Netbeans 5.0 first impressions (and would I switch from Eclipse?)

I downloaded and played around with Netbeans 5.0 at the weekend. I used it to develop some sample code using the Java SE 6.0 Beta Desktop Integration new APIs (see my sample SystemTray code here).

So my first thoughts? Wow, it looks good. The default UI is very slick and clean, and the user interaction is very responsive. I’ve been living in an Eclipse derivitive world for the past 3 years now at work (using IBM’s WSAD and RAD), and so it was a natural choice to also use Eclipse outside of work. When you use an IDE solidly day in, day out, you get very accustomed to it’s nuances and ways. I have to say though, my first impressions of Netbeans are, yes – I could use this IDE on a daily basis.

Of course one day is hardly a thorough test drive and there are plenty of features I didn’t even use, but so far I like what I see. The main noticable difference from Netbeans 5.0 compared to Eclipse out of the box, is that with Eclipse development you can’t go far before you start looking for plugins to supplement it’s features. Netbeans seems to have a lot of support straight out of the box without the need for searching around for add ons.

The main selling point so far has to be the Matisse GUI builder. Wow is that slick. I only used it to develop a small test app, but it was an absolute joy to be able to drag and drop Swing components onto a Panel and have the GUI builder help with positioning and alignment – very neat feature. If I had to build a Swing app any time soon, I would definitely be using Netbeans 5.0.

My only major concern right now is the lack of support for the emerging EJB3.0 spec. I’m doing a lot of investigation with EJB3.0 and deploying to JBoss 4.0.x, so it was a surprise to not have the support in 5.0 yet. Sadly at the moment this will be the only reason to hold me back from switching from Eclipse. JBoss have their JBoss-IDE Eclipse plug-in which gives EJB3.0 support with JBoss server WTP targeting. If this feature were available in Netbeans right now then I would make the switch today.

Overall, I was so impressed that I even bought a Netbeans 5.0 shirt to wear at work amongst my Eclipse colleagues 🙂

Update: I just did a quick Google and found a couple of articles, for example this one, on the EJB3.0 support in the latest Netbeans 5.5 daily builds, so I’ll be downloading this and getting started with Netbeans from here on…

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