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Moving to NetBeans 4.0

Posted by kgh on December 14, 2004 at 6:52 PM PST

I enjoy programming. It's part of my job, but it's
also something I do just for fun. I like seeing code
take shape under my fingers and I like evolving it do
interesting things. As part of that, I've tended to
take a certain recalcitrant joy in having a
direct, simple relationship with my source code, without
any uppity tools getting in the way. I admire
tools like Visual Basic, but I've tended to tend to
think of them as tools for other people.

As part of my job, I consciously make an effort
to try out various tools, to understand their strengths
and weaknesses. So I've done small projects in Visual
Studio (many versions), and JBuilder, and Eclipse, and
many other tools. And of course I test run various Sun
tools, including various versions of NetBeans. In fact
I moved a lot of my personal development to NetBeans 3.6 out of
a vague sense of wanting to help provide good feedback.
However NetBeans 3.6 was definitely rocky going and if
I wasn't intent on understanding it, I would probably have
given up. So I initially approached Netbeans 4.0 with some caution.

Well, somewhere in trying out NetBeans 4.0, I found that my
brain had betrayed me. I discovered that I wasn't just
using NetBeans because I "ought" to - I was using it
because it was fun. I found I was creating new projects
in NetBeans just because I wanted to knock something to
together in a hurry and I knew I could both do it more
quickly in NetBeans and have more fun doing it.

Yikes! The tools guys have finally corrupted me!

After getting over the shock, I've now finalized
moving all my personal development, including
various personal projects at home, over to NetBeans 4.0.
It is making me more productive, without undermining
my sense of direct interaction with the source code.

The largest irritant for me in previous NetBeans releases
had been the project structure, which revolved around
rather occult notions of mounting filesystems. That
has all been replaced in Netbeans 4.0 with a whole
new project infrastructure based on "ant" projects.
I find that is working really well. Previously I
had been using gnumake, so I am relatively new to ant,
but fortunately NetBeans normally takes care of the
ant details for me, and I've only occasionally needed
to reach into the ant scripts.

Of course I also like that NetBeans 4.0 supports JDK 5.0.
I've found that I have become addicted to both
generics and the extended for-loop syntax. Having the IDE
understand and support those is great. I'm also using
NetBeans 4.0 for JSP development, where the integration
with the built-in Tomcat engine works really well.

Anyway, if you haven't yet tried out NetBeans 4.0, I'd
urge you to give it a whirl. I think you'll find it's
a radical improvement over earlier NetBeans releases and
well worth serious use!

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