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Three Cities, Three Questions

Posted by gsporar on March 26, 2006 at 5:03 PM PST

In the first three weeks of March I visited three different cities:
Houston, London, and Madrid. The software developers I spoke with
ran the gamut. Some were new to Java and had never heard of
NetBeans,
others were familiar with Java but
do not currently use an Integrated Development Environment (IDE), some
use an IDE other than the NetBeans
IDE
,
and finally there were some long time NetBeans IDE
users.

I answered (or attempted to answer :-) ) lots of questions and the same
three kept coming up over and over again in each city. So below I present
a recap of each city, with the three questions interspersed.

Houston

The Association for Computing Machinery's

Special Interest Group for Computer Science Education (SIGCSE)
had their
annual symposium in Houston from
March 1-4. The NetBeans team shared a booth on the pavillion floor with
the OpenSolaris team. We also
got a chance to talk with attendees (and answer questions) at a
reception that we hosted.

Q1: Why should I use the NetBeans IDE? I have a lot of answers to this
question, but they fall into two categories: general and specific. The general
answers include things such as: it's free, it's open source, it's 100% pure
Java, it runs on any platform that has a JDK 1.4 or higher, and its Ant-based
project system allows you to use the exact same build environment inside and outside
the IDE. But I don't typically use those answers, at least not initially.
Instead I ask the questioner:
"What type of Java applications are you developing?"

That allows me to customize
a response with specific answers. For developers who are building
Swing applications,
I talk about
Project Matisse
. For web and enterprise developers, I talk about all
the tools the NetBeans IDE provides right out of the box for them. Things like
a JSP editor and debugger, an HTTP monitor, wizards to create everything from
servlet filters to EJBs to web services, and a large number of sample applications
(including Java BluePrints
), etc. For mobility developers, the answer is easy: I just point them to
all the cool features in the
NetBeans Mobility Pack
. Regardless of what type of applications they
develop, I ask about their
need for collaboration tools
and/or a
full-featured profiler
, both of which are available for free with the
NetBeans IDE. Looking out a few months, free
Unified Modeling Language (UML)
tools
and
Service Oriented Architecture (SOA)

tools will also
join the NetBeans family
.

For the members of SIGCSE there is an additional reason for using
the NetBeans IDE: support for
BlueJ projects. BlueJ is a very popular
Java IDE used in high school and undergraduate college courses. It is a great
teaching tool, but with its focus on beginners it has its limits.
For example, it does not support any type of code completion. The problem with
professional-strength IDEs is that they can be a bit overwhelming for beginners.
So in a joint effort with the BlueJ folks the NetBeans team will be adding
support for BlueJ projects. This will allow a student to open an existing
BlueJ project in a special version of the NetBeans IDE and see a familiar view of their project. By
default the more advanced features of the NetBeans IDE will be turned off, but the
student can turn them on when ready. So it provides a great bridge from
one environment to the next (to see a screen shot, check out this

entry

from Roumen).
Many thanks to Milos Kleint,
who did most of the heavy-lifting to make all of this work in the NetBeans IDE.

The BlueJ team was in Houston which was great because it gave me a chance to
meet Michael Kölling
and Ian Utting along
with the rest of the BlueJ team, all of whom seem like great guys.
At the NetBeans/OpenSolaris reception on Friday evening, Michael did
a demo of the forthcoming BlueJ support in the NetBeans IDE and it got a
very positive response from the crowd.

London

I staffed a booth and did a session on J2EE development at
JavaUK06. It
was a good conference - they had over 1,000 attendees. Roumen was also there
and wrote up this

entry
. There were also folks there talking about

Java Studio Enterprise

and

Java Studio Creator
, which led to Q2: Why does Sun have
three Java IDEs?
I have actually blogged about this topic - see
this
entry
, in particular the discussion in questions 1 through 8.

Madrid

The most recent stop on the
NetBeans World Tour
was last week in Madrid. You can see photos of all
the different speakers and some pictures of the crowd

here
. As usual, I did my demo of Project Matisse, this time building
a dialog box and then showing how it displays correctly regardless of whether
the locale is English or Spanish. As it has so many times before, it led
to Q3: How did you get the i18n stuff working? I was going to add a brief
tutorial in this blog entry, but Marek Grummich has created a complete

tutorial
on the topic, saving me the trouble.

As is usually the case with a NetBeans Day event, the best part of Madrid was
the people I got to meet. In Madrid I got to meet
Francisco Morero
, who I have corresponded with via email for a while now.
For his contributions to the NetBeans project (including source code, articles
such as this
one
, and tireless evangelism) he was presented with a special community
award by
Jeff Jackson
.

In preparation for the event Francisco helped me learn a bit more Spanish so
that I could say things such as Lo siento, disculpen mi castellano. The
best part though was when he took us to a bar in Madrid -
Geertjan has a photo
of that
here
.