"But... Don't All NetBeans Platform Applications End Up Looking Like NetBeans IDE?"

I had an interesting discussion recently which started when someone's central reservation to using the NetBeans Platform turned on their assumption that the end product would "look a lot like NetBeans IDE".

That is not a very surprising assumption. It is logical to assume that you should consider building your Swing application on the NetBeans Platform if you're thinking about creating "some kind of editor". But it shows a misunderstanding of what the NetBeans Platform is. The NetBeans Platform is not bits and pieces removed from NetBeans IDE. Quite the opposite, in fact: NetBeans IDE is bits and pieces placed on top of the NetBeans Platform! I.e., the relationship is the other way round: the NetBeans Platform is the dominant partner, while the NetBeans IDE is just one way (of many) in which the NetBeans Platform can be used.

However, of course, when it comes to talking about how something "looks", one shouldn't be using words. One should be using pictures. So here are three applications on top of the NetBeans Platform:

None of them look like any kind of IDE. Say about them whatever you like, but you can't say: "Wow, those look a lot like NetBeans IDE". The only thing the above have in common with NetBeans IDE is their infrastructure, not "the way they look". Many more screenshots (and more are being added all the time) can be found here.


Really interesting article. I assume this holds true for Eclipse platform too. Before coming into Java, I was into VC++ programming converting many console based/command line applications into Windows GUI. Later when I came to Java, I found GUI a bit of intimidating. Swings/event handling/inner classes.... As someone said "reading user input" is covered only in last chapter of Java books. Curious to know and use Netbeans platform.

Posted by Litty Joseph on October 18, 2008 at 03:15 AM PDT #

Nice article :)

Posted by Varun on October 18, 2008 at 03:32 AM PDT #

Great blog post. In fact, as described here:


NetBeans Platform apps don't have to have any user interface at all! You could certainly develop server-side or console apps with the NetBeans Platform.

Posted by Tom Wheeler on October 18, 2008 at 03:16 PM PDT #

Yes, this was also a discussion in the pub visit after JUG Saxony.
The first two pictures look in my opinion still a lot like NetBeans, a NetBeans user sees it immediately (icons, menus, docking, ...). But this is OK, because this is a benefit the application developer want to use.
But the BlueMarine example convinced me comeletely, the application can be fully customized when the develop wants to do it. Very nice!

Bye, Stefan

Posted by Stefan on October 18, 2008 at 04:35 PM PDT #

I think a lot of applications build with the Eclipse platform look like Eclipse. But, yes, Blue Marine is definitely different.

Posted by Eric MacAdie on October 21, 2008 at 03:05 AM PDT #

This is a good and necessary post. The default assumption is just as you said. Another subtler and maybe unconscious assumption is - it will perform just like Netbeans-the-IDE.

If people think NB performs well relative to other IDEs, that is, it's responsive, doesn't crash, doesn't hog memory etc., then people will want to get in on the technology that built NB.

Of course the opposite also applies; if people rate NB as only so-so performance-wise, they may hesitate to choose NB as a platform because they will rightly or wrongly suspect that NB's performance issues stem from the platform itself.

Re UIs: most applications have at minimum a Frame n' Toolbar-On-The-Top type UI. It's what users can be counted on to understand. Most developers aren't looking to have confusion be potential user's first experience.

The only UI I encountered that didn't was Bryce. I am not sure there was any functional advantage to Bryce's UI; maybe people just liked something different which is its own virtue.

Posted by softwarevisualization on November 07, 2008 at 07:00 PM PST #

hi, im new in netbean platform and attemp and excited to understanc all of the concept,

from the sample above, i cant find such a accounting based application, a application that be able to display records of transaction and giving the summary of the ammount of the transaction.

i think it will using kind of grid to display nodes ,..

any idea ?

Posted by tejo on May 17, 2009 at 11:39 AM PDT #

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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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