Java IDEs and Editors I: Netbeans

Although there are several free and commercial integrated development environments available to a Java developer, Netbeans holds a special place. Netbeans was one of the most heavily marketed of Sun Microsystems. Later when Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems, Netbeans became even more prominent. Oracle already had its Java Swing based IDE called JDeveloper. In spite of having a home grown competitor, Oracle has not just embraced but also pushed Netbeans. Therefore, it would be safe to assume that as long as Java is around, Netbeans will continue being developed. If you want to stick to just one IDE or have the time to explore just one, I would strongly recommend Netbeans.

netbeans ide options

What is Netbeans?

Netbeans is a free and open source IDE backed by Oracle. Netbeans IDE is built on top of Netbeans platform. Since Netbeans platform is based on Java Swing, Netbeans is also a Swing application.

What is an IDE?

IDE is acronym for Integrated Development Environment. As the name indicates an IDE is a one stop shop for setting up your development environment for a particular programming language. An IDE typically has facilities for

  1. Writing
  2. Compiling
  3. Running
  4. Deploying
  5. Profiling  and
  6. Debugging a program.
    Nowadays IDEs come integrated with source code version control systems such as git, mercurial, subversion and the good old cvs.

What is the Use of Netbeans?

Netbeans, being a totally free IDE provides the following benefits in addition to the usual features discussed above –

  1. Ability to compile and run Java, Python, C/C++, PHP, JavaScript, Ruby and many other languages
  2. Ability to quickly develop Java Swing applications. Netbeans is the fastest way of developing Java Swing applications.
  3. Ability to develop and deploy web based applications. Web development typically requires source code development, its deplyment to a web or application server and visual inspection/testing in a browser. Netbeans can do all these tasks and can interact seamlessly with popular web and database servers such as  Apache, Apache Tomcat, Glassfish, Oracle Weblogic, MySQL, Oracle Datbase, MongoDb etc.

To a lot of developers Netbeans also has an emotional appeal. Unlike its nearest competitor which is named after eclipsing sun, moon and other positive things, Netbeans is out and out positive with no hatred ingrained against anyone in its DNA.

Getting  Netbeans

Although Netbeans is an Oracle product, it is also open source and free. This means that you are free to take the source code and modify it to your liking without ever getting into any legal hassle.

Netbeans IDE can be downloaded from any one of the following places –

  1. Oracle.com: co-bundles JDK with Netbeans. Use this if you are on a fresh machine and want to get up and running with Java quickly. Update: Netbeans is now an Apache project
  2. Netbeans.org : This is the home of Netbeans open source community. On Netbeans.org you have the option of tailoring your Netbeans IDE download based on your operating system and technologies that you plan to use. Update: Netbeans is now an Apache project

Installing Netbeans

For the most popular platforms – i.e. Windows, Linux and Mac OS Netbeans comes in easy to install packages. Here are a few screen captures taken of Netbeans installation on Windows –

Netbeans IDE or Platform?

If you visit netbeans.org, you are likely to encounter the term Netbeans platform. Don’t fret. Netbeans platform is the foundation on which Netbeans IDE is built. Netbeans platform allows you to build Swing based, professional looking desktop applications quickly.

Whenever you write a Swing application there are a lot of things that you have to do repeatedly. Using Netbeans platform rather than Swing directly allows you to get your application up and running quickly. Examples of such repetitive actions include attaching action listeners to menu items, keyboard shortcuts for actions etc.

If you are intent on becoming a professional Java programmer with desktop applications as one of your specialities, you must follow this learning trail.

Netbeans IDE is just one of the many Swing applications built on top of Netbeans platform. If you just want to write and run programs, go with Netbeans IDE.

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