From Eclipse to Netbeans

on Tuesday, 13 March 2007
I've been using Eclipse as my IDE of choice ever since I switch over from Netbeans version 3. But after attending the Sun Tech Days 2007 Kuala Lumpur, I can see that the latest release version, Netbeans 5.5, has been tremendously improved. I daresay that I think it's coming on par with the capabilities of Eclipse, even if you take MyEclipse into consideration. I'm actually giving Netbeans 5.5 a go with my current development work and first impressions are both good and bad. I'm not really attempting a critical and in-depth comparison of both IDEs (since I just started on using Netbeans) but just presenting how Netbeans impressed on me when compared to my experience on Eclipse.

I'll start with the negative impressions:
  • Personalization and syntax coloring is something I'm particular about. Netbeans has very few customisation options and syntax coloring is very limited. But the good thing over Eclipse is that you can save the colour scheme as a profile, so that's a small plus.
  • There's no easy way to change look-and-feel; have to much command line parameters. Although projects like this makes things much better.
  • Seeing what compile errors I have is a pain in Netbeans. Code errors don't show up in the project or file hierarchy trees. I can only see errors in the current file I'm looking at and if I rebuild the project. Eclipse shows errors in the project tree and traces it from the offending file all the way to the root project container.
  • "Find Usages" is very limited compared to the similar search references function in Eclipse. It also forces me to still have to click on "Next" before the search actually takes place. Why can't it search by default?
  • There's no shortcut to jumping quickly to methods in a class. You have to either use the standard find text or use the navigator window. No biggie, but one gets used to being able to jump directly to a method from anywhere else in a class.
  • I don't like the fact code errors don't show up immediately. Maybe it only checks for errors while you've slowed down your typing for better performance but it does mean I have to move my cursor back. The slight pause before the error appears is sometimes disruptive.
  • I find the configuration options window baffling. Is it really necessary to separate basic and advanced? The basic version is much easier to use and navigate, but mostly useless. The options that really help with personalisation and customisation are all in the advanced. Can't better forms and dialogs be designed for the so-called advanced options?
And then the positive impressions:
  • Speed. I just can't help but notice that Netbeans works much faster than Eclipse. It even exits much faster. This is a huge plus.
  • I found the wide array of tools that comes with the basic installation very impressive. The additional packs are even better - the web designer, the mobility pack, the Java EE designers, the profiler... very nice.
  • Built-in mapping for Eclipse shortcuts. Which really helps transition from Eclipse to Netbeans, although I'm using my own slightly-tweaked Eclipse keymap.

Biased? Yea, looks like it, since I'm way more familiar with Eclipse than Netbeans. But looking at the features list of Netbeans 6, it looks like those are just the polish Netbeans needs to make it much more persuasive for me.

EDIT: 15/3/07 Fixed the subversion issue on Netbeans.

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