Questions at the NetBeans Booth at Tech Days Buenos Aires

The number one topic people were interested when talking about NetBeans in Buenos Aires is the upcoming Visual Web Pack. I got questions like "Can you show me that tool which looks like Visual Studio for Java?". So here are some answers about the so called "Visual Studio for Java":

Q: Visual Web Pack looks great, where can I get it?
A: You can't... at the moment. You will be able to get it as preview in few days, on October 30th (next Monday) from the new homepage of If you can't wait for Visual Web Pack, you can still get Java Studio Creator 2 which provides most of this functionality, but as a separate product.

Q: Is it the same as Java Studio Creator 2 Update 1 or are there any differences?
A: The main difference is that you can use Java SE 5 and Java EE 5 in Visual Web Pack, new features of the NetBeans editor introduced in versions past NB 4.1 and you can deploy to other application servers, including Tomcat. The bad news is that there is no visual databinding for JAX-WS Web Services and EJB 3.0 yet, but it's in the works. Given the simplicity of Java EE 5 it is easy to use to propagate the data, so no big deal.

Q: Which databases are supported in Visual Web Pack?
A: Any JDBC-compliant database is supported. I've shown demos with Derby and MySQL, but you can use other databases, as long as they provide a JDBC driver.

Q: Can I use other JSF components than those which are available in the default palette?
A: Yes, you can, there are components provided from Sun and from many other companies. Some of these are free, some of them are commercial.

Q: Does it mean that Java Studio Creator will go away?
A: Future roadmap of Java Studio Creator is still being discussed, it is possible that it will continue to exist. By using NetBeans + Visual Web Pack you can make sure to have access to the latest and greatest features.

Q: What will be the price of Visual Web Pack. Will the first release be opensource?
A: The price will be zero, the pack will be available for free for download from It won't be opensource at the very beginning but we'll be working on opensourcing it as soon as possible, similarly as with the rest of the packs which haven't been opensourced yet. Mobility, Enterprise and C/C++ pack are opensource now. Profiler and Visual Web Pack will be opensourced in the future. Sun is very committed to provide developer tools for no cost and in opensource.

Q: Why does Sun do this? Why do you provide all developer tools for free?
A: Because we love the developers :) Seriously, Sun provides tools for free to gain adoption and drive developer preference to Sun software, hardware, services and support. NetBeans provides an entry point to Sun technology stack and we want developers to be happy with our tools, so we'll continue creating revolutionary tools like Matisse for all types of development. We make sure that NetBeans supports latest standards and works the best with the rest of Sun software. Sun provides paid services such as developer assistance, trainings, certifications, etc., so Sun actually makes some money on NetBeans.

Q: It looks like that NetBeans with all the packs rather competes with WSAD (or RAD) than with Eclipse, which doesn't provide such advanced features. Am I right?
A: Yes, NetBeans + all the packs provides most features of Rational Application Developer and in many areas even more than RAD. The important difference is that NetBeans + it's packs are available at no cost and in opensource (partially now, but will be all opensourced). Another difference is focus on usability, clean UI, performance and NetBeans adheres to Java standards, uses no proprietary code and works on all platforms with similar performance (because it uses Swing).

Q: When will you add visual binding for EJB 3.0 and JAX-WS to Visual Web Pack?
A: The plan is to provide these features together with NetBeans 6.0 and thus reach complete alignment.

Q: Will I be able to build Rich Internet Applications with Visual Web Pack?
A: Yes, you will be able to use AJAX JSF components to deliver richer UIs than traditional web applications.

Q: Will Visual Web Pack support facelets?
A: Certainly not in the first release. However you can get a plug-in for non-visual facelets support in NetBeans.

Q: Will I be able to use Visual Web Pack for existing applications?
A: No, similarly as in Java Studio Creator you need to start building the applications with this tool. Future release should have better support for importing web applications.

Q: Can I edit the JSF code behind the visual tool?
A: Absolutely, bi-directional editing is supported.

Q: Can I use the older versions of J2EE with Visual Web Pack and deploy to Tomcat?
A: Yes, you can use J2EE 1.4 and deploy to servers such as Tomcat. The IDE makes sure that all necessary JSF libraries are deployed with the application. You only need to add your database library to your Tomcat installation.

Q: Can I debug web applications created with Visual Web Pack and deployed to Tomcat?
A: Yes, it works (I tried it when I was asked this question - I had no idea this actually works :) Just add a breakpoint and you can debug easily.

Q: Can I handle navigation in a visual way with Visual Web Pack?
A: Yes, there is a visual tool where you can specify links instead of writing the XML file. It uses the same library for visualization as Mobility Pack.

Q: Can I open a project created in Java Studio Creator in the upcoming Visual Web Pack?
A: You need to be using Java Studio Creator 2 Update 1 and these projects should be openable with Visual Web Pack without any hassle.

Q: Can I edit SQL queries which Visual Web Pack uses to bind data?
A: Yes, you can, there is a visual tool for working with SQL. If you do queries over multiple tables, the foreign keys are detected automatically when creating complex queries.

Q: Is there any support for CSS and Javascript?
A: There is a nice editor for CSS with code completion and other goodies. There is no Javascript editor, but you can install the Javascript module from Nicolas Desy to add support for it. We will provide full-blown Javascript support in NetBeans 6.0.

Q: I really like what I see in NetBeans, but the editor is kind of clumsy and doesn't have the features from my favorite IDE and it's also slower. Do you plan any improvements?
A: Yes, better editor is priority #1 for next version of NetBeans - version 6. New editing features including a more performant infrastructure have been just commited to trunk and you'll be able to test them in Milestone 5 of NetBeans 6. See this document for details.

There were other questions I was asked today... feel free to ask anything else using the comments, too.

While you can use other JSF components with the Visual Web Pack, they need to provide the Creator-specific design-time API implementation. This is the case with NetAdvantage for JSF 2006 from Infragistics.
As for JDBC, drivers need to be JDBC 3.0 compliant which is not a big deal now (it was when Creator first came out).
To all the people asking about Tomcat, I would warn them that Tomcat is still on the J2EE 1.4 subset at the moment. Also, GlassFish has excellent incremental war deploy time in my experience (and better performance at runtime).

Posted by Alexis MP on říjen 26, 2006 at 06:39 dop. CEST #

Thanks Alexis, yes the JSF components can't be just arbitrary. And you're right Tomcat doesn't support Java EE 5. On the other hand if people would build simple web applications, using an application server might not be necessary. My experience is that working with Tomcat is easier than with application servers, it is much more lightweight (but it doesn't provide lots of advanced features so it is only for basic web applications). It depends on what kind of applications people are building. Btw, do you have a link to a performance comparison of Glassfish and Tomcat? At least for the small demos Tomcat feels faster to deploy and run the applications, but I might be wrong.

Posted by Roumen on říjen 26, 2006 at 06:59 dop. CEST #

Hi Roman, I was the one who asked you about facelets support and jboss integration. I'm trying the facelets plugin. I hope that facelets become a first class citizen in the next Visual Web Pack releases. I like the Buenos Aires Sun Tech Days very much! Thanks to all of you! <img src="" width="500" height="375" alt="DSCN0361" />

Posted by Andrés Testi on říjen 26, 2006 at 09:55 odp. CEST #

Andres, I'm glad you liked the Tech Days. Thanks for sharing the picture!

Posted by Roumen on říjen 27, 2006 at 04:43 dop. CEST #

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Roman Strobl


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