Bridge Again: Let's Get That NetBeans Platform Support in Eclipse IDE!

Of the two people making my list of "Current Favorite Two (Male) People on My Favorite People List", one is named Scott Palmer. More about him some other time. The other is named "Thomas G." The G could stand for anything, as could the Thomas. I know not who that person is nor from whence he hails nor when he was instantiated. All of that notwithstanding, I post in its entirety the issue he posted (Feb 02, 2010) on the MyEclipseIDE site (here).

Let it be known that I endorse each and every word found in the text below.

Hello everybody!

First and foremost to all holy war guys out there: This is a seriously meant feature request and a seriously meant starting point for a discussion. This is not about who belongs to which world and this is not about ideological blindfolds. This is about bridging worlds. Therefore I really ask you to stay away and to not mess arround here.

To all the open minded ones out there: You are welcome to share your thoughts and I would be very glad if you did so :-)

\*\*\*\*\*\*\* The Context

I guess all of you have observed the ongoing acquisition of SUN finally now being bought by Oracle. This is to me a very interesting situtation. Currently Oracle declares a strong commitment regarding the SUN portfolio, especially when it comes to developer tools. So for the moment we end up with JDeveloper, OEPE and NetBeans. In his webcast Ted Farrell even especially mentioned Oracle's awareness of the importance of the NetBeans Platform.

Interesting: Oracle a strategic member of the Eclipse foundation stresses the importance of the NetBeans Platform.

Question: Could that be the tipping point when two worlds which could not be further apart for a long time are actually beginning to grow together - The two worlds obviously being Eclipse on the one side and NetBeans on the other.

Just for the moment assume the above question to be answered with YES.

So from this point on the hardest work is actually already done ;-)

\*\*\*\*\*\*\* The Problem

Some time ago I decided to port our long, long internally used trashy VBA applications to a solid JAVA solution. This cries for rich client and it cries for modularity. What I do not consider sensible is write all of this stuff myself. Consequently I want to take advantage of a rich client platform. Further a requirement will be the usage of the Swing UI toolkit.

So now the situation I am faced with is that I make heavy usage of MyEclipse as IDE and want to write a NetBeans Platform application.

\*\*\*\*\*\*\* The Solution / Feature Request

I would love to see Eclipse/MyEclipse support NetBeans Platform application development. So I could take advantage of - and yes it is - the only modular Swing based rich client platform currently available and still use the development environment I am familiar with.

Oracle's webcast on developer tools stresses the idea of choice. I guess that an Eclipse based IDE supporting NBP application development would actually be a great contribution to this idea.

\*\*\*\*\*\*\* The Conclusion

An Eclipse based IDE supporting NBP application development would be of benefit to all parties - at least from my point of view.

Eclipse developers could easily and streamlined develop NBP applications and those who are currently using NetBeans IDE are welcome to continue doing so. Overall, I guess, we would be left with more mature, stable and standardised Swing applications.

The reason why I post this on the MyEclipse forum is simply because both Genuitec and Oracle are strategic members of the Eclipse foundation while by now Oracle being the main sponsor of the NetBeans development team. Maybe Genuitec and Oracle could join resources on this feature request.

Further Genuitec has already proven expertise in bridging the NetBeans world and the Eclipse world when doing a tremendously great effort porting Matisse.

So why not, let’s bridge again ;-)

Thomas G.

Three cheers for Thomas G where, until informed otherwise, I will simply assume the "G" stands for "Great", i.e, Thomas the Great.


Holy cow! An Eclipse guy tells he wants to use Eclipse IDE to develop NBP applications? WITHOUT a pointed-hair boss telling to do? Is this April 1st? :)

Finally somebody from the "other side" tells something that isn't provocative!

If we sum more guys like this with NetBeans OSGi support, I guess we can improve both platforms pretty well!

Posted by Eduardo Costa on May 29, 2010 at 04:34 AM PDT #

I have wished Eclipse would support the NetBeans Platform since I began using it five years ago.

At the time, I was an Eclipse IDE user who simply thought NetBeans Platform presented a better solution for the applications I was developing than the Eclipse RCP did. Although I had no intention of changing IDEs, it quickly became obvious that I could develop applications more quickly with NetBeans IDE than with Eclipse. So I just switched IDEs, because learning a new IDE is easy compared to trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

But I think it's a bit silly that a developer is basically forced to choose an IDE based on his choice of desktop application framework. I mean, I can develop Grails apps in NetBeans, Eclipse or IDEA, right?

The fact that I can't do the same for a desktop application framework probably explains why they're not as widely adopted. And so developers continue to create desktop applications totally from scratch, even though the same people wouldn't consider developing a serious Web application using a bunch of servlets and JSPs.

P.S. Of course, the NetBeans Platform is just plain old Java, Swing and some configuration files. You could certainly develop NetBeans Platform applications in Eclipse and IDEA (and I know people who do). It's even easier if you use Maven, but it would be easier still if other IDEs added support for the NetBeans Platform.

Posted by Tom Wheeler on May 29, 2010 at 07:28 AM PDT #

I like it. Very cool. Not only an interesting bridge but an interesting opportunity for both sides.

Posted by Charles Ditzel on May 29, 2010 at 03:57 PM PDT #

At my work we develop use Netbeans and Eclipse. Why? We also were required to use the Swing for the gui so went with the Netbeans RCP. Due to some issues running JBoss from Netbeans we went with Eclipse for the J2EE backend/web development. Since we're a smallish shop, most developers use both everyday.

I have built SWT/JFace apps in Netbeans. Would be nice to have support NB support in Eclipse. My dev machine would be greatful at the very least :P.

Posted by Anon on May 29, 2010 at 10:07 PM PDT #

That sounds great! It's a shame that he didn't receive any answear yet...

I'm starting with Netbeans Platform and trying to learn Spring RCP also, in order to see the advantages of both in the long term. Before I got to this article I was wondering if Spring RCP could be the "neutral point" in the RCP world for different IDEs. They all have a good set of Spring-features and I know that Netbeans has some Spring RCP specific support (I don't know about other IDEs...) Do you think Spring RCP can be "the" RCP with cross-IDE support in the future? Would it be easier (than NBP having cross-IDE support), since Spring RCP is IDE-agnostic?

I started reading about Spring RCP with your articles Geertjan, so thanks for your work! And, of course, I watched all the screencasts over Netbeans Platform ;) Somo have a volume problem, but they are great! Thanks again!

Best regards.-

Posted by Juan Ottonello on June 04, 2010 at 03:00 AM PDT #

Well, a big problem with Spring RCP is that it isn't modular, unlike the NetBeans Platform. And that's the biggest advantage of the NetBeans Platform. Thanks for your kind words and all the best with your programming work. :-) I will try and redo those screencasts sometime, not sure when.

Posted by Geertjan Wielenga on June 04, 2010 at 03:13 AM PDT #

Thanks for your answear! Yes, I knew Spring RCP isn't modular. Maybe with SpingRCP + OSGi? ...well I'm starting with OSGi too, so I don't know how difficult can that be, but I guess I'll find it out.

I'm pretty sure I saw an architecture draw of an application with OSGi and NBP on it... I can't remember where, could be in the NBP screencasts?

Back to the topic, I'd really like to have NBP support in Eclipse!

Posted by Juan Ottonello on June 04, 2010 at 05:04 AM PDT #

It was mentioned in one of Geertjan's NetBeans Platform Top 10 API videos that many developers are using NBP in both Eclipse and IntelliJ. So there must be a way to do it. Or was I just dreaming.....

Posted by miltonh26 on November 22, 2010 at 05:10 PM PST #

To Geertjan Wielenga:

I was just googling around in my quest of developing NBP applications from within Eclipse finding this here. Thank you so much for reposting, and for your kind words. You know what, this is what I call a motivating momentum - Thomas "the Great" - sounds nice :-))), but I am only about 5.5 feet tall so that probably won't be it ;-) - but for the time being I can do quite well with it :-DDD

Well seriously, you know I simply love my privacy and as long as I do not feel that there is something that might really help or be of interest to others I would like to leave it with the Thomas G.

To Eduardo Costa:

:-DDD no, not April 1 st - that's just the way it is

To Tom Wheeler:

I can perfectly understand your decision. It would be absolutely insane to write all the code provided by the NetBeans IDE wizards by hand. I am just making my way into NetBeans Platform having spent a lot of reading the last two weeks. That is I am far from being an expert, but I think that I have seen enough to safely drop the line above.

I have no experience regarding Maven so I cannot comment on that.

To miltonh26:

I haven’t watched Geertjan’s videos yet, but I do not think that you were dreaming. For sure there are ways to code for the NetBeans Platform using other IDEs than NetBeans. Just as Tom Wheeler pointed out above there is nothing weird about NetBeans Platform “just plain old Java, Swing and some configuration files”. All of that can be written in any IDE, even editor.

So it’s not about whether it is possible, but whether it is sensibly feasible.

That again raises questions of productivity, which means it does not make sense to build up on a platform which is there to save you years – and yes we talk about years – of development time but then writing the actual application takes you a lifetime.

To me it simply boils down to the fact that the best NetBeans Platform Application support is available from within NetBeans IDE. I have been evaluating it now for two weeks and it has to be said that NetBeans IDE does a tremendously smart effort with respect to NetBeans Platform development – as far as I can tell it just works like a breeze.

/\*\*\*\*\*\*\*\*\*\*\*\*\*\*\*\*\*\*\*\*\*\*\* end of comments \*/

So just said the above, where to go from here?

Well we could try to put it with Arun Gupa’s “Miles to go …” which would probably result in porting NetBeans wizards to Eclipse. This again would require Eclipse RCP knowledge, redundant maintenance, different release cycles and for sure a whole bunch of other things which fortunately do not come to my mind now.

Hhhhhmmm – “Miles to go …” – well maybe not this time, maybe this time, time could go the miles for us.

Have you noticed the thing with WindowBuilder? For those who are not familiar with WindowBuilder look here: . Google has acquired Instantiations, Inc. ( ), the creators of WindowBuilder, and announced that essential parts of WindowBuilder will be donated ( ) to the Eclipse Foundation in the first half of 2011.

Well this could make the swinging Eclipse side of life much easier if you know what I mean. If this is really going to happen WindowBuilder will eventually provide a true, open source alternative to the great NetBeans Matisse GUI-Builder on the Eclipse side. This would be really good news for someone who wants to develop Swing UIs from within Eclipse which made me rethinking my whole approach.

To the point:

Do not expect me to come up with any Eclipse plugins. This will be a challenge for people with more knowledge than me. I simply do not consider it sensible to learn Eclipse RCP to enable myself developing for NetBeans Platform from within Eclipse. If that was the only way to produce an acceptable development experience for myself I will be off and gone with Tom Wheeler.

But as you know: It’s not over till it’s over.

I am really looking into this, trying to come up with a sensibly feasible way to develop for NetBeans Platform from within Eclipse – sensibly feasible at least from my point of view. I haven’t done any real world programming within this new environment yet. I am still assessing and evaluating all the ideas which have come to my mind, hopefully being able to bring them down to a concept others might consider useful too. At the same time I think it’s a good idea to wait for the results of the WindowBuilder donation as meanwhile WindowBuilder constitutes a cornerstone within all of my thoughts.

That is I plan to be back with something concrete at the end of this year or in the beginning of 2012.

Finally: please don’t expect too much, especially in the light of what Geertjan wrote. I’m just a simple man with simple thoughts who simply wants to build on NetBeans Platform using Eclipse – gosh must be insane – keep fingers crossed ;-)

Posted by Thomas G. on January 11, 2011 at 10:39 PM PST #

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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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