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Jack Woehr

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

IDE Rather Not : Trial Separation from NetBeans

December 22, 2008

A few months ago and in the midst of a full-press open source coding effort I wandered away from my most prized Interactive Development Environment, NetBeans. Having just released PigIron 0.9 Image of noble porcine I have some observations about IDE abandonment issues.

My first IDE was Borland. It's been an ambiguous and challenged relationship with Interactive Development Environments ever since then. I never really believed in them. They're great for making sure teams have a uniform project view and for generating proof-of-concept code.

But as the project grows, one of two things happens.

  1. You become more bound to the IDE.
  2. You struggle free but have to yank the IDE hooks out of your project.
The question for me always was, both as a developer and as a development manager, was, "Does this IDE own me / my team forever? Am I dependent? Do I have to support the development effort, be it commercial or open source? If I think the IDE provider is going the wrong direction, what will I do and where will my project be?"

What got me onto NetBeans, rather, Xelfi as it was called then, was that NetBeans' ideas about what was good and proper were like mine: they really tried to keep the IDE's hooks out of your project. And I was very disciplined about Not Going There when There meant I was handing over the keys.

And yet I was not completely immune. Years later, some of my stuff can't be handled by NetBeans form generator, the format has changed too much.

Also, Web applications generated by NetBeans depend on settings in nbproject/private which means that you have to rehash that to distribute your open source project. But then NetBeans might have trouble with your project; the parameters of what you can change with out surprising NetBeans behaviour are not crystal clear, nor should they be. Or you can give all your users instructions on how to set up NetBeans to make your stuff build.

NetBeans is the still the best IDE for me, because it's full yet it's lite. Even so, you know? I haven't used it for months. JEdit, Emacs, vim, and Midnight Commander; scripts in rexx, perl, sh and m4; and a very judicious touch on the keyboard (not coding my way up the creek until I'm sure where my paddle is) are doing the job for me.

NetBeans, my dearest IDE: If we are divorced, it won't be because I'm leaving you for another IDE!

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