Sun Java Studio Creator or Visual Web Pack

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.

  1. Why in the first place there was a separate IDE called Sun Java studio Creator?
  2. Why it is released as Visual Web Pack for Netbeans now?
  3. 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
    • Tomcat
    • JBoss
    • Websphere
    • Weblogic
  • 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.


Excellent blog entry! It is because of you that Creator/VWP works.

Posted by James Branam on November 22, 2006 at 02:32 AM PST #

Indeed, I concur with James that this was a very useful blog entry. Having read this, I'll likely migrate from Creator2 to NetBeans+VWP since I had been eying some of Netbeans features and the dominance of Netbeans related commentary/blogs/examples far outweighs that of Creator2.

Thanks Winston for your commentary.

Posted by Wes W on November 22, 2006 at 03:45 AM PST #

Personally, I’d vote for Creator being discontinued. I see no great reason to continue the Creator product line. I am one of the people who came from an ASP/VB background and started using Creator about 9 months ago. One of the difficulties that I found when starting out was that there are a lot of options for just about everything with Java including frameworks, IDEs, and application servers. Figuring out which of the options best met my needs was not always an easy task. I realize that options are good, but options without added benefits just lead to additional confusion. Having a Creator branded version of NetBeans + VWP just clutters the IDE landscape with one more option without adding any additional benefits.

The one thing that would be nice though is if a new download bundle was available with everything needed to do web development. This bundle would include NetBeans, SJSAS, VWP, and the JDK all in one download thus eliminating the need to try to figure out all of the different components that you need to download. There are already bundles that include all of these features except for VWP, so I wouldn’t think it would be too difficult to create one more download option.

Posted by Jeff on November 22, 2006 at 03:45 AM PST #

Hi Winston. Great blog entry. I do have one question, though. You write that: "Java Studio Creator was built over Netbeans 4.1, which did not support JDK 1.5." What exactly do you mean by "support"? Support for JDK 1.5 (the new language features and for use as the JDK for running the IDE) was added in NetBeans 4.0.

Posted by Gregg Sporar on November 22, 2006 at 05:33 AM PST #

Thanks for the explanation! There has been too much diversification in the Java world in the last couple of years. While choice is good, the plethora of choices has become confusing. On a recent project I embrace .NET/C# and Visual Studio 2005 and it felt so clean and organized (warm & fuzzy) - not a lot of choices in the .NET world, but MS does provide relatively good solutions for most common scenario. For example, there's no real choice in the ASP component implementation (whereas in the Java world you can choose between different JSF component implementations). So the choice is limited (or there is no choice!), but at the same time for most applications it doesn't matter, and no time or energy is wasted trying to figure out which solution to choose or how to implement it. Here's another example of how confusing the Java world is: When I tried to get started on JSF 1.2 I had to download Glassfish - which comes the Servlet 2.4 & JSP 2.1 jar. I was using Maven for building and deploying, so Maven also had to download the new Servlet jar (or otherwise get them into its repository). Then, every single sample application I looked at ALSO came with the Servlet jar. Now, perhaps if I had used Java Studio Creator or Netbeans it would have eased some of my pain? I was using IntelliJ 6 beta at the time, but decided against moving to either Netbeans or Java Studio Creator, because, not being familiar with either of them, the simple fact that Sun was supporting two different tools implied to me that if I selected one of these tools (and then I would have to spend the time learning how to use it) I had a 50% chance of selecting the wrong tool. I have a long list of other choices in Java (like web application frameworks, persistence frameworks) which have ventured beyond giving us freedom and joy to make a choice, and have become problematic because we have to spend so much time trying to make the selection. Oops, I've gone far beyond thanking you for the explanation and turned this into a rant. But, do you have any insight into how to deal with the dilemma?

Posted by Hans on November 22, 2006 at 08:56 AM PST #

Netbeans + Visual web Pack for sure!

Posted by Fabiano G. Souza on November 23, 2006 at 02:37 AM PST #

I was about 20% done with downloading Java Studio Creator when I saw this entry. I immediately canceled the download, and started downloading NetBeans 5.5 + Visual Web Pack. I'm much happier with that architecture!

Posted by guest on November 25, 2006 at 03:21 PM PST #

To say that NetBeans used to be targeted only to "advanced users" is to say that not enough effort was expended on usability at the time, which is true. I have also heard people claim in the past that Creator is targeted to "business users" (i.e. "morons"), for whom NetBeans would be too much. Sounds like a load of crap to me. Nobody says, "I don't need all the functionality, I'm just a business user". People just don't think of themselves in that way. That's marketing trying to pigeonhole people. Stick with the VWP.

Posted by Rich Unger on November 27, 2006 at 02:29 AM PST #

Winston this is a great entry, I was excited about the VWP from the very first day it was announced. Now I have been working with it for a few weeks and I am continuing my former JSC project on it. But because of some reasons it seems to me that VWP is giving me more troubles, it won't even render the tab menu bar. I have encountered problems with Ajax4JSF not working through the bundled Tomcat, so what I think is JSC is still mature then VWP unless the final release of VWP is really stable and supports all JSC projects.

Posted by sapan on November 28, 2006 at 01:45 AM PST #

I also agree with Hans comments, everything is moving so fast that we keep on just changing the frameworks we use and can't keep up with the pace. So I think with all the new features we must also pay attention to making things easier to use(Like JSC did).

Posted by sapan on November 28, 2006 at 01:50 AM PST #

I haven't used Creator, I do use NetBeans. Nevertheless, it seems to me that, if the development "experience" in NetBeans and Creator is quite similar, it would be best to move to a common platform. This is especially so if Creator tends to force its community to stay with older Java engines. It's one thing to <em>choose</em> to stick with Java 1.4.x or whatever; it's another to be forced to... that is what makes people switch. Sun customer since 1987, Java developer since 1.0.1

Posted by Chris Hermansen on November 28, 2006 at 02:25 PM PST #

Cool. Now i am really knowing about the difference/intersections of NetBeans and Studio Creator. I often asked myself, here's the answer. thx

Posted by Ingo Bischofs on November 28, 2006 at 03:10 PM PST #

I was a user of netBeans before and started Using Sun Studio Creator from the early Access Version and also now using Sun Studio Creator 2. The point is that I liked the Studio Creator and hated netbeans earlier version of netbeans. Thanks Winston for this blog for helping to switch again to Netbeans 5.5 + VWP

Posted by Sanjay Sisale on November 29, 2006 at 02:32 AM PST #

Thanks for the clarification. You have written before how JSC is based on NB4.x, and I often wondered if NB was doomed to deprecation or what what the point to the two IDEs was. I have enjoyed working with JSC2, but began the switch over to NB ~ 4 months ago. My vote is for NB+VWP.

Posted by Jim H on November 29, 2006 at 06:35 AM PST #

The answer for the question of continuing Creator or not is obvious. If all functions are supported in Netbeans and webpack, and easy migration path, then no one would object. If people prefer the Creator name, just have a combined install download (single download/install) for Netbeans and VWP, and call it (label it) Creator Studio Pack. I don't think people would be crazy enough to want just the name though. It was a mistake to go with the Creator path. All problems and decisions you said could have been done with Netbeans. It certainly wasted alot of time, money and effort. Don't make that mistake again.

Posted by N/A on November 29, 2006 at 11:57 PM PST #

Thanks Winston for this great blog. My vote would be NB 5.5 + VWP. JSC has a lot of good tutorials and support through community forum was great. I would like to understand how that could be transferre to NB environment especially tutotirals. They are great to learn and kick start.

Posted by Win Pe on November 30, 2006 at 02:29 PM PST #

My vote is NB5.5 + VWP, too. Having JSC 3.0 will confuse users.

Posted by wayne on December 04, 2006 at 05:28 PM PST #

VOTE: NB5.5 + VWP. QUESTIONS: VWP is not yet available as NetBeans module under cvs? Am I right? If so, any ideas when?

Posted by Matthias Unverzagt on December 09, 2006 at 06:01 PM PST #

Sir, I was one of the early purchaser and sufferer of Java Studio Creator EA back in the bad early days. I dumped it and moved to other platforms. A few days ago I started playing with Glassfish and by chance, heard of netbean 5.5 and then Visual Web Pack. That was a few days ago. I have almost forgotten my earlier knowledge of Java Studio Creator, but I am now up to speed again. So far the combination of netbean and the various plugins makes it the holy grail for me. It provides all that I need for java enterprise development. I used Oracle ( ADF) and Eclipse, and I still do but only as secondary development tools. The other reason for adopting netbean is because it incorporates the new specification of JSF, EJB. Sun AS. Winston Prakash, sir, you have a winner here for the time been.

Posted by BS on January 03, 2007 at 08:29 PM PST #

Great write up. I have a question regarding your statement, " 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 " Is this still true for both web services and portal development wrt the fact that Enterprise Service pack has been released. I am new to NetBeans and I don't follow all the nuances of the packaging system yet. Or should we use Creator for web services and portal development?

Posted by HC on January 29, 2007 at 04:00 PM PST #

using NetBeans + Visual web Appln. -> How Can I make my own JSF pages for the database tables that I have with me

Posted by raj on February 25, 2007 at 09:16 PM PST #

You cannot do that , currently netbeans not providing this functionality , hope u can get it in future.

Posted by shirish on February 25, 2007 at 09:21 PM PST #

there must be some way out

Posted by raj on February 25, 2007 at 09:24 PM PST #

hi Raj , u cannot do this with netbeans 5.5 . in future hope netbeans will provide this functionality.

Posted by shirish on February 25, 2007 at 09:29 PM PST #

I have successfully converted my SJSC app into Net Beans + VWP. I am taking the jump to NB and hoping the developers follow. I would request that the JAAS sample application be ported to NB, it has excellent tutorials and with a little pain - it works to secure my application.

Posted by thompsonwd40 on May 29, 2007 at 04:55 AM PDT #

Very to the point discussion..Nice article!!

Posted by Ather Mughal on June 24, 2007 at 08:35 PM PDT #

Hi, From Vnezuela Where I can find goods examples for beginners like me about JSF Thanks

Posted by ali on July 07, 2007 at 02:52 AM PDT #

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