NetBeans Takes The Gold

“NetBeans wins over Eclipse this year, because NetBeans has made significant progress and growth relative to Eclipse.” —O’Reilly

“The good news begins with the NetBeans Welcome screen, where the ever-tighter connection of developers to their tool community is evidenced by the inclusion of blogs as well as community news.” —eweek

When NetBeans recently nabbed the 2007 InfoWorld Award for Java IDE Innovator, the award was another highlight in a season of good press. But the IDE’s acclaim did not happen overnight; the momentum had been building since the release of NetBeans 4.0 in December 2004. It continued through the releases of NetBeans 4.1 and 5.0, and with the October 2006 release of NetBeans 5.5 there was no denying the IDE's explosive growth and adoption rate.

The NetBeans IDE has gained industry-wide recognition for its portability, ease-of-use, and—with the release of the 5.5 version and its add-on packs—improved productivity. For Jan Chalupa, NetBeans’s Director of Engineering, and his team, the positive feedback has not gone unnoticed.

“It's definitely encouraging and satisfying to see that the hard work we invested into improving NetBeans since the 4.0 release is paying off. We were not only able to fix the performance and usability problems the older versions of NetBeans suffered from, but we also kept up with the latest technologies, and added unique and innovative features.”

The revamp has earned NetBeans an impressive roster of awards and positive reviews from print and online magazines. Likewise, the response from users has been favorable—downloads on the NetBeans site hit the 12-milion mark in December 2006.

According to NetBeans’s Director of Evangelism Judith Lilienfeld, the recent accolades and statistics are a great validation and recognition of the hard work done by engineers and evangelists, and the resulting disruption that NetBeans has created in the market. She spoke recently about NetBeans’s previous challenges, its new favored status, and what lies ahead in 2007.

NetBeans has won the
                         InfoWorld Innovator Award.
InfoWorld Innovator Award 2007.

NetBeans has just won two technology awards from O'Reilly's, the Infoworld Innovator Award and received numerous positive reviews for the NetBeans 5.5 release. To what do you attribute the turnaround?

Yes—quite a nice way to celebrate the new year. If you read through the reviews and awards, you will notice some things mentioned again and again: ease of use, a short learning curve, and the increased developer productivity. Also, let's not forget that the NetBeans IDE runs—without any changes—on all the different operating systems. This portability is a key value proposition for Java as well as the NetBeans IDE and Platform.

What is the NetBeans Platform?

NetBeans is both an IDE and a Rich Client Platform (RCP). A Rich Client Platform is just a fancy name for the minimal NetBeans functionality that is needed to build a rich client application. Anything built on top of the NetBeans Platform can be called a Rich Client Platform application. There are people all around the world building RCPs on the NetBeans Platform—one of those applications is the award-winning NetBeans IDE. It used to be that building NetBeans RCP applications was a bit cumbersome, but that changed in February 2006 with the release of NetBeans IDE 5.0 when we added features that dramatically accelerate the creation of NetBeans RCP applications. The industry and community took notice, so look for some announcements later this year about NetBeans RCP applications.

NetBeans was around before Eclipse, why did industry recognition take so long?

It boils down to three simple reasons. First, several years ago we had some performance and usability problems. Second, at that same time we had a somewhat confusing message: there were too many different developer tools based on NetBeans and it was hard to figure out which to use. Third, while all that was happening IBM launched the Eclipse phenomenon with major marketing dollars. When I joined the team a little over two years ago we released NetBeans 4.0 and we could not get any industry publications to cover the release. But things have obviously changed. So if you haven't looked at NetBeans in a while, you need to take a new look. Check out some of the stories of developers who switched from Eclipse to NetBeans.

                         and the Evangelism Team Keep NetBeans Moving.
Judith and the Evangelism Team Keep NetBeans Moving.

What exactly does a Director of Evangelism do?

It means that I get the credit for the work of some very smart people. The evangelism team has been out there pounding the pavement talking, demoing, and presenting the NetBeans IDE and NetBeans Platform all over the world for the past couple of years. We have a great product (which engineering has worked very hard to give us) but to get folks interested we still need to get out there and talk to developers geek-to-geek. That's what the team does and they are great at it.

What kind of developers should be using NetBeans?

NetBeans IDE 5.5 leads the industry in its support for Java EE 5 development. We are very proud of that. We wanted to make it easier for regular people to develop Java EE applications. But, let's not forget that our Java ME support is second to none. Besides Java ME and Java EE, we have the NetBeans GUI Builder (formerly code named Project Matisse) for Java SE developers. And then there are all our additional features: a full-fledged profiler that compares favorably to many commercial products, a set of very sophisticated tools for creating BPEL processes and the required XML schemas, support for C/C++ development, and our Visual Web Pack which provides visual web application development features from Sun's award-winning Java Studio Creator IDE. In addition, you may have seen the announcements about the Open JDK and how easily you can work with the JDK projects from within the NetBeans IDE. In short, all developers should be using NetBeans.

How do you top NetBeans's current success?

NetBeans IDE 6.0 is coming next. It is all about better scripting support and dramatic improvements to the Java editor. I cannot tell you everything now, but you will see a preview of it at JavaOne 2007 and at NetBeans Day (the day before JavaOne). As usual, NetBeans Day will be free, even if you are not attending JavaOne. So stay tuned for more details on registration.

What's the biggest event happening within the NetBeans community?

There is quite a bit going on, so it is tough to pick just one. I mentioned earlier those tools we added to make it easier to build NetBeans RCP applications. Those same tools can be used to build plugin modules for the NetBeans IDE, leading to a wide array of new plugins being created by the community. The other "price of success" is that as great as the evangelism team is, the interest in NetBeans has grown so fast we just can't handle everything on our own. The NetBeans Dream Team, made up of members of the community who have been selected by the community for their outstanding contributions, will be helping us spread the word.

Recent Awards and Reviews

Java IDE Innovator, InfoWorld Technology of the Year Awards

Java IDE Winner, O'Reilly's 2006 Java Technology Awards

Winner, Java Developer's Journal 2006 "JDJ Editors' Choice" Awards

Best Software Development Solution, 2006 Codie Awards

NetBeans 5.5: Java IDE Comes into Its Own (Java Boutique)

NetBeans Scores 9/10 (Linux Format)

Don't Eclipse NetBeans (

" of the best IDEs available in the market." (

More awards and reviews.

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