBeans 4.0, for developers Friday.

The download gives programmers a first-look chance to try out the new features that will be included in the official release of the IDE, scheduled for sometime in December. The IDE is available on the Windows, Linux, Solaris and Mac OS X operating systems.

According to a NetBeans users e-mail message sent Friday by Trung Duc Tran, an engineering manager at Sun, the beta version includes a bunch of productivity improvements on the Java 2, Standard Edition (J2SE) and Java 2, Micro Edition (J2ME) frameworks as well as a project system based on Apache Ant and Java refactoring.

For the first time, Sun's NetBeans supports J2SE 5.0 (or J2SE 1.5, as it was formerly called) language improvements, code-named "Tiger" by Sun officials. The framework, in its second beta review, includes a number of Java programming improvements like autoboxing of primitive types (like int, short, double, boolean), generic types and metadata.

J2ME boosters come in the form of support for two mobile Java Specification Requests (JSR) -- JSR 139, Connected, Limited Device Configuration 1.1 and JSR 118, Mobile Information Device Profile 2.0 -- as well as easier integration with third-party mobile phones and device emulators. The NetBeans J2ME improvements are available as a separate download, called the NetBeans Mobility Pack 4.0 beta 1 installer, for developers on the mobile platform.

Also included in NetBeans 4.0 is support for refactoring, the ability to make significant changes to an application's source code without affecting its functionality. Refactoring is important for developers as it lets them change the structure of the program and add new behaviors without breaking the application.

The project build functions of Apache Ant (Another Neat Tool) are included in 4.0 also. Ant automates the build process of an application, creating a "build.xml" file to describe how a Java program should be assembled. Ant's strength lies in its portability, it can be assembled on any operating system or platform that uses XML . NetBeans developers went the extra step to make sure Ant is easy to use.

"Beginning users don't have to know Ant to use the system, but the full power of Ant is accessible to advanced Ant users," the e-mail said. "These project types come with built-in support for generating, developing and running unit tests using JUnit, the de facto standard in Java code testing."

Sun developers are also working on two modules, set for release later this year, to include with NetBeans 4.0:

  • Performance Profiler integrates JFluid with NetBeans to allow developers to see how the application they created is affecting processor speeds and memory consumption. In development for the past two years, JFluid is available now as a standalone application in early access mode for NetBeans 3.6. A beta version for NetBeans 4.0 is expected in December

  • NetBeans support for J2EE. Java 2, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) is used for building enterprise-wide back-end applications and has only been supported on the J2SE framework. NetBeans support will allow developers to create Web services-based applications within NetBeans, as well as enterprise Java Beans modules and session beans. A standalone early access module is expected to be released in October.
  • Developers who want to download the NetBeans 4.0 beta 1 installer or Mobility Pack beta 1 installer should go here.