Will NetBeans 6.0 Be an Eclipse Killer?

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There is an interesting discussion at Javalobby about NetBeans and Eclipse. The reason why I find it interesting is that there are some features from Eclipse mentioned which prevent people from switching to NetBeans. If I investigate such reasons today compared to what I saw a year ago, the list is much smaller and lots of developers acknowledge the progress NetBeans has made (and lots of developers made the switch). If you are signed up to the nbusers@netbeans.org mailing list, there is often an "ex-Eclipse" person asking questions about NetBeans. Ex-Eclipsers, welcome! :)

NetBeans has really evolved a lot since the 3.x versions, I would almost say it's a new product with 5.x. I monitor all kinds of discussions of developers about features of both IDEs. There is another thread discussing the evolution of NetBeans on OSNews which I find interesting.

I think both IDEs are comparable, although NetBeans has much better initial experience (as we call it the out-of-the-box experience) and is better integrated into a single product (see blog post of Ed Burnette, an Eclipse ambassador, who also acks it). There are for sure areas where Eclipse is better, but the NetBeans team is focusing on improving these areas - the main theme of NetBeans 6.0 are killer editing features and support for other languages.

In some areas NetBeans is already quite clearly much better than Eclipse - e.g. GUI building, Profiling, Mobility Development, some parts of enterprise and web development, collaborative development, etc. If you remember the 3.x version, Eclipse was superior in most of the areas, but the times are changing. Given the speed of evolution of NetBeans I dare to ask: will NetBeans 6.0 be an Eclipse killer? If we can create a better editor with main focus on increased productivity, keep improving the traditionally strong features, nurture the plug-in ecosystem and create all the packs from Sun's IDEs (Creator Pack, Enterprise Pack, C/C++ Pack) - I am sure it will be. Still I would like to know - what else do you think NetBeans needs to beat Eclipse?

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Comments ( 22 )
  • Geertjan Wednesday, May 10, 2006
    Reporting tool like BIRT. Please don't forget that in the middle of everything else.
  • Rich Unger Wednesday, May 10, 2006
    Is reporting tools for netbeans just a matter of writing a thin integration for some pre-existing OSS swing-based reporting engine (like jasper et al)?
  • federico silva Wednesday, May 10, 2006
    What is missing now is much better performance in middle range machines. In the mailing list every time someone reports this kind of problems, those who reply saying it is ok have bigger/newer machines. I have to wait several seconds very often because NB freezes. I have 768 Mb of ram and a PV 1.8Gz, not really big, not small either.

    If using the featureless javascript editor plugin, I can code for hours without problems, but as soon as I switch to java files heap memory goes from some 50 megs to 90/120 and with only a couple files open. Not to mention if I open a jsp file; I can then go to the kitchen and get some really big cup of coffee and play hide and seek with the cats.

    Also mdr storage going nuts, autocomplete taking ages every time and some times not working
    javadoc disabled in autocomplete because it is very slow ...

    If every one is hacking new features in the 5.5 branch or the 6.0 branch, who is fixing issues we have _now_?. I hear almost every day here and there about the new features ... but none about bettering the existing ones. Not that it is not happening, just that we/I don't know.

    I don't care about Eclipse, really, I do prefer NB forever, but sometimes it is hard not to be dissapointed; I would like to hear about improvements not features.

    This small rant courtesy of my NB fondness, If I did not like it I would not even care to complain.

    (Third time I tried preview to no avail, so I hope this is well formated )
  • Roumen Wednesday, May 10, 2006
    The editor performance issues should be solved in 6.0 with the new editor infrastructure, because mdr will not be used anymore in 6.0 for parsing of sources. I do not have freezing issues with NetBeans. If I have performance issues with the mdr, removing the cache helps. Do you know how to do that? That can solve quite a few problems.
  • Alejandro Téllez Wednesday, May 10, 2006
    Hi Roumen,
    All the packs you mentioned are very quite interesting, and I believe that then will make NB6 the final shot to make developers switch with us (I'm including my self 'cause I love working with NB5).
    Just there's a little topic about Eclipse, there is a plugin for BIRT, I believe that ther could be a reporting tool based in other works like Jasper or JFree.
    What do you think?.
    Thankyou for create such amazing tool.
    Happy coding!
  • guest Wednesday, May 10, 2006
    I'm no BIRT expert, but it seems like it wouldn't be too hard to develop a NetBeans plugin that was a report designer for BIRT. This is really the only eclipse ide related piece of BIRT. The report engine itself is simply a jar file to include in a webapp. I see no reason the BIRT core has to be eclipse specific. Then we could still leverage the reporting community that BIRT has pushing it.
  • federico silva Wednesday, May 10, 2006
    Thanks for quick the reply, Roman. Good to know that!.

    What it the estimated deadline for 6.0?

    And yes, I know how to clean the mdr cache, thanks.
  • Josh Wednesday, May 10, 2006
    Hi Roumen,

    I just downloaded the latest Q build of Netbeans 6.0 and I dont see much difference in the editor (apart from new splash, VS2005-like welcome screen with RSS reader, etc.) with the version 5 editor.

    One feature I really would like to see in Netbeans 6 editor is that the tooltip that pops up with the details about the item under the mouse cursor when you hover your mouse on a variable or method, etc. This feature is available in both VS and eclipse and its really handy.

    The editor font rendering is still very bad; can't compare to VS and eclipse. The text is very blurry and hard to read as well.

    Unless you guys fix these issues, I dont think netbeans editor is comparable to VS and eclipse editors. I even tried with the JDK 6 (hoping that JDK6 will fix the text rendering issues) and the editor still looks as bad as on the JDK 5.

    I am a huge fan of netbeans but sorry to say that the editor really disappoints me. Please make the best editor in the next version (netbeans 6.0) and it will definitely be Eclipse KILLER.


  • Masoud Kalali Wednesday, May 10, 2006
    Every one here talked about editor , looks like that all netbeans users have the same centeral concern.

    I do vote for a good editor , you just give us a superior editor , something like IDEA / eclipse and then netbeans will be a potential Eclipse killer.

    I have a fast machine , but netbeans does not handle jsp files in an acceptable rate nor java files.

    Right now , we do not know what will eclipse people bring on the table until we could touch a Netbeans 6 with new editor functionality. current builds of netbeans 6 is the same with netbeans 5 in editor area.

    Along with a competitor to birt i think there should be a module well written on top of JMeter for load testing.

  • Surya Thursday, May 11, 2006
    I have to agree with the poster who mentioned the packs. I am looking forward to version 6.0 and the C/C++, Creator, Enterprise etc packs for Netbeans. That will be one powerful IDE then.
  • Robert Thornton Thursday, May 11, 2006
    I am an avid NetBeans user surrounded by both avid and disgruntled Eclipse users, so discussions at work often turn to which IDE is more productive for certain tasks.
    I absolutely agree that NetBeans has tighter integration than Eclipse. Sometimes Eclipse seems like a few dozen different tools instead of a single integrated tool. Mostly I hear people bashing NetBeans who haven't used it in two or three years and who are aren't willing to take the initiative to try it again. (I have however gotten at few to look at it again and I believe one is even using Sun Java Studio Enterprise on a limited basis.)
    Based on my frequent discussions with Eclipse users, here are some areas where I see NetBeans needs to improve to be more widely adopted:
    - Provide wider support for commercial version control systems. At my work, we use Perforce.
    - Continue narrowing the feature gap between NetBeans and IntelliJ IDEA. Most Eclipse users at my place of work believe IDEA to be superior than Eclipse and would like to move to that IDE if they can get it in the budget. For some reason they are unwilling to seriously evaluate NetBeans.
    - Evangelize providers of third-party Eclipse plugins to support NetBeans.
  • Daniel MD Thursday, May 11, 2006

    Wend it comes down to it, it has nothing to do with technology, NetBeans clearly lacks from Corporate support and Open source support from outside the Sun influence sphere.

    See how many announcements the Eclipse foundation makes per year about huge corporations that join the Eclipse Foundation or use Eclipse for their projects, and compare that to NetBeans. Eclipse is outside IBM hands for quite some time now, but Sun does not seem to let go control of the projects they create and that is the main weakness i see in NetBeans.

    In my opinion it will not be technology that makes or breaks the top java IDE , it will be the corporate community backing the project financially and with innovation, and the open source and individual community that support the project by providing feedback, tutorials, plugins, etc... Creating a live and organic product that has major contributions form other corporations and smaller plugins and tutorial contributions from the individual community.

    If you take a look at the AMD example, they had a better technological product for many years, but it was not until they started educating the consumers (with the creation of numbering schemes that MHz was not the only thing to look at wend you purchase a CPI) that they actually became a threat to Intel, i think NetBeans has to do act in a similar way, they need to educate the developers about their product (and fortunately that has been happening allot with the flash demos and documentation) but it is still not enough... that effort needs to be reinforced.

    But the main weakness that i see at the moment is NetBeans is not technology but being too much of a SUN only project (they host the party, invite the guests, cater it and clean afterwards… compared to Eclipse IBM simply Host the party and lets other people do the rest), I really would like to see another giant corporation (Oracle, BEA, etc…) jump in the NetBeans bandwagon and the creation of something similar to the Eclipse Foundation setup for NetBeans... if you love something set it free.

  • Alex Lam Thursday, May 11, 2006
    I wouldn't say too much on this topic, except that the key to your question I reckon isn't too much related to NetBeans - it's whether Eclipse is going to catch up quick enough, if at all :-)
  • Surya Thursday, May 11, 2006
    I was thinking...not having used Eclipse, I am sure there is a visual tool for creating XSL transformations in the IDE. IS Netbeans going to have a feature like that with the help of those packs?
  • Petr Vlcek Thursday, May 11, 2006
    There is one feature concerning editor and developer productivity I would like to see in Netbeans: Mylar.
  • Love, peace and harmony Thursday, May 11, 2006
    Will IBM kill Netbeans?

    What's the main difference between Java-IDE's and Microsoft VS.NET? Microsoft makes massive revenues from its VS.NET product-line. Do the Java-companies get much revenues? Do they need those revenues or can you „simply get everything for free?“ Off course revenues are needed because all leading Java-IDEs are developed by professionell full-paied employees.

    Did you ever think about the amount of money and developers employed by IBM or Sun for giving you „the right to have a free IDE“? It's a tremendous amount believe me and that really scares me. Without revenues there will be no more free IDE's or more precisely: no more high-qualitiy IDE's!

    You want to pay for your IDE if you can get if for free?

    Are you completely nuts?

    No. As everyone else I am happy to get everything for free. And I am extremely happy and extremely excited that IBM, Sun and others let work their full-time full-paied developers for giving away the products free to me and to you. And I really shouldn't care about that, right? Finally it is their decision to „give us everything for free“, isn't it?

    How long can companies afford „giving away everything for free“?

    Now that's a good question. The Java-companies are cannibalizing themselves without getting revenues. That precisely means: it is NOT YOU paying but it is Sun or IBM and others paying you the right for free downloading your IDE. The Java-companies are sucking their own blood without getting any revenues. I would call that „self-cannibalizing“.

    But the money comes from other sources?

    Or from services?

    From what other sources or services? So you download your IDE for free and afterwards you will voluntarily pay a $2000-service-contract? I guess that you will probably not do that. So if by any hazard that money won't come from „those other sources“... what happens then? Then we the Java-community or more precisely we the „I-wanna-have-everything-for-free-Java-developer-community“ is literaly FUCKED. And then Microsoft has won the war. Remember: Microsoft gets MASSIVE revenues from its VS.NET-product-line.

    Need to know more... what is actually happening and why does it happen?

    For promoting some of its products especially Netbeans Sun has choosen a „give-away-everything-for-free-strategy“. Not bad, right? We really love getting everything for free.

    The main reason for giving „all-of-Netbeans-for-free“ is gaining market-share. Sun considers Eclipse to be the main ennemy and they seem to be decided to fighting against Eclipse and its partners by all means. Teaming up, cooperating and sharing the resources with the Eclipse-project seems to be out of discussion for Sun. God knows why! (or maybe Bill Gates knows why)

    By giving away everything for free Sun tries to undermine the so-called „Eclipse-eco-system“.The Eclipse-consortium has many small and middle-sized industrial partners who cannot afford to give away everything for free.

    So Eclipse is not a free but more a „kind of“ commercial project?

    How odd!

    Are your products free? Well sure Eclipse is almost „free“ but in reality Eclipse is both. It is a mixed ecosystems and it is a voluntary decision of Eclipse.org to get many commercial vendors say ISV's on board. That's called „the Eclipse-ecosystem“. Netbeans has no comparable „eco-system“. No need for Sun Microsystems to respect their smaller partners because there aren't any important partners for the Netbeans-project! So there is an imminent danger that those Eclipse-partners and ISV's will directly suffer from such an IDE-war. And harming or even destroying Eclipse's small industrial partners is Sun's goal! Sun wants to weaken if not kill the Eclipse-project for any price it seems.

    So Netbeans is a threat for Eclipse?

    May the better win!

    Nope. Not the better wins... the „cheaper“ but „good enough“ wins! There is nothing cheaper then a „free and good enough“-IDE, at least for a big part of the developer-community. This may be a tragedy for companies like Jetbrains by the way. So what will probably happen now? IBM will fight back against Sun and its Netbeans-project. And they will employ big guns and no small arms. IBM has big guns.

    As I said Sun is on the road to total self-cannibalizing by giving away everything for free even extremely expensive enterprise-toolkits. Can Sun afford that? Without getting any revenues? No! Can IBM afford that? Probably more then Sun because IBM has ways more money in their pockets then Sun.

    Will IBM fight back? Will IBM kill Netbeans?

    Remember: Java-developers want to have everything for free! IBM will never accept the Eclipse-project falling down and will put the financial turbo on say giving as much away for free as they can. So we get MUCH MUCH MORE more for free and we are all happy and excited, right?

    But Sun will be gone definetely out of business and the Eclipse-ecosystems and industrial partners will be destroyed because they can't make revenues any longer. So IBM finally has won the war (kind of... that's usually called a „Pyrrhos-victory“) and dominates the IDE-space. Exactly that will happen.

    Oh wait... does anybody want that? And am I just giving some good ideas to IBM's management? <scratching-my-head-now/> Luckily IBM's management has better things to do then reading my blog.
    (Maybe they think about how to kill Netbeans?)

    So should IBM really kill Netbeans? Yes or no?

    No! But Sun should get real before IBM starts doing that. What actually happens reminds me of the battle of Verdun 1917/1918. Verdun in France is just some miles away from my own german hometown. It is known as the worsest and most cruel material-war of the first world-war. That battle has literaly destroyed a part of France and costed hundred thousand lifes of soldiers on all sides. And there was no clear winner in Verdun at all. With one word: one of the most useless events of all times!

    Now that's a bad comparison.

    There's no bloody men-killing world-war in Javaland

    Well the Verdun-comparison may be too thick.... the battle of Verdun is an example for a completely useless vaste of incredible human and material resources on all sides without any side making a win. The first world-war wasn't decided in Verdun.

    But will you see companies destroying themselves? Hopefully not. Help Sun Microsystems to get real. Let's build a common shared infrastructure for IDE/RCP-platforms and -tools and let small and middle companies have a serious chance to make revenues! And help let IBM and Sun make revenues too. We really need them.
  • Jens Thursday, May 11, 2006
    The question you pose is valid. There are features of each that people from both camps will swear by till their dying day.

    In a way (and hopefully without being too philosophical), this debate is a bit like the Cold War: you have two separate, viable, and exclusive environments. Each purport their superiority in ideology and function. The duel "arming" of tools, ideas, and threat of destruction continues to drive innovation. As displayed in historical context, a "war economy" is good for advancement - both economical and technological. So, as we sit back and saber-rattle at one another, we're actually driving greater success - in theory the one thing we don't want for our opponent.

    This in turn drives a subterfuge market - what technology or piece of information makes "them" successful or could possibly give them an edge? Let's find it, hybrid it, improve upon it, and show it off as a shiny new widget that's now one-upped the inventor. Thus, the emerging market of hybrid plugins that are based off of one platform or the other, but incorporate popular features of the "opponent."

    How did the Cold War end? An internal collapse as one side so desperately tried to keep up with the other, that the people and ideology could no longer support their own creations.

    Here's hoping that the innovation continues - and if it means that either side "brings the wall down," I hope it's as a result of collaboration and cooperation - not a collapse of either.

    And no, I don't think of either side as Communists, Capitalists, or any other kind of “-ists.” It's just an analogy. And hopefully not too terrible of one. But it may be. I reserve the right to be wrong...

  • Marcelo Thursday, May 11, 2006
    We need IntelliJ IDEA editor in NetBeans!
  • Konrad Thursday, May 11, 2006
    It would be nice to see Java Studio Creator2 integrated into NetBeans6, perhaps via a plugin. It's understood that JSC2 offers a lot of great functionality and almost requires it's "own ide", but it is confusing to developers as to which IDE to use. If you want to develop JSF apps, you should need to have both IDEs open at the same time. Having one IDE would offer developers a clear alternative to Eclipse and a clear path to developing enterprise apps using JSF.
    I would also like to thank everyone who contributed to NetBeans in the past, present, and future. I have been a faithful NetBeans user for a long time and can see that the IDE has made great strides. Keep up the great work! :)
  • Konrad Thursday, May 11, 2006
    Another nice feature would be the ability to "File Bug" (or "Report Problem") via the "Help" menu. This would be very user friendly (i.e. just a text box to describe the problem in detail). To prevent a lot of duplicate bugs from being submitted, when the user clicks the "Next" button, a knowledge-base search (behind the scenes) to the NetBeans website/faq/mailingLists could be performed, and return possible answers/solutions to the user's problem (much like many online "tech help" solutions these days). If the results still do not answer the user's problem, then the detailed information that the user entered (along with their NB environment and computer stats, pulled automatically) and email address could be submitted to a bug tracking database and/or the mailing list (the latter for an more immediate response). And if any action is taken or response made to the problem, the info/response could be displayed in a type of "Troubleshooting" window (that lists all of the problems the user has filed; it would be displayed in similar fashion to news reader such that clicking on a problem would show all the info/responses related to his/her problem in a separate pane below the "problems list". When a response comes in related to the user's particular problem, a popup could be displayed notifying them in realtime. Basically, this feature will facilitate the bug reporting process and help users resolve their problems faster and easier than current methods, without having to leave the IDE and use various interfaces/screens for reporting and finding the solution to their problem. This would be a great new feature to improve developer productivity and efficiency. Thanks again!
  • Thomas Friday, May 12, 2006
    It has been a few years since i've worked with eclipse now, but one of the features i liked, and miss in NB is the "error marking" (can't remember the exact name) in the projects view tab.
    It's the one that marks files/nodes with a red 'X' if one or more files have a compilation error. I think it had something to do with the autocompile functionality in eclipse..
    I really like it because it gave me a quick overview of errors, instead of having to do a build (or opening each and every file and watch the error-stripe in NB).
    Are there any plans of implementing such a feature in NB?
  • guest Friday, May 12, 2006
    Instead of adding useless bunch of features to cripple it, congratuling yourself all over the sun blogsphere (special citrus prize to bistro! blog which is the most close-minded fanatic unobjective one), that would be nice to work on:
    - better integration (what sense does it have to have both a CVS and Subversion menu ? lucky us that there's no support for 12 SCM tools !!)
    - better performance (I have 2GB RAM)
    - better refactoring support (it is totally unacceptable to be lagging that much behind)
    - font smoothing (I use bitstream vera sans, and this is HORRIBLE on NetBeans while it is perfect on IDEA and Eclipse...)
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