The Javasphere is settling into two recent announcements by Oracle: The features list for Java EE 7 has been finalized and version 7.0 of the NetBeans IDE ships this week. (The identical release numbers are purely a coincidence. Despite that, the numbers are meaningful. I'll take this up in a moment.)
Java EE 7 is not expected to ship until next year and so, as the time approaches and implementations begin to make their way into beta, we will explore the new features both in full articles and undoubtedly in Eric Bruno's blog posts. My focus today is on NetBeans 7, which more than other IDE releases (such as the upcoming Eclipse release train) has special significance.
The first and most important thing to note is that this release exists at all. It fulfills a promise made by Oracle late last year to keep NetBeans going. Version 7 contains numerous new features, many of which are early support for the syntax changes and innovations in Java SE 7. We'll examine these once the NetBeans product ships later this week. I confess that after Oracle's OpenSolaris fiasco and the awkward handling of the Hudson project, it was not clear to me that the company's support for NetBeans would be deep or long. Moreover, I wasn't sure that the open-source aspect of NetBeans would be preserved.
Those concerns have been allayed. NetBeans is still open source, the product is moving forward, and from my conversations with Oracle, it's beginning to occupy an important place in the company's tool offerings. NetBeans is seen internally to the company as the vanguard IDE product. That is, it is the crucible in which the features of the language and supporting technologies are developed, explored, and evaluated. The insight derived from this work is then reused in building out Oracle's enterprise IDE, JDeveloper.
Because JDeveloper is targeted at enterprises, its slow addition of Java 7 features represents no particular limitation. It can wait for NetBeans to test the waters first. JDeveloper advances very much in concert with Oracle's other development products. As a result, it carries the same release number as the database (to wit, JDeveloper 11). And like its product peers, new releases are indicated by adding nearly endless decimal points to the base version number. For example, consider the current version number: JDeveloper 11g Release 1 (18.104.22.168.0). The fact that Oracle retained NetBeans' own numbering (the previous release was indeed v. 6.9) shows that the IDE is not being swallowed by the Borg and will continue to live on as a cutting-edge, open source product from Oracle.
This is good news not only because it shows that Oracle can bring itself to embrace an OSS product in which it sees value, but also because NetBeans is a product that is especially worthy of this support. I've long felt (and frequently stated) that NetBeans is the friendliest and most responsive of the OSS Java IDEs. Its implementation quality is particularly striking if you use Eclipse. Eclipse wins hands-down when you compare the plug-in ecosystems. But if you're like me in that you use primarily mainstream development tools, then the number of alternative plugins doesn't enter much into the choice of IDEs. In such a case, I suggest you have a look at NetBeans. I suspect you'll like what you see.
IT Development Survey
Longtime senior contributing editor Scott Ambler has posted a new survey to assess the state of the art for development practices in IT. If you'll be kind enough to take the 5-7 minutes to fill it out here, he'll share and comment on the results in a later column. Results of his previous surveys have been used in Dr. Dobb's, Information Week, and other publications as the basis of informed discussions of tools and techniques in use today. Thanks in advance!
— Andrew Binstock, Dr. Dobb's Executive Editor