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
With RAD 7, you can develop Web services and Web service clients, generate WSDL, and even do unit testing against a private UDDI service. In addition, there is support for IBM’s DADX, a DB2 XML extension for use by Web services. Alas, the IBM-centricity factors into the UDDI testing as well: It supports only private registries that use IBM-based technologies.
At the coding level, RAD 7 provides a static analysis tool that incorporates more than 200 rules developed by IBM regarding possible Java defects and coding errors. While the other IDEs in this review offer more rules, IBM’s solution flagged errors that those products did not catch. The rules were enhanced by good descriptions of the reasons for the rules and sample code for fixing the problems.
This extensive help reflects a long-standing IBM tradition of great documentation. RAD has links to comprehensive tutorials and IBM’s Web site — well known in the developer community for its rich collection of articles — provides additional resources.
If applications require a scripting language to “glue” portions together, RAD 7 has built-in support for Jython (Java-based Python). Unfortunately, the IDE cannot tell automatically what is Jython and what is Java, although syntactically the languages are entirely different. This can lead to actions that make the IDE balk.
This flaw, small as it is, reflects a frequent experience I had with RAD 7 — many features are not implemented well. For example, installing the software was very difficult. After considerable support from IBM, I got the product installed correctly, although the original problems were never identified.
There’s more. An option to spell-check comments and literals (a useful capability) does not work because IBM ships no dictionary; if the feature is enabled, it marks all words as misspelled. The code-checking tools occasionally prescribe invalid corrections. Dynamic help in dialogs frequently takes you to the wrong level of help, so you’re forced to navigate back to your specific context.
Over time, the accumulation of these problems makes this otherwise good product frustrating to use.
I have one other complaint: IBM is far behind the other vendors in supporting existing Java standards. It is the only IDE in this review that has no support for either Java EE 5 or Java SE 6.
I’d recommend RAD 7 to sites already heavily committed to IBM, due to the product’s special support for those products, especially DB2 and WebSphere. Also, sites that want the same IDE for developers in many countries should like RAD 7, as it is implemented in far more foreign languages than any other IDE. However, the comparatively high price and my other complaints should encourage sites to examine all options before committing their dollars.
Borland/CodeGear JBuilder 2007 Enterprise Edition
JBuilder 2007 garnered first place in our last roundup. This edition is the first release since the product was ported to the Eclipse platform. It is shipped by CodeGear, a division of Borland that focuses on IDE tools.