I just finished moving my project Zeppelin development over from NetBeans 3.6 to the 4.0 beta. It’s really very nice now that I’ve got it going. The problems were all in the Projects subsystem, which in my experience is often the Achilles’ heel of IDEs.

The Trouble With Projects · They’re the first thing you have to deal with when you’re trying to use a new IDE, and it’s unlikely your previous experience with other IDEs is going to be the slightest help.

It’s even worse than that; most IDEs put a lot of work into their Project system, and when you create a new project you have a lot of complicated options to choose from, most with long-lasting effects, and if you’ve never used the system before, your chances of making all the right choices are pretty well zero. Which means you’re probably going to have to tear up your new project before too long and rebuild it, once you’ve learned what all the options mean. If you’re really smart and really lucky, you’ll get it right the second time and not have to go back again. I’m usually neither smart nor lucky enough, and have to tear up the pavement a few times. This is painful because when I get down with a new IDE, it’s usually because I have some real work I want do, not because I’m researching IDEs.

NB4 Stuff · First, of all, projects: they’re Ant files, and that’s all they are. Nothing hidden, nothing private, nothing obscure. If you want to you can get in and edit them, such as for example if running parts of your test suite requires a whole bunch of commands to make sure servers are running on other systems, well, no problem. This is really a remarkably good idea, in fact the kind of thing that when you see it you realize other ways of doing it are just wrong. Of course, this also means that whatever you knew about how to set up a NetBeans project is now probably wrong... see griping above. But in this case, the pay-off is worth it.

The second thing I notice is that the JUnit integration seems to be slicker than in 3.6; I can arrange to keep all my tests in a set of parallel directories off to the side where they don’t clutter up the main sources, but all the import statements just work, somehow.

They also claim that 4.0 is going to be faster, and the interactive editing and navigating really seems to be. The compilation process feels about the same or a little slower, which might be the price you pay for Ant. It’s plenty fast enough for me.

Bottom Line? · If you’ve got a complex project on NetBeans 3.6, migrating to the 4.0 beta is going to involve some pain learning the new project setup, so don’t do it when you’re facing a stiff deadline. But aside from that, it looks like a step forward. And I haven’t gone near the coolio profiling stuff yet.

author · Dad
colophon · rights
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August 25, 2004
· Technology (90 fragments)
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