NetBeans and SPOTs

Well, it's happened. NetBeans 5.0 has finally been released. I, for one, couldn't be happier! Just to give you some perspective on from whence I come, I am one of those people that firmly believe that vi is a "development environment." vi has been my development tool of choice since 1990 when I first started writing C code. I wrote about 200,000 lines of C using vi as my development tool in a short amount of time, and though I have never really mastered vi, I still use it every day for editing config files, and even some quick-n-dirty development work -- mostly just fixing a typo in my code. Let's not start the emacs vs. vi holy wars here, ok?

But with the advent of the Sun SPOTs project, I actually tried using a GUI development environment. Lots of folks I know use Eclipse, and I admit that I tried that. But it was confusing and, well, vi was easier. Stick with what you know when you need to be productive, right? I tried using NetBeans 4.1, but it was buggy, slow, and hard to make work correctly (where is that property set? How do I change that classpath?). I used JEdit for a while, but the code completion was annoying, and the ant plugin couldn't handle our complex ant build scripts. So I went back to vi and the command line.

Then along came NetBeans 5.0 Beta, and I tried that. It crashed a lot, but it was head and shoulders above 4.1. Then came RC1, and RC2, each significantly more stable and more useable than the previous release. I started using them more and more for my development. The code-completion was effortless. The refactoring worked tremendously. The fixing of imports worked so well I stopped doing my own import statements. It quit crashing. It was fast, elegant, and just worked.

Now, from Netbeans, I can do all of my development work. I can write my code. I can build my code. I can deploy my code to a Sun SPOT (eclipse can't do that!). I can run my code on a Sun SPOT (eclipse can't do that!). Finally, a GUI development tool that actually makes me more productive rather than less productive. A GUI tool that is easier and more natural to me than vi. (And yes, you can all stop laughing at that statement that vi is in anyway 'natural.' Argue if you want that vi is a crime against nature, but it will always hold a special place in my heart.)

I even comment my code! The Auto Comment feature actually encourages me to properly add javadoc comments to my code, so I am now actually building useful code, and useful documentation of my code, at the same time. Miracles never cease.

Given my decades-old reliance on vi as a "development tool" for programming, I find this next part truly astonishing. We (the Sun SPOT team) decided that we were going to ship NetBeans with our SDK. It would be the 'default' development environment for Sun SPOTs. There has been a lot of heated argument for and against this decision, but we decided a long time ago that it was the 'right' decision, given Sun's support for NetBeans. But I have, over the past month, become not just agreeable to this plan, but a vocal and outspoken advocate of this plan! To the point that earlier this week, after a deficit of coffee and no proper breakfast, I let loose a tirade in a meeting about the current level of dissent on the topic, and the current state of NetBeans 5.0. I noticed that during the meeting at least 2 people actually downloaded NetBeans 5.0.

So there you have it. NetBeans 5.0 finally converted me from a vi-weenie to an IDE user. Somebody check the snow level in hell, would you?

[ A German, a Pole and a Czech left camp for a hike through the woods. After being reported missing a day or two later, rangers found two bears, one a male, one a female, looking suspiciously overstuffed. They killed the female, autopsied her, and sure enough, found the German and the Pole. "What do you think?" said the the first ranger. "The Czech is in the male," replied the second.]


It's true. Though I come from the Emacs side of the fence (vi has two modes: beep and insert :-). I started using NetBeans 4.1 and fell in love with refactoring -- I can make all kinds of changes over time and still have code which makes some sense. Now I've moved to 5.0 and am really happy. I'll echo the comments on documentation and add that testing is also significantly improved. Kudos to the NetBeans team!
-- richard

Posted by Richard Elling on February 08, 2006 at 05:12 AM EST #

you should try the ad-ons too. The mobility pack is amazing for Java ME development.

Posted by Lukas on February 08, 2006 at 10:15 PM EST #

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