An Interview with Angad Singh, Grand Prize Winner of Sun India's Code for Freedom Contest



Angad SinghAngad, Congratulations on your win! Please tell us a bit about your background.

I am a third-year undergraduate student pursuing a Bachelor's in Information Technology at the Jaypee Institute of Information Technology University, Noida, and also a Sun Campus Ambassador. I'm a techie by nature and spend most of my time learning and exploring new areas of computing. My interests include web application development, computer vision and graphics, server administration and robotics.

I believe in the power of community, and as a Campus Ambassador I share my knowledge and skill of open-source technologies with fellow students by conducting tech talks, demos and workshops. My connection with Sun Microsystems has been truly rewarding, and I blog often about my activities.

You are one of three grand prize winners of Sun India's Code for Freedom contest. Your project was a plugin created for the NetBeans IDE! What does your plugin do?

My NetBeans plugin: Regular Expression Plugin, or RegEx, makes it simple to visually learn, build and test regular expressions. It's an easy-to-use, all-in-one solution that helps developers in all aspects of working with regular expressions.

A little background on regular expressions: Regular expressions are a way to describe a set of strings based on common characteristics shared by each string in the set. Regular expressions are patterns that can be used to search, edit, or manipulate text and data.
 
The plugin can be downloaded from the NetBeans Plugin Portal. To open the regular expressions plugin window in the NetBeans IDE, go to Tools > Regular Expressions Plugin.
I also created a demo highlighting the features of the plugin—showing how to build and test a regular expression for checking email addresses. The screencast can be viewed on NetBeans.tv.

What are the main features of your plugin?

Regular Expression Plugin for NetBeans IDEBuilding a regular expression is as easy as browsing the built-in regular expressions language reference, double clicking on the language elements to insert them into your regular expression. It also allows you to search a regular expression pattern in the input text and see the results in a tree view; to click on match results to see the matched text highlighted. The plugin is very useful for new developers and gets them up to speed quickly. More information about features of the RegEx plugin can be found at the NetBeans Plugin Portal.

How long have you been using the NetBeans IDE?

I have used NetBeans for a year since I shifted from Java Studio Creator 2—the project got discontinued and the Visual Web editing features got merged into the IDE as the Visual Web Pack. I started using NetBeans for web-based projects in JSP. My favorite features are the GUI Builder, the Profiler, the Visual Web and Mobility Packs. Perhaps, the best feature of NetBeans (and not just the IDE) is its ability to act as a platform for building Rich Client Applications.

Is this your first plugin for NetBeans?

Yes, it is. A month before the Code for Freedom contest ended, my Sun Club team and I had taken the initiative to offer support to aspiring contestants, to help them make good plugin contributions. We held regular meetings and brainstorming sessions where we offered guidance for the inception of ideas, navigating contest guidelines, submitting contributions and so on. I conducted hands-on workshops about the features one could leverage while developing plugins for the NetBeans IDE. I learnt and developed my first plugin along the way.

What inspired you to create the RegEx Plugin?

I sought to develop this tool because one didn't exist in the NetBeans IDE. I had checked out the NetBeans Plugins Portal and NetBeans contrib project page and discovered two plugins that dealt with regular expressions but supported only some aspects of what I had in mind. A more powerful tool was possible. I discussed the idea on the mailing list and received enthusiastic responses for the plugin and suggestions for features it should have. Thus, I started and tried to incorporate as many of the suggested features as possible.

What stood out for you while developing the plugin?

That the true power of NetBeans lies in a community that drives and supports it! Whenever I got stuck—for example, not knowing how to use a specific API feature—help was just a search away. NetBeans.org provides links to lots of useful tips & tricks, tutorials and an extensive community-driven documentation courtesy of the NetBeans Wiki. If you cannot find the solution on the web, you can post a query to mailing lists and rest assured get a swift reply.

What advice do you have to share with those creating a plugin for the first time for the NetBeans IDE?

Documentation, documentation, documentation. And the community. I made extensive use of both while developing the RegEx Plugin. (See below for Angad's recommended links.)

Articles, tutorials, blog entries, videos, etc., are really very useful when working on any Java-based project. A simple search can yield a lot of relevant results, usually from Sun sites such as developers.sun.com, blog.sun.com, java.net, etc. Sun also provides extensive up-to-date documentation on all API/SDK/Language features of all Java technology at docs.sun.com/app/docs.

Another website I stay connected with is javaspecialists.eu. Its newsletter is an excellent resource for any Java developer, providing in depth information about specific topics and novel hacks and tips & tricks not found anywhere else. It is run by Java Champion Heinz Kabutz.

Javapassion.com is an excellent resource. Sang Shin is a brilliant person and great teacher. The training courses that he provides through his website are very easy to understand; they focus on hands-on knowledge rather than theory and are extremely useful for new learners and experts alike. JavaLobby.com is another useful website providing news, articles, tutorials, presentations and topics around interesting topics for java programmers.

Lastly, when you encounter an obstacle a solution may only be a forum or mailing list away.

Do you intend to create more plugins for the NetBeans IDE?

Yes, I will definitely continue to work on further extending the Regular Expression Plugin. I have submitted a proposal about this to the NetBeans Innovation Grants program and await the results. And even apart from this plugin, as soon as a good idea clicks, I'll go ahead and start working on it.

What was your prize for the contest?

I received an Acer 4520 laptop as the grand prize. I use it for my everyday work. I always wanted a laptop and it just rocks! It helps with being much more productive. Thank you Sun!

Congratulations again, Angad, and please keep us updated about future plugin projects.


(April 2008)

Angad Singh's Suggested Links

Tutorials, Articles, Guides & Demos from NetBeans.org:
·NetBeans Module Quick Start
·NetBeans Modules and Rich-Client Applications Learning Trail
·Basic things to know about NetBeans' architecture to get started
·Basic Terms for NetBeans Rich Client Application Development
·Introducing NetBeans plug-in Development

All my module development questions were answered here:
·Module Developer FAQs
·NetBeans Certified Engineering Course
·Contributing Modules

Additional resources:
·Schliemannizing Regular Expressions in NetBeans IDE
·Highlighting Words in a JTextComponent (Java Developers Almanac Example)
·Swing: Context Menu for TextComponents
·Automated DOM Tree Tutorial
·Swing - JTree with XML Content
·Adding a Node to a JTree Component (Java Developers Almanac Example)
·Swing Tutorial: JTree


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