Reasons for the flood of Eclipse developers moving to Netbeans (including myself)

Don’t get me wrong – I like Eclipse. However, I stop short of saying I love Eclipse, but it has definitely made life easier for me as a developer over the last 3 years, using Eclipse based IBM IDEs, Websphere Studio Application Developer (WSAD) and Rational Application Developer (RAD).

Every IDE change I have made over the past 10 years of being a Java developer has been a change for the better – I remember times before any Java IDE and writing Applet code in Notepad in 1996, using Symantec Visual Cafe (before it was sold to WebGain, who later went bust) the first Java IDE around ’98-’99, followed by Oracle JDeveloper (based on Borland JBuilder in it’s early versions) around ’99-2001 interspersed with a short stint with Forte (pre-Netbeans, which I didn’t like at the time), early versions of Netbeans (which I also didn’t like much), then Eclipse in 2002, WSAD in 2003 followed more recently by RAD.

WSAD and RAD are the bloatware to beat all bloatware IDE’s – they include every tool you can imagine. I’ve been using Eclipse at home extensively for the last 3-4 years, and this was meeting my needs – a very slick, clean UI. The trouble started when I started looking for plugins. And looked some more. And installed some more, and then some more. How do you work on J2EE web apps with Eclipse? You download the WTP. Ok – now this is where the trouble started for me. You try and download the WTP add on, and it hoses your IDE, so you download the bundle and have to uninstall and reinstall.

My largest complaint with WTP is that it imposes its own project structure on your projects. Well, what if I have an existing web app source project – I don’t want to have to mess around with .deployable directories etc. In most cases I’ve spent too much time messing around with WTP. Generally if it takes me more than 30mins to work out then I give up and look elsewhere – I don’t have endless spare time to be playing around with stuff that isn’t ready for prime time (to make things worse try moving projects from 0.x WTP to 1.x WTP)

Several months back I started prototyping some EJB3.0 code. Ok, so Eclipse didn’t have any EJB3.0 support so I started using JBoss’s Eclipse IDE plugin, and to my surpise was based on a hybrid version of WTP, which wasn’t compatible with my existing WTP configuration. So I had to abandon my current WTP installation and with JBoss’s hybrid. This was fine, and was ok until it came to JBoss Eclipse IDE’s half-hearted packaging and deployment. Come on guys – I don’t know if it has been updated since, but 6months ago or so when I last looked, the JBoss Eclipse IDE’s packaging wizards were just awful. Coming from WSAD and RAD which in comparison are Humvees of IDEs, the JBoss approach just didn’t cut it. Ok, so it got me started, but it was not the environment that I wanted to spend my time with.

A few months back I downloaded Netbeans 5.0 for unrelated reasons, because I wanted to check out the Matisse GUI builder everyone has been talking about. Wow. Now we’re talking. No more GridBagLayouts. Superb – very slick indeed. Having wetted my appetite, I wanted to see what 5.5 daily builds, and more recently the beta had to offer. Pleasantly surprised, J2EE and EJB3.0 development out of the box. What? No plugins to download? No – its ready to go. Everything you want, out of the box.

Reading this blog entry about Eclipse developers flooding to Netbeans, I know why… because I’m one of them.

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