RealTime IT News

Look out Eclipse, NetBeans 5 is Here

In scientific terms, an eclipse is defined as an event that blocks the sun. For a number of years, the Eclipse IDE has in some respects "eclipsed" Sun Microsystems' IDE, as well; that may no longer be the case.

The Sun-supported NetBeans 5.0 is now publicly available, boasting a long list of new features and improvements aimed at firmly placing it at the top of the IDE pile. The new IDE includes new GUI tools, mobility and Web services refactoring. It also comes with a new support offering from Sun.

Among the most notable improvements in NetBeans 5.0 is the NetBeans GUI Builder, also known as known as Project Matisse. Matisse is a drag-and-drop IDE GUI that is supposed to simplify layout by automatically suggesting spacing, alignment and other layout concerns. Struts and Java Server Faces support is also improved as is support for CVS version control.

As an added bonus, Sun is offering free support to NetBeans 5.0 users via the Sun Developer Network program, which is currently in beta. The freely available open source IDE is also being bundled with the NetBeans Mobility Pack 5, which is targeted specifically at mobile Java ME developers.

Though Sun is a major contributor to NetBeans, NetBeans is an open project and has benefited from community involvement. Dan Roberts director of developer tools marketing at Sun noted that NetBeans is a major initiative for Sun and as such it has a significant number of resources both from the local team and the broader Sun organization.

"The number of contributors for NetBeans with check in rights from the outside significantly outweighs the number of Sun contributors," Roberts told internetnews.com. "That said we also pay contributors to work full time on NetBeans. So from an amount of code standpoint the majority of code does come from Sun.

"But we also have an active large community of users that do a lot of interesting things with both the IDE and the platform."

Not surprisingly, Roberts sees NetBeans IDE 5.0 as being superior to Eclipse's IDE. Sun and NetBeans have been competitors to Eclipse since at least 2003 when Sun declined to join the Eclipse consortium.

"If you're looking at Eclipse the IDE compared to NetBeans I really don't think it's much of a contest anymore," Roberts said. "NetBeans is a complete tool for mobile development through rich-client standard Java apps even up to enterprise Java applications."

In comparison to other commercial proprietary IDEs, Roberts did note that NetBeans may be missing some things, such as fully baked in UML .

Sun is also doing its part to help users of other IDE's to migrate and switch to NetBeans 5.0. NetBeans.org has a whole site section called, "Switch," which targets IDE migrants with tools, tutorials, documentation and other support materials.

"At this point we're starting to see a significant renaissance of developers coming to NetBeans and finding out that it's not the same NetBeans that they may have evaluated three, four years ago," Roberts said.