NetBeans 3.6 IDE released

Open source platform's look and feel boosted

NetBeansIDE 3.6, a major revision to the open source platform, is now available, adding improved windowing and debugging and backing for J2EE 1.4.

The platform is intended to enable development of applications on systems ranging from mobile devices to multi-tier enterprise systems. Officially released last week by and Sun Microsystems, the update to the Java-based development platform features a windowing system to provide a native look and feel on Windows and the Macintosh. Also featured are enhanced navigation and workflow and improved JSP debugging through support of Java Specification Request 45, and Sun said.

“Primarily, the leading feature is an overhaul of the look and feel and workflow in the IDE,” in which Windows and Mac OS users will have a look and feel resembling what these platforms offer natively, said Steve Wilson, director of NetBeans technology. The same look and feel function will be extended to the Linux Gnome Toolkit in Version 4.0 of NetBeans IDE due this fall.

The GUI builder in Version 3.6 enables building of rich clients that use both AWT (Abstract Windowing Kit) or Java Foundation Classes.  A GridBagLayout Customizer enables customizing of the GridBagLayout to better match a developer’s coding style.

“This is a pretty major release for us. We added a lot of functionality in terms of things that we think developers will like,” such as J2EE 1.4 support, for development of JSP and servlets with the newest API set from J2EE. Although J2EE 1.4 has been touted as the Web services-enabled version of J2EE, Web services functionality is added to NetBeans through the Java Web services developer pack, which is a separate download available from Sun.

The source code editor in 3.6 has been improved to allow cold folding, in which various areas of source code can be collapsed to make it easier to understand what is going on in the code and make it easier to navigate the file, Wilson said. Smart brackets enable the code editor to automatically close brackets, quotes, and parentheses while editing source code.

Integrated testing support through JUnit also has been added. JUnit is an open source framework for unit testing. Support for Ant, which an Apache kit for building complex applications, also has been improved to offer better ease of use. Version 3.6 also offers better support for CVS (Concurrent Versions System), an open source version control system. Also featured is a Task List window.

Online help is boosted through integration with JavaHelp 2.0. Additionally, basic support is provided for the J2SE 1.5 “Tiger” beta version. Version 1.5 has features such as generics, to make it convenient to work with different types of objects, and autoboxing, providing a simpler syntax for switching between primitive and object types.

Additionally, a plug-in is provided that allows developers to link to the Java System Application Server, Platform Edition 8, for rapid development and debugging of J2EE applications.

Sun and IBM had been in discussions about Sun joining the Eclipse open source initiative and Sun folding NetBeans into Eclipse. But Sun decided against folding NetBeans into Eclipse because of the large investment in NetBeans, Wilson said. Sun also has not joined Eclipse.

The NetBeans platform serves as the foundation of the upcoming Java Studio Creator tool, intended to provide ease of use in Java development. The tool is due in late-June. NetBeans 3.6 is available for download at

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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