It’s been over a year since we’ve heard a peep out of Oracle about the NetBeans IDE. But suddenly, today, the company announced that version 7.0 was complete and ready for download.
This new version is the first IDE to support JDK 7. NetBeans 7.0 also adds additional controls and support for both of Oracle’s application servers: WebLogic and GlassFish.
Duncan Mills, senior director of product management for NetBeans, said that this release is primarily intended to give developers an IDE in which they can fully utilize the changes in JDK 7.
“Java SE 7 is not yet finalized, but we’ve been working very closely with the Java team and have a very good set of support built into NetBeans 7, which is hopefully all we’ll need when it comes out. But if there are any last-minute changes, we can release a quick point release to round off the corners,” he said.
While JDK 7 is not yet complete, it is currently available as a developer preview. NetBeans 7 is the first IDE to support this developer preview with syntax handlers and code completion for the updated language. Additionally, this release supports Maven 3 and JUnit 4.8.2.
The support for JDK 7 is not just limited to syntax highlighting, however. Mills said that Java SE 7 introduces a number of changes that can make the language less verbose and easier to work with, particularly around dealing with generics and switches. Those new language changes are understood by NetBeans, and the IDE will suggest where they can be applied to save developers time and effort.
While previous versions of NetBeans had supported deployment to GlassFish and the WebLogic application servers, NetBeans 7 adds the ability to administrate and manage those servers from within the IDE.
“This is more than deployment support,” said Mills. “This is more of an integrated support from within the IDE. Not only can the developer deploy to an application server, they can also manage those servers. I can start and stop that remote server. I can manage the service. If, say, a connection is not defined, I can define that connection remotely for the app server.”
NetBeans 7 also smoothes over the undercarriage of the IDE to better allow developers to construct applications on top of it. Similar to the way Eclipse can be turned into a rich client platform, NetBeans can be repurposed as an application platform itself.
Mills said that this release includes enhancements that make it easier for developers to accomplish this. He added that NetBeans is built with Swing rather than SWT.
The Matisse GUI Builder has also received a revision to make it more flexible. Mills said drag-and-drop methods can be used to create a UI, then automatically generate the code underneath needed to build that UI in an application.
Mills said that the IDE averages around 550,000 downloads per month, and that the 7.0 preview released in November saw around 40,000 downloads. He added that, worldwide, NetBeans still has around 880,000 users. Up to a quarter of those users use the IDE to write PHP, he said. To that end, this update also includes performance enhancements for its PHP tools.