Reinvigorated Java IDEs change the development landscape
Java IDEs have improved steadily over the last few years. Products from IBM, Borland, and Sun show just how far they've come
Java IDEs are one of the most used app dev tools in corporate development. They are also among the most capable developer products on the market. With that in mind, it’s time to ask yourself: Are you using the Java IDE best suited to your needs, or is it time to re-evaluate?
InfoWorld last did a head-to-head comparison of these products in March 2005, and since then, the IDEs have all undergone important changes. This time, I decided to examine the winner of that review (Borland JBuilder) plus the winners of InfoWorld’s Technology of the Year awards, in the Java IDE product category, for 2006 and 2007 — IBM Rational and Sun NetBeans, respectively.
I was impressed by how much these products have matured during the past two years but surprised that they haven’t advanced further in some respects. Other products in the Java developer’s toolkit — static code analysis, unit testing, and build management, for example — have seen more progress in this time frame.
IBM Rational Application Developer for WebSphere Software 7.0
Big Blue’s entry, colloquially referred to as RAD 7, is based on Eclipse, the open source software framework that also powers Borland/CodeGear’s JBuilder product line. Eclipse was initially a Java IDE, but in recent years, it’s been repositioned as a framework into which manifold plug-ins can be added, thereby constructing all sorts of tools (many of which have nothing to do with Java development).
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RAD 7 adds several components to its modified Eclipse base. As befits IBM, many of these are oriented toward enterprise applications. They include portlet and portal development tools, as well as extensive database support. The database support, which predictably favors IBM’s DB2, includes the ability to write user-defined functions (UDFs), stored procedures, and SQLJ code—all unique capabilities among the products reviewed here.
Diagramming and modeling are limited, however: RAD 7 supports only two UML diagrams (versus eight and nine for NetBeans and JBuilder, respectively). For fuller diagram support from IBM, you must buy the more expensive IBM Rational Software Architect.