Tuesday Feb 25, 2014

Big Day for the NetBeans Platform

Obviously today is a very big day for the NetBeans Platform and all its users around the world. Two new books have been published on Leanpub especially for users of the NetBeans APIs. (To understand what Leanpub is all about, watch this YouTube introduction.)

In the first book, which is a completed book on Leanpub, entitled "NetBeans Platform for Beginners" (361 pages!), the authors take you on a walk through all the key NetBeans APIs, together with many example exercises and a free set of samples available on GitHub, with an open discussion forum included. You'll be creating well architected and pluggable Java desktop applications before you're even fully aware of what you're doing.

What strikes me about this book is that it gives a very good weighting of the value of particular features of the NetBeans Platform. I.e., instead of spending pages and pages explaining things you don't actually need to know, it splits topics into sections entitled "Basic" and "Advanced". In that way you know the importance or the priority of the topics you're learning about. That's something I've missed in other books on the NetBeans Platform. For example, only very rarely do you need to use the CallbackSystemAction, hence that topic is stuck away in an advanced section, instead of confronting you with it right at the start of the Actions chapter.

By the end of the book, you'll have a really thorough understanding of what the NetBeans Platform wants to do for you and how your application maps to its idioms. 

The second book is, if anything, even more interesting. Its value proposition lies in your involvement with its writing. It is not a complete book. It is called "Exercises in Porting to the NetBeans Platform" and is far more in line with the intentions of Leanpub than the book above. The idea of Leanpub is that you should be publishing a book early and often, (and not only after page 361 like the book above). Like continuously. As soon as something is ready, it should be published, where "ready" means the first or second chapter is enough info for the reader to want to get started with it, like a serial novel.

In this particular case, it is the hope of the authors that readers get involved. Contribute small example applications that encompass a problem you're facing in porting to the NetBeans Platform. Then the authors will dedicate the next chapter of their book to your problem scenario.

The first chapter is also available for free to give you an idea of the aims of the book. It shows a small JSplitPane application, together with an outline of how to move it to NetBeans Platform idioms, together with free source code available on GitHub. The value of this book is that it shows you how to think in terms of NetBeans Platform idioms, i.e., it applies all the principles of the first book to porting scenarios that can easily be followed and learned from. On the feedback page of the second book, tell the authors what scenario the next chapter of the book should focus on.

All in all great news for the NetBeans Platform. Really comprehensive texts for getting started, also available bundled together at a reduced price as a "NetBeans Platform Starter Kit". 

Anyone out there read it and have opinions to share? Some pretty positive reviews are already available on the page, by Benno Markiewicz, Donald A. Evett, Michael W. Bishop, and Sean Phillips.


Geertjan Wielenga (@geertjanw) is a Principal Product Manager in the Oracle Developer Tools group living & working in Amsterdam. He is a Java technology enthusiast, evangelist, trainer, speaker, and writer. He blogs here daily.

The focus of this blog is mostly on NetBeans (a development tool primarily for Java programmers), with an occasional reference to NetBeans, and sometimes diverging to topics relating to NetBeans. And then there are days when NetBeans is mentioned, just for a change.


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