Oooh! Shiny! ... NetBeans 5.0

I've been very happy with NetBeans 4.1, but I've been keeping an eye on all the new stuff in NetBeans 5.0 with anticipation, especially the new Mattise GUI designer. Over the last couple of days I've been knocking together a simple Java GUI and today I finally cracked, and I grabbed a copy of 5.0 from the internal staging servers rather than waiting for the public release of 5.0 and having to fight my way through the download crowds - hey, working for Sun has to have some benefits, right? ;-)

First impressions are very favorable - having already used NB4.1 a fair bit, NB5.0 feels very familiar from the start - which is a good thing - I get very tetchy when stuff is moved around just for the hell of it between releases of a product. There's a lot of nice usability touches in there - there's an Options dialog that allows you to set the most common preferences quickly and easily, and at last you can edit your code templates easily - it always bugged me that I had to hand-edit the banner blocks in each of the generated files. The new CVS stuff seems to just work - I pointed it to a project of mine on sourceforge and it synced up with no tweakage required.

One of the most noticeable features is the new Matisse GUI designer. I'd already done some outline design in my app and I expected I'd have to throw it all away and start over, but it turns out you can pretty easily retrofit existing GUI designs to use Matisse - I'd been using the GridBag layout manager, and to switch to Matisse I just had to right-click on the layout manager icon in the Navigator pane and select 'Free layout'. Once that's done you can start dragging your components around Matisse-style - nice!

I also pulled down the profiler and mobility packs and tested out an existing MIDP application which all worked fine. The only thing I'd forgotten to do was to pull down a copy of cpptask so I could build the JNI code I have in one of my Win32 projects. I've only given the tyres a cursory kick so far, but I like what I see.

Whilst I was looking around for the the install images I found one of the internal wikis where the team were discussing categories of developers who might use NetBeans, and I think I'm in the 'tough nut to crack' category, i.e. someone who uses mainly vi and make for development. I must admit I was initially sceptical about NetBeans, having had some *bad* experiences in the past with IDEs that were anything but what their names suggested, but I'm a firm convert, and NetBeans is now my prefered environment - I just wished it handled C with the same degree of cleverness as it does Java ;-)

Nice work and kudos to the NetBeans community!

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Categories : Java, Tech