Sun's NetBeans 4.1

Snappy performance (even based on Swing), new features--including no-code Web services--and the right price (free) makes this Java IDE one heck of a deal.

June 28, 2005

3 Min Read
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I was able to create a CMP entity bean from our Oracle 9i database without writing a single line of code. The only problem occurred because the table referenced did not have a primary key. Once I fixed the problem in the database, the entity bean was happy again. Wizards provided an easy mechanism for creating a Session bean that referenced the CMP bean, and adding the appropriate lookup was no further than a mouse click on a menu away.Calling EJBs and databases and sending JMS messages are as simple as a mouse click with NetBeans 4.1.

I finished the application by whipping up a JSP that used JSTL (JavaServer Pages Tag Library) to reference the session bean and then built the project.

Testing the application requires the same steps as testing J2EE within other Java IDEs; an embedded Sun Java System Application Server 8.1 or Tomcat is used to deploy and run the application. I tested the application locally and then deployed it to a cluster of Sun Java System Application Server 8.1 instances through its DAS (Domain Admin Server) interface. After testing the deployed application, I was able to create a Web service from my beans, again with just a few mouse clicks. NetBeans natively generates DOC/LIT Web services and supports WS-Security in its Application Server 8.1.

What's truly impressive about NetBeans is its ability to debug an application through all the layers of technology from a single window. I was able to set a breakpoint on a JSTL tag in my JSP and then step all the way into the Java code behind the Session and Entity beans. Just being able to debug JSP would have been great, but Sun takes debugging to new heights (or should I say depths?) with NetBeans 4.1.

Like Eclipse, NetBeans 4.1 can be extended through plug-ins. One of the problems with building GUIs using Swing is the rigidity of the layout managers. Sun promises to fix this issue with a new plug-in for NetBeans. I was able to take a peek at an alpha version of Project Matisse, which includes a new, flexible layout manager and a drag-and-drop GUI builder. I was able to drag widgets onto the canvas using a layout manager with no constraints on placement. The GUI builder will be available in NetBeans."next" with a development build available this month.Also cool is the Profiler plug-in, which competes directly with Borland's OptimizeIt, only Sun's profiler is free (as in gratis). The profiler takes advantage of a Sun internal technology called JFluid, which allows instrumentation on Pcode, and will be included in Java 5 Update 4 JVM. It also provides the ability to analyze memory, code and CPU as well as allows you to filter the code you want to analyze so you don"t have to dig through tons of core Java or Swing methods to find your own.

It's been a long time since an IDE excited me as much as NetBeans 4.1. Snappy performance on a new build of Swing coupled with features such as refactor and no-code Web services as well as its ability to generate and interact with multiple types of beans and it's free? That's one heck of a deal.

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