Sun Java Studio Creator or Visual Web Pack
By winston on Nov 22, 2006
We have Sun Java Studio Creator 2 and now Visual Web Pack for Netbeans 5.5 (Technology Preview) has been released. There are lots of questions.
- Why in the first place there was a separate IDE called Sun Java studio Creator?
- Why it is released as Visual Web Pack for Netbeans now?
- Does that mean, there will not be any more release of Sun Java Studio Creator?
I will try to answer 1 & 2 in this blog. But I don't have an answer for 3. If any one can answer it, that is you, the Creator users. Based on my answer to questions 1 & 2, Creator users can give answer to 3, if they would like to have separate IDE called Sun Java Studio Creator or better have an unified IDE that includes Creator as Visual Web pack.
Why in the first place there was a separate IDE called Sun Java Studio Creator?
It all started way back in late 2001, few of Sun Senior Engineers pondered, what if we create an IDE that would attract developers new to Java world, especially who would like to move from VB/ASP to Java. Sun already has an IDE called Netbeans. However, at that time Netbeans was meant for developers with advanced Java skills, which of course is no longer true. Netbeans has grown so much over years, it can now cater for wide range of developers, from novice to advanced.
Developing an IDE from scratch is next to impossible, so must start with an existing IDE and modify. The solution may be to completely overhaul Netbeans. However, being an established Open Source tool, making incompatible changes to Netbeans for the sake of another breed of developers with out the consent of the community sounded impractical. So the idea of a new IDE was born, that would fork Netbeans source base (in a closed repository), and make incompatible changes to it, to make its look and feel similar to that of an IDE familiar to VB/ASP Developers. The new IDE was later called Sun Java Studio Creator. Since VB/ASP developers were the main target audience, developing an IDE for Java Based JSF application was an ideal choice. You can see from the following pictures how Creator was looked different from Netbeans 3.5.1.
|Creator 1.||Netbeans 3.5.1|
Some of the main functionalities that were introduced in Creator and were missing in Netbeans 3.5.1 are
- Dockable Window System
- Server Navigator for easy interaction with services like datasources, EJB and web services
- Palette for drag and drop components
- Project Navigator
- Dynamic Help
- Document outline Pane
- Single Click Deployment to bundled Application Server
- Single Click web application debugging.
For an VB/ASP developer these functionalities are very similar to the one available in their favorite IDE.
However, when Netbeans 3.6 and then later Netbeans 4.1 was released, it was a different story - it was a major overhaul over Netbeans 3.5.1. When Creator 2 was released, it reused several of the functionalities from NB 4.1. Even though it used a forked source base of NB 4.1, very few modifications (less than 5%) were made to the platform. Creator 2 is almost (but not 100%) Netbeans 4.1 IDE + Pack of modules. You can see the similarity between the two IDEs from the following pictures.
|Creator 2.||Netbeans 4.1|
Some of the main differences are
- Server Navigator
- Palette for drag and drop (NB 4.1 Palette did not support Drag and drop)
- Single Click deployment
- Dynamic Help
- Single Click web application debugging.
Why it is released as Visual Web Pack for Netbeans now?
One of the greatest strength of Netbeans IDE was that it always kept in pace with the Java Standards and releases. When JDK 1.5 was released, it was supported in Netbeans 5.0. Similarly, when Java EE 5 was released it was supported in the Netbeans 5.5 release. Since Creator was developed over a forked source base of Netbeans, there was a disparity between the two IDEs. Java Studio Creator was built over Netbeans 4.1, which did not support JDK 1.5. However, when Creator 2 was released, during that same time frame Netbeans 5.0 was released, which supported JDK 1.5. Several Creator 2 users were frustrated, because it did not support JDK 1.5.
As I mentioned above, since Netbeans (3.6 and later) has grown as a versatile and ease of use IDE, Creator 2 was more or less a pack of modules over Netbeans 4.1 IDE, but re-branded to be looked as a different IDE. However, it lacks the some of the nice features of latest Netbeans IDE (5.0 and later), which also existed at that time. If Creator existed just as pack, then it would have been far easier to just install it over Netbeans 5.0 and get the nice features of Netbeans 5.0. There fore, rather than fork the Netbeans source base and lag behind another Netbeans IDE release cycle itself, it seemed practical to release Creator as a pack over Netbeans 5.5. Once you install Visual Web pack over Netbeans 5.5 what you get is an IDE similar to Creator, except for the lack of Creator branding. See the picture below.
Having said that, you might ask, is Netbeans 5.5 + visual web pack is exactly similar to Creator?. The answer is - it includes about 90% of Creator 2 functionality, but not 100%. The reason is, some of the features were independently developed at the two code bases. Ex
- Support for Web services
- Support for Portal development
Because of these dissimilar development, to avoid the collision, they are currently not supported in the Visual Web Pack for Netbeans 5.5. However, our trip to Prague is to address these dissimilarities between Netbeans and Creator modules, so that Creator users can get a 100% migration path for next release of Visual Web Pack. The picture below shows Creator as a Visual Web Pack for Netbeans 5.5
|Netbeans 5.5 + Visual Web Pack|
Does that mean, there will not be any more release of Sun Java Studio Creator?
As I mentioned at the start of this blog, it is up to the Creator users to decide. If they request separate IDE called Creator 3, then our management and marketing team might consider the request. But I'm sure, that IDE would be nothing but a very thin re-branded wrapper of Netbeans IDE + Visual Web Pack with bundled JDK & Application Server.
But with that re-branded IDE, Creator user might miss certain features and end up with certain restrictions
- Ability to run with latest JDK release
- Lag behind latest Java technologies, while Netbeans keeps up them
- Bound to single bundled Application server. Where as Netbeans supports multitude of Application Servers such as
- Necessarily to switch to another IDE to do stuff not supported by Creator (Ex. Creation of W/S or EJB or use UML)
- Problem of project exchanging between the two IDEs as faced by Creator users now
Last but not least, Creator will be open sourced. When open sourced, it doesn't make sense to fork another open source IDE base to create yet another new IDE. The ideal choice is to release it as Visual Web Pack for Netbeans.
So, if any one asks my preference, my immediate answer is Netbeans + Visual web Pack. But the ultimate decision is left to the Creator users. Let your comments flow about your preference.