Belated Solicited Opinion of NetBeans
  Posted December 04, 2002    PermaLink    Comments (0)  

Well, my mis-adventure with marketing folk has prompoted Oliver to write about their experience with NetBeans, so maybe I sohuld post my opinion that I was unkindly solicted about. First I'll start with the nits that anny me:

Startup Time
Yes, it is dog slow. Apparently they have a guilty consince about it since it was mentioned in the first e-mail without any real provocation. Seriously, what is it doing at start up? Re-hashing the file indexes or something? It is slow and it grinds my hard drive. And it's not inadiquate setup either, I got 512MB, 1Ghz, and -Xmx256m. Once it starts it's fine, so I just usually surf the web when it's starting up.
Bad Attitude about Bugs
I have one case and point for this one: using F12 on an ant build does not give the same support as if you used the built in java compiler. It worked in 3.3, the bug was know and a fix known before 3.4 shipped. But it didn't make the code freeze so it got shipped without it, jsu so they could make a date (that already slipped a week). The analysis in the bug said that it only affected users who were using keyboard only, and they could get the same effect with the mouse. The truth is that it's a lousy excuse not to include it because it's plain old anti-user. We are talking about funtionality that existed in a previous release that was lost in a future release, and it was wll known how to fix it. I have to agree with oliver that the atttiude towards some bugs needs to imporove, and featuritus should take a back seat to fixing bigs that break existing functionality.

So those are my problems, now a marketing type survey might be interested to know what I see in other competing products like, say Eclipse, that might send me to that camp...

Dating the New Girl
No doubt Eclipse is the new toy in town, and as in High School there is someting to be said for dating the new girl (or getting asked out by the new boy, to be gender neutral here). Having the latest and greatest is nice, but even cars loose their new car smell, and it's just another car after a while
Built in Code Quality Checks
The code quality checks in Eclipse are nice, especially the context sensitive import searches. Much nicer than anything NetBeans has. Because it is integrated into the errors list clicking on it behaves like you would expect it to... it focuses the cursor there, and you can use the next error hot key to get there too. NetBeans+Checkstyle (the closest thing) is not integrated into F12 next error, it only highlights the line green. It also doesn't focus the cursor, and the green highlihgt does weird things when you edit it (like being half there). And it isn't sensitive to edits in the source file, so you have to work from the bottom up usually. I can also only check one file from the IDE at a time, rather than being able to click on the explorerer and check an entire folder at once. This would be somehting I would like to see improved in NetBeans. [See my entry on PMD, it addresses this issue]

But given all of that I prorobly won't be going over to Eclipse 2.1, even with the new ant integration features, why?

Performance is a Red Hearing
The performance thing is over-blown, So Eclipse uses native widgets, the java backen still gets over-loaded and all the widget re-paints still get bogged down in the event displatcher. And I've seen more non-startup slowdowns in Eclipse than in NetBeans, especially when I do somehing little like change a propject preference, sometimes it takes 3 minutes for the chagne to take! That's because it insists on re-compiling all 2000 java classes in the project I have loaded, all of them, from scratch, just because I added a new jar library! Anyone who thinks Eclipse is better performing than NetBeans must be working in small projects, or is micro-benchmarking, or believes anything marketing says.
Swing Editor
The NetBeans Swing Editor blows the one Eclipse has out of the water. Why? Eclipse doesn't have one! Not that I can find anyway. To extend the anti-Swing bias to the tools provided is inexcusable by Eclipse. Swing apps don't all look ugly and perform like crap and now that people are starting to code more rich clients since Web Interfaces are intrincically limited, more and more rich clients will be written.
Ant Integration
Elipse is getting better with bringing in AntView to 2.1, but it still doesn't have the holy grail of ant integration I am looking for: I want to take one (or more targets) and make a toolbar button or keyboard shortcut to execute them. And I want multiple targets for each build file, not just one. And Ant runs noticeable slower in Eclipse than in NetBeans. Incramental compialtion may enable some cool beans stuff but it is not being used for the cannonical builds on the build machine so I want to use the cannonical build while I develop. One thing Eclipse 2.1 has I wish NetBeans had is code compleation for the ant tasks. That's probobly feature #2 that would be nice (better checkstyle suport is #1, with all features not breaking previous funtionality being feature #0).
These last two items will in all likelyhood keep me with NetBeans, despide concerted effort to drive me away or lull me over to something else. If Eclipse could do those better than NetBeans then I would take a nice week-ling test drive of eclipse rather than the day long one I did a couple of weeks ago.

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