New Features In NetBeans 6.0

You can always tell that you're at a technical conference when you first enter a dimmed room that's playing that modestly energetic "we'll-be-starting-soon" music. You quietly take your seat, and then--after your eyes adjust to the dark--you glance around to see if you know anyone in the room. That's pretty much how I feel right now (except that my laptop is so bright that my eyes are not adjusting). In my earlier blog, I noted that these conferences are much more intimate than, say, JavaOne in San Francisco. Well, that's certainly the case right now. I would say there's about 200 people in the room so far, and I don't know anyone.

If you haven't been to one of our free Tech Days recently, they're usually divided into two or three days, based on discrete topics. Here in Atlanta, the first day gives you a choice of attending tracked sessions on either NetBeans or Solaris. Since I post articles for, I chose NetBeans. However, I should also confess that I just finished an article on Solaris, I'm an avid NetBeans user, and I'm curious to get a hands-on demonstration of what's new in NetBeans 6.0. So, it was an easy choice.

And NetBeans evangelist Gregg Sporar is now here to deliver. So, after a short barrage of hurled T-shirts and other trinkets from Gregg and Sun VP Jeet Kaul--who nearly hits my video camera with a T-shirt after disclaiming any liability--Gregg dives right in. The first topic that he shows is improvements in the NetBeans editor, which he claims has been a sore spot for programmers so far. Here's a quick summary of the improvements, courtesy of the my hand-scribbled notes and, where that didn't suffice, the official NetBeans documentation.

  • Smarter code completion. NetBeans provides completions for keywords, fields, and variables. It also lists the most logical options at the top (for example, if it knows the method you're currently typing return an int, those methods that return an int will be shown first above what Gregg called "the seven-foot line").

  • Highlights. Here, the IDE tracks the position of the caret and, based on it, highlights parts of the code. So, for example, if you hold down the Alt key, you can highlight a field name in a class and then type a new name for the field over it. The changes will automatically propagate to each of the uses of that field throughout the class. Cool! An inline refactoring tool!

  • Compiler Errors in Task List. This was a neat addition that Gregg showed. All of the compiler errors were shown in a table format, instead of outputting raw javac output. This gives you can easier method to hunt down your errors.

  • Runtime Configurations. You can assign a class a certain runtime configuration which, among other things, lets you specify what parameters can be passed into a static main() method.

  • Dedicated Game Designer for Java ME. It just looked fantastic. Need I say more?

Sone afterwards, Gregg also covered items such as:

  • Unified installation experience. No more downloading and installing separate packs (profiler pack, ME pack, etc.). Now you can choose the download that best suits you and install the features and runtimes you need in one installer. You can add functionality later by re-running the installer.

  • Swing Database Applications. NetBeans now has more advanced use of Beans Binding technology (JSR 295) and the Java Persistence API. Using the new Java Desktop Application project template, you can quickly set up a form that displays a database table and enables you to modify the database. Bind a database table to an existing form by dragging a table from the Runtime window onto a form.

We took a quick break at this point, at which point Gregg will come back and discuss Beans Binding and Swing Application Support (JSR 296) support. More later....


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