Apache NetBeans Is Still My Preferred Option for Java Development

Discover what are the reasons why to me, Apache NetBeans is still the best Java IDE you can use

Photo by Maximilian Weisbecker on Unsplash

Let me start from the beginning. I always have been a Java Developer since my time at University. Even that I first learned another less-known programming (Modula-2), I quickly jump to Java to do all the different assignments and pretty much every task on my journey as a student and later as a software engineer.

I was always looking for the best IDE that I could find to speed up my programming tasks. The main choice was Eclipse at the university, but I have never been an Eclipse fan, and that has become a problem.

If you are in the Enterprise Software industry, you have noticed that pretty much every Developer-based tool is based on Eclipse because its licensing and its community behind make the best option. But I never thought that Eclipse was a great IDE, and it was too flexible but at the same time too complex.

So at that time is when I discover NetBeans. I think the first version I tried was in branch 3.x, and Sun Microsystem developed it at that time. It was quite much better than Eclipse. Indeed, the number of plugins available was not comparable with Eclipse, but the things that it did, it did it awesomely.

To me, if I need to declare why at that time Netbeans was better than Eclipse, probably the main things will be these:

  • Simplicity in the Run Configuration: Still, I think most Java IDE makes things too complex just to run the code. NetBeans simple Run without needed to create a Run Configuration and configure it (you can do it, but you are not mandated to do so)
  • Better Look & Feel: This is more based on a personal preference, but I prefer the default configuration from NetBeans compared with Eclipse.

So because of that, Netbeans become my default app to do my Java Programming, but Oracle came, and things change a little. With the acquisition of Sun Microsystems from Oracle, NetBeans was stalled like many other Open source projects. For years no many updates and progress.

It is not that they deprecated the product, but Oracle had a different IDE at the time JDeveloper, which was the main choice. This is easy to understand. I continued loyal to NetBeans even that we had another big guy in the competition: IntelliJ IDEA.

This is the fancy option, the one most developers used today for Java programming, and I can understand why. I’ve tried several times in my idea to try to feel the same feelings that others did, and I could read the different articles, and I acknowledge some of the advantages of the solution:

  • Better performance: It is clear that the response time from the IDE is better with IntelliJ IDEA than NetBeans because it doesn’t come from an almost 20-years journey, and it could start from scratch and use modern approaches for the GUI.
  • Fewer Memory Resources: Let’s be honest: All IDE consumes tons of memory. No one does great here (unless you are talking about text editors with Java compiler; that is a different story). NetBeans indeed requires more resources to run properly.

So, I did the switch and started using the solution from JetBrains, but it never stuck with me, because to me is still too complex. A lot of fancy things, but less focus on the ones that I need. Or, just because I was too used to how NetBeans do things, I could not do the mental switch that is required to adopt a new tool.

And then… when everything seems lost, something awesome happens: Netbeans was donated to the Apache Foundation and became Apache NetBeans. It seems like a new life for the tool providing simple things like Dark Mode and keeping the solution up-to-date to the progress in Java Development.

So, today, Apache NetBeans is still my preferred IDE, and I couldn’t voucher more for the usage of this awesome tool. And these are the main points I would like to raise here:

  • Better Maven Management: To me, the way and the simplicity you can manage your Maven project with NetBeans is out of this league. It is simple and focuses on performance, adding a new dependency without go to the pom.xml file, updating dependencies on the fly.
  • Run Configuration: Again, this still is a differentiator. When I’m coding something fast because of a new kind of utility, I don’t like to waste time creating run configuration or adding a maven exec plugin to my pom.xml to run the software I just coded. Instead, I need to click Run, a green button, and let the magic begins.
  • There is no need for everything else: Things evolve too fast in the Java programming world, but even today, I never feel that I was missing some capability or something in my NetBeans IDE that I could get if I move to a more modern alternative. So, no trade-offs here at this level.

So, I am aware that probably my choice is because I have a biased view of this situation. After all, this has been my main solution for more than a decade now, and I’m just used to it. But I consider myself an open person, and if I saw a clear difference, I wouldn’t have second thoughts of ditching NetBeans as I did with many other solutions in the past (Evernote, OneNote, Apple Mail, Gmail, KDE Basket, Things, Wunderstling.. )

So, if you have some curiosity about seeing how Apache NetBeans has progressed, please take a look at the latest version and give it a try. Or, if you feel that you don’t connect with the current tool, give it a try again. Maybe you have the same biased view as I have!!!

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Alexandre Vazquez: