I’ve been running the NetBeans 5.0 pre-beta for a week or two now, and I thought I’d post some real-time notes for what I turn up. Summary: some really neat stuff, fewer bugs than you’d think, one major disappointment. [Update: Alt-P is gone, good.]

Bear in mind that I run the Mac OS X version, so if you live in some other universe your mileage may vary.

Netbeans 5 pre-beta on Mac OS X

Looks Nice · Although I didn’t see any talk about this in the release notes, the fonts and rendition shifted subtly between 4.1 and now. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but the whole thing looks a lot more pleasing to the eye, and as a veteran of decades of coding, anything that makes my code look prettier is my friend. In particular, my little screenshot above looks a lot better than the poorly anti-aliased examples here; hey guys, use a Mac to do your screenshots.

The Mac integration on the whole is good, it does a damn fine imitation of a native app; I suspect some of the credit goes to recent Swing goodies. Irritatingly, I can’t get some of the keystrokes to work, for example ^-F1 to display Javadocs, something that’s real handy. But that’s liveable.

New Stuff · I haven’t had a chance to dive into the refactoring or CVS support, I’ll write those up when I try them. (Hmm, maybe I don’t refactor enough. I change class, method, and variable names all the time, but that was already there.)

The big thing is the improved autocomplete. It’s a lot faster, and it does more things; this is real goodness. Weirdly, there are now two autocomplete characters: control-space for most situations, and alt-P when you’re in a method’s argument list. I don’t understand why this is necessary, but it only took my fingers a couple of hours to learn it. [Aha, Roman says they’re fixing that.]

The error-bar down the right side of the screen is helpful. When you change something that produces a lot of cascading syntax errors, it speeds you up a bit. But what I use it for is when I’m way down in the bowels of a class and I yank the scrollbar up to the top to look at some member variables, there’s a little doohickey to click on that takes you back to where you were editing. Yes, I know that command-Home, control-K will do that too, but sometimes one’s hand is on the mouse. Apparently they copied this from Eclipse, which is just fine by me; if programmers didn’t copy each other’s good ideas we’d still be in the software Neolithic.

Performance · More or less about the same. The faster auto-complete is awfully nice. Oddly, I feel subjectively that short classes compile faster than before, but long ones slower. This would make sense if they’d somehow reduced the ant-startup latency but the latest javac were a little slower. Puzzling.

Bugs · Really not bad at all for something that’s advertised as pre-beta. There’s one I actually like: On OS X, you hit Option-P for the method-arguments autocomplete, and while it works fine, it also inserts the cutest little Greek “π” character.

There’s one real irritating bug that’s been in NetBeans since I’ve used it, and it’s long past time it was fixed. A bunch of different things make NetBeans lose keyboard focus on the editor window, and you have to click on your code before you can type again. Modal dialogues, most notably “Find”, are particularly guilty. I guess this must be just a Mac thing, but I’d love to see it fixed.

Major Disappointment · NetBeans still doesn’t give my pretty green bar to reward me for Unit Testing. And it’s worse than that; I see from Elliotte Rusty Harold’s excellent JUnit 4 write-up that the green bar may soon be a thing of the past. Sob.


author · Dad · software · colophon · rights

September 16, 2005
· Technology (77 fragments)
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