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NetBeans 6 Takes Flight

Sun Microsystems is hoping to win over converts to its new NetBeans 6.0 IDE , which came out today.

Since its inception, NetBeans has been all about the Java language. But this time, it's a different release. NetBeans 6.0 is extending Sun's IDE to other languages,including C/C++ , JavaScript and Ruby .

There's more, too. Gregg Sporar, NetBeans Technology Evangelist, said NetBeans 6.0 will support the latest Ruby on Rails 2.0 release.

Sun's support for Ruby is an expansion of its support via the JRuby effort, which is porting Ruby to Java.

"With JRuby there is a really great runtime available for Ruby and Ruby on Rails developers to use for deployment," Sporar told InternetNews.com. "It allows them to get all the optimizations of the JVM for free. So we have a natural bridge in JRuby between the Ruby and Java worlds -- we want to provide tools on that bridge as well."

NetBeans 6.0 also includes improvements in the Swing GUI Builder, formerly known as Project Matisse. The GUI builder, which debuted in the NetBeans 5 release, is a drag and drop IDE interface that simplifies layout with automatic layout suggestions for spacing and alignment. For NetBeans 6, developers should notice the support Sun added for the new Swing Framework and for Beans Binding, Sporar said. "Those frameworks, along with the enhancements to the NetBeans Swing GUI Builder, dramatically cut the time needed to get a basic Swing application up and running."

Code completion has been improved in NetBeans 6 with what Sun refers to as "smarter code completion."

"The main one being that the editor is smarter about the context when it displays the suggested code completions," Sporar noted. As an example, if a developer has this code:

List al = new

If you press Ctrl-Space at this point, it will offer you only the classes in the system, which implements the given interface. And more importantly, it will automatically supply the generic variables.

With the NetBeans 6 release, Sun is also hoping to sway users of other IDE's including its arch-nemesis Eclipse. Sun has gone so far as to setup a testimonial site (http://www.netbeans.org/switch/realstories.html) where developers write their own reasons why they've switched.

Sporar said he is confident that NetBeans 6 is a superior solution to the Eclipse IDE. Eclipse officials, on the other hand, regularly mention that they believe Eclipse to be a superior IDE and that the battle really is only between Eclipse and Microsoft for mindshare.

Plans are already underway for the next iteration of NetBeans which will be called NetBeans 6.1. The plan is to expand support for even more languages. "We want to extend our support for other languages yet again, so PHP support will be a key deliverable for the 6.1 release," Sporar said.