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Nifty Capabilities in Sun Java Studio Enterprise 8

Posted by marinasum on October 18, 2005 at 9:57 AM PDT

NathanFiedler.jpgOver the past weeks, in collaboration with Nathan Fiedler, a Sun Java Studio Enterprise developer, I posted a six-part blog series, Nifty Capabilities in Sun Java Studio Enterprise 8 Early Access. Now that the final release is out, I've consolidated the series here, given that all of those characteristics apply to the final version of the IDE. A handy reference for you, I hope.

Be sure to visit the Sun Java Studio Enterprise 8 portal for more specifics: downloads, product tour, articles, developer services.Part 1

Welcome Screen: Salient Information at Your Fingertips

As soon as Sun Java Studio Enterprise 8 starts, you're greeted by the welcome screen. Except for a few buttons (What's New, Get Support, Refresh), the rest of the screen is brand new. Of note are the following:

  • Recent Projects -- This section shows a hyperlinked list of the projects that you recently opened.
  • Tutorials -- In this section are a 15-minute product tour, quick start guides, and pointers to other documents that tell you all you need to know in order to use the IDE.
  • Sun Developer Network highlights -- On the right of the screen is a text pane that showcases the latest postings at Sun Developer Network, with hyperlink headlines that take you to the details. From the SDN portal, you can access information on product training, also user groups, events, forums.
  • Create New Project, Open Existing Project -- Self-explanatory, agree? Yet handy and useful.

Nathan's Take

In Nathan's words: "What I like about the new welcome screen is that it's much more likely to grab the attention of developers. The usability studies I watched last year showed that most developers closed that screen almost immediately because nothing there appealed to them. That's a thing of the past, I think. In fact, some developers may actually open the welcome screen deliberately just to read the latest SDN news. And of course, the headlines there take you to the IDE's developer portal and closer to our other community offerings, such as technical articles and forums."

Part 2

Navigator Window: Source Hierarchy at a Glance

In Sun Java Studio Enterprise 7, to view the structure of a source file, you choose a menu item--the editor toolbar. A slick redesign in Sun Java Studio Enterprise 8 now displays that structure in the Navigator window in the Project-File Explorer, in which the Members View shows the methods, constructors, fields, and inner classes of the currently selected source file.

Note these two enlightening visual cues:

  • A lock icon to the left of a component name denotes that the component is private. No icon? The component is public.
  • If you cursor over a component, a tool-tip display shows you the related Javadoc comments.

Nathan's Take

In Nathan's words: "Why display the source-file structure in a separate window? First, that window is always visible to you; no closing or opening is required. Second, it shows the components of the file selected in the Project-File Explorer even if that file is not open in the editor. I visit the Navigator every day to glimpse at the contents of a file before opening it. It's amazingly convenient!"

Part 3

Navigator Window: Inheritance Hierarchy at a Glance

The Inheritance View in the Navigator window within the Project-File Explorer shows the "inheritance" of the class in the currently selected source file. All the superclasses and interfaces in the tree are displayed.

What's more, the buttons at the bottom enable you to define filters so that, in case of long lists, you see only what you're interested in seeing. Is that neat or what?

Nathan's Take

In Nathan's words: "The Inheritance View is particularly useful when I'm exploring unfamiliar or complicated code. Here, I can see the superclasses and interfaces under a particular class, all the way up to java.lang.Object, without opening the source files one by one. Simultaneously, I also get a mental picture of the relationships. And, as with the Members View, I need not open the source file, merely select it in the Projects window."

Part 4

Ant-Based Project System: A More Robust UI

The Ant-based project system in Sun Java Studio Enterprise 8, a replica of the same system in NetBeans 4.1, brings three main benefits to developers:

  • You can now open multiple projects in the Projects window, for example, Java and UML projects, instead of only one project at a time.
  • You can run build scripts from either the IDE or from the command line. It's your choice entirely, with no differences in the process except the way you trigger the build changes: You either type at the command prompt or click a toolbar button. For a development team that has one group working in the IDE and another producing automated, nightly builds from a cron job, that means less headaches. Why? Because everyone would be using the same build scripts and would have far fewer build-related issues.
  • No more mounting of file systems! That was occasionally a confusing step to developers. Your file system is now seamless as you work with Sun Java Studio Enterprise 8.

Nathan's Take

In Nathan's words: "Often, product development spans multiple projects so being able to simultaneously open them is a boon to us developers. For example, with multiple UML projects open at the same time, I can drag and drop elements from one project to another with a single mouse click. Sheer magic."

Part 5

Developer Collaboration: More Sharing, More Transparency

The developer collaboration capabilities in Sun Java Studio Enterprise 8 deliver significant enhancements, to wit:

  • Project sharing in addition to file sharing -- You can now share projects, for example, Web applications, Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB) components, or Java applications, instead of only files.
  • Shared project compilation -- While collaborating, any of the participants can compile the shared project. The build output is visible to all participants.
  • Hosted collaboration service ( -- In addition to private collaborations, you can now set up public ones, which others can look up and then join as either participants or observers only. You have absolute control on whether to allow observation, participation, or both.

Nathan's Take

In Nathan's words: "Collaboration in Sun Java Studio Enterprise 8 is nothing short of awesome. Not only does it support text formatting and color highlighting, all of which are familiar to developers, it also builds shared projects remotely and displays the output for everyone. Now that the collaboration capability is a part of the NetBeans project and since it supports extensions (collablets), it'll soar to a new height yet as the community extends collaboration to offer new communication channels, such as voice over IP."

Part 6

UML Modeling: A Sleek Redesign for Clarity and Simplicity

A redesign of the UML diagram editor and toolbar has resulted in their assuming a similar look and feel as the other editors in the IDE. Here are a few significant enhancements:

  • The toolbar, now only one-fifth of what it was in the previous release, is much more streamlined and less daunting.
  • The toolbar buttons for creating elements in diagrams are now located in a new UML palette, where they rightly belong. In essence, these are the elements that you would want to drag and drop into your diagram.
  • When you cursor over a button, you see its name displayed alongside the button icon. Who needs that grind of memorizing what the icons represent?

Nathan's Take

In Nathan's words: "Aside from the new support for Java 5 language, what appeals to me the most in the UML module is the enhanced editor. With the diagrams being the same type of window as the other editors, you can reposition the diagrams side by side with your source code. This tighter integration with the UI of the IDE spells improved usability and shortens the learning curve. Way cool!"

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