InfoWorld review: Top Java programming tools

Eclipse, IntelliJ IDEA, NetBeans, and Oracle JDeveloper continue Java's tradition of rich and diverse development tools

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Top Java programming tools: NetBeans 6.9
NetBeans has made large strides in market share (measured by rate of adoption) during the last five years. According to an annual survey of Java IDEs published by New York-based BZ Research, NetBeans was in use at 17.9 percent of respondents' sites in 2005. As of this year, that number had doubled to 35.7 percent. This is by far the largest increase in adoption of any Java IDE during this period. In terms of popularity, NetBeans is now safely ensconced in the No. 2 spot behind Eclipse.

Part of this success derives from the careful attentions of its former host company, Sun Microsystems. When Oracle acquired Sun earlier this year, there was considerable concern in the Java community regarding the fate of NetBeans. This concern was intensified when Oracle withdrew its support for Sun's open source projects, such as OpenSolaris and the Kenai hosting project, among others. NetBeans' fate appeared so uncertain, we postponed this roundup until we could get a definitive word about the IDE's future from Oracle.

Oracle's decision to continue supporting NetBeans was communicated to us by Duncan Mills, the company's head of product management for developer tools. Said Mills, "We actively support both JDeveloper and NetBeans. JDeveloper is used internally and by our enterprise customers, who need a tool that robustly supports the Oracle Fusion Middleware solutions. NetBeans is our IDE offering for users who want an environment to develop with other technologies. We hope that they will eventually want to migrate to Oracle solutions and JDeveloper." With this pronouncement, it is safe to expect that NetBeans will continue its active pace of development. As mentioned in the introduction, due to Oracle's recent Java-based litigation, this continued sponsorship is a double-edged sword.

What stands out about NetBeans are its ease-of-use and a design that favors lightness and simplicity. Even the download site has features that delight. For example, to download NetBeans, you go to a screen that has a grid of the various editions (combinations of plug-ins and platform) preconfigured for certain tasks. Download what you need. Eclipse has a similarly useful feature, whereas IntelliJ and JDeveloper provide a single, omnibus download.

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NetBeans' editor with a list of to-do tasks extracted from the code in the bottom panel.
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