According to product release notes on the group's Web site, the update includes features associated with both J2SE and J2ME application development. NetBeans 4.0 incorporates a number of the Java language improvements found in J2SE 5.0, including the use of metadata, generics, and autoboxing of primitive types. NetBeans 4.0 also supports Java refactoring, giving developers the ability to make substantial changes to their code without affecting the behavior of the application.
NetBeans 4.0 supports several new standards associated with J2ME, such as support for the Mobile Information Device Profile (MIDP) 2.0 and Connected Limited Device Configuration (CLDC) 1.1. Template-based coding options allow developers to edit and compile custom configurations for multiple devices without having to maintain separate source files for each device. The J2ME module is currently available as a separate download.
Another major change in NetBeans 4.0 involves a new project system based on Apache Ant, a portable, XML-based build management tool. Ant is designed to automate the build management process, including the ability to develop and run unit tests. Ant, which has become the de facto open-source standard for Java build management tools, also provides architecture designed to support third-party build management and code testing modules.
Besides the features available in the current beta release, the NetBeans organization announced plans to add two other improvements to the final version 4.0 update. J2EE development support, slated for October release as a separate module, will extend the NetBeans IDE to allow EJB and Web services development. The J2EE module collection will also feature a Web services wizard to ease the process of developing Web services within the IDE.
A second feature, the NetBeans performance profiler, includes support for memory profiling and leak detection, CPU performance profiling and integration into the NetBeans IDE workflow. The profiler is now available as a pre-beta release, and it will be ready for beta release as a separate download in December.
NetBeans, a community-governed organization sponsored and financed by Sun Microsystems, currently develops tools under an open-source model. The software is freely available for both commerical and non-commercial use under the open source Sun Public License.
NetBeans 4.0 is slated for final release in December. The IDE is available for Windows, Linux, Solaris and Mac OS X operating systems. The NetBeans 4.0 beta release is available here, including the optional development modules, as a set of free downloads.