Now online here. First impressions including complaints, and a blogging-policy conundrum.
Smiles · It starts up faster, and maybe runs a little faster too; anyhow, it’s fast. It looks better, I’m not sure why, did they change the typography? It’s got this nice new window called “Navigator” that’s hard to describe, but pretty addictive. Maybe I’m imagining this, but the mouse-overs seem a little smarter. The subtle highlight on the current line pleases my eyes, but obviously that’s going to be a matter of personal taste. At the NetBeans shop in Prague they must have several basements full of designer-gnomes who do icons all day every day, the IDE just drips with ’em. I’m an avowed Tufte disciple and thus suspicious, but at least three-quarters of them are information-bearing, which is way better than the industry average.
I understand that if I were doing J2EE-wrangling there are all sorts of new goodies in NB4.1 that would make me happy, but I don’t do that kind of thing (see below). For a POJO kinda guy like me, NB4.1 looks like a solid meat-and-potatoes step forward.
Gripes · Maybe I’m being frivolous, maybe I’m straining at gnats, but you know, I really miss my JUnit green bar. Whenever the NetBeans guys get pestered about this, they mutter darkly about Ant, and the Ant-based project system is so obviously right that I hate to be a whiner, but... I want my green bar dammit.
My #1 gripe with NetBeans—with all IDEs really, but NetBeans is the victim currently present—is the project system, which is complicated, subtle, and you have to master it before you can start doing useful work. Or you can do what I did and kind of guess and take lots of defaults, and I just know that the project setup for Zeppelin could be a lot better. Is there a good tutorial write-up anywhere on project-design trade-offs, a cookbook kind of thing? If there is, let me know and I’ll point to it here.
A new thing in 4.1 is, for each project, a display of the “Libraries” and “Test Libraries” folders. I griped on the mailing list and they explained that this is real useful in the further reaches of J2EE-land. Now I have nothing against J2EE programmers, many of them go on to lead happy and useful lives, it’s a dirty job but someone has to do it etc... but those folders are taking up prime waterfront real-estate in my Projects window, which is smaller since the arrival of the Navigator. I’m delighted to yield space to the excellent Navigator, but how about a switch to suppress this J2EE imperialism?
Blogging Policy · Generally, engineers get pretty partisan about their own creations, and the product groups around Sun are no exception; one of the nice things about the blogging explosion is the scope for some healthy—and educational, in my opinion—chest-beating. Those NetBeans guys, though, they’re not just “pretty partisan”, they’re two or three notches above that. They’re convinced they have something that can beat the competition, and speaking of beating the competition, they prefer big heavy clubs with spikes on them.
So for the first time, I sent an email to the internal bloggers’ forum here at Sun suggesting that we dial it back and avoid anything that smelled like trash talk. Here’s the problem: I felt bad about doing it. Because these guys were speaking in an authentic, unforced voice, nobody was telling them what to say, they were genuinely pumped about what we’re building and genuinely pissed at the competition. Eventually I felt better because some good discussion ensued, much of it along the lines of “Yeah, he’s right, chill out guys.” In terms of meeting Sun’s business goals, I think that chilling out is appropriate. But if I really believe what I’ve been saying about transparency being a categorically good thing, and if we think we’re going to win by speaking what we think is truth, as clearly as possible, well then what?