Wednesday, February 01, 2006

NetBeans 5 Final is released

The final release of NetBeans 5 is here. I've downloaded and installed it under SuSE Linux and Windows XP. I can't find anything that changed between RC1 and Final, which is a Good Thing. Now is the time to dig in and start working with NB5. Features I find compelling:
  • Matisse. This editor has shaped up to be one of the best visual UI designers for Java. I'm sure there are better tools you can buy. But for a free downloadable tool it works quite well for the kind of layouts I work with. The very fast way it switches back and forth between layout and code is also very nice.
  • Emacs key bindings. They are good for an IDE, but incomplete. What is missing are key codes for creating split screen views and toggling (at the keyboard) between views. But it's open source, and who knows. Maybe I can add that feature myself.
  • Better module development support. My own attempt at creating a module was labor intensive and error prone. And that was with help from Sun itself. I need to dig in now and see how strong the tools have become for extending the platform.
With release 5, NetBeans has now become a serious alternative to Eclipse. Eclipse isn't standing still, however. The Eclipse development team has released a bug fix for the current version (3.1.2) and is working on its next version, 3.2. What's more, Eclipse has a large community working on extensions to the base IDE. If Sun is serious about NetBeans, then the next step in evolving NetBeans will have to be the growth of the same kind of community that Eclipse boasts. Only time will tell. But I believe that NetBeans 5 is an excellent foundation on which to build the future.