NetBeans IDE 6.1 – Faster, Better, Stronger


NetBeans IDE version 6.1 has been released recently. This version comes relatively soon after its widely successful predecessor – NetBeans IDE 6.0. Although NetBeans 6.1 is not as revolutionary as 6.0 (which brought a completely redesigned Java editor), the new release has many new features. In this article we'll discuss the new features one by one. This article only covers the major improvements, so if you want to see a complete list please visit the 6.1 New and Noteworthy page.

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Let's look at what is new and improved in the new release.

Performance and Quality

The main themes of the release are performance and quality – after all, as a minor release it stabilizes the previous major release. These goals are rather intangible but developers should notice a faster startup (up to 40% over version 6.0 if multiple projects are open) and different performance boosts all across the board. One of the big issues in 6.0 was slow parsing of JSP files, and feedback from the NetBeans community indicates that version 6.1 doesn't suffer from this problem anymore. A new incremental parser has been integrated into the Java editor, so all Java syntax related features such as code completion, navigator, refactorings, etc. should be noticeably faster, especially on large classes. Several I/O related optimizations have been used to reduce the number of disk accesses, improving responsiveness in many cases.

One performance improvement needs closer examination – the Visual Web Designer received many performance-related fixes leading to lower memory usage. The performance team fixed several issues with memory leaks which may have caused the Visual Designer to grow consumption of memory over time. The most significant change, though, is that the binding attributes no longer get generated by default – which leads to many performance improvements because the classes generated by Visual Web are much smaller and do not include unnecessary attributes, getters and setters. However, this change may be surprising to some users – you need to make sure you generate the necessary binding attribute to have access to the element you want to manipulate, as seen on the screenshot:

Binding Attribute in NetBeans 6.1


In the beginning it may be surprising that you need to add binding attributes for each page element you want to manipulate, but the performance gains are definitely worth the extra work.

New JavaScript Editor

Screencast: New JavaScript editor in NetBeans 6.1

NetBeans 6.1 provides a brand new JavaScript editor based on the GSF framework (General Scripting Framework) which was introduced together with Ruby editor in 6.0. It took only a few months to provide many new JavaScript editing features, such as:

  • Semantic highlighting
  • Mark occurrences
  • Instant rename
  • Rename refactoring
  • Quick fixes and semantic checks
  • Tasklist integration
  • Code completion and type analysis
  • JavaScript documentation in code completion
  • Browser compatibility information in code completion
  • Go to declaration
  • Open JavaScript type
  • ... and much more.
The editing experience with JavaScript in version 6.1 is similar to the Java and Ruby editors. Work on a JavaScript debugger is in progress and its first prototype should be demo-ed at NetBeans Day in San Francisco in May 2008.

Window System Improvements

NetBeans always had a modern and flexible window system. In version 6.1, the visual reactions of the IDE during drag & drop have been significantly improved, so you can see the preview of the dragged window and also get visual feedback in case you try to place the window into a forbidden area.

Drag and Drop preview in NetBeans 6.1

Sharability of Projects (aka Sharable Libraries)

This new feature in Java, Web and all J2EE project types allows you to create projects that share definitions and libraries. That in turn allows you to create self-contained projects or a set of projects that can be built from the command line, on continuous integration servers and by users of other IDEs without problems. In the past, the IDE used absolute paths to reference the libraries. With the new Sharable Libraries feature, the IDE uses relative paths so you can make sure your projects will open easily on other computers or build outside of the IDE.

Shared Libraries in NetBeans 6.1

Plug-in Manager Improvements

In the past if you had a slow connection and were downloading various plug-ins, the IDE would be unusable until the plug-ins were downloaded and installed. In version 6.1 you can run the download task in the background, as seen on the screenshot. The IDE also shows a visual indication in case new plug-ins have been discovered.

Download Plugins Bar in NetBeans 6.1 Plugin Update in NetBeans 6.1


Mercurial Support

The NetBeans source code base has been moved from CVS to Mercurial, which is a distributed versioning system. This change brings many advantages to the NetBeans IDE, including the ability to have several levels of repositories, easier branching and more. For this reason, NetBeans 6.1 now also provides built-in Mercurial support, along with CVS and Subversion.

Popular Features are Back

Due to editor infrastructure changes some of the popular features had to be dropped in the 6.0 release because there was not enough time to rewrite them to the new infrastructure. These features have been added back in version 6.1:

  • JSF pages from entities wizard
  • Java Beans support
  • BeanInfo editor

Ruby Additions

Rails 2.0 is now supported and bundled with NetBeans IDE 6.1. There is also a new platform manager for Ruby which lets you choose easily between native Ruby and JRuby runtimes. The Ruby editor has been integrated into the Task List feature, and many quick fixes have been added to make Ruby editing even more productive. Many other usability and productivity improvements have been integrated, check the New and Noteworthy page for a complete list of changes.

More Technologies Supported

NetBeans 6.1 added support for many additional technologies and frameworks:

  • Sailfin v1 support (SIP application server based on project Glassfish)
  • WebSphere 6.0 and 6.1 supported now out of the box
  • Spring framework now supported out of the box
  • Groovy and Grails plug-ins now available on the update center
  • Hibernate framework plug-in now available on the update center
  • Axis2 plug-in now available on the update center
  • PHP plug-in available in preview

MySQL Support

Due to the recent acquisition of MySQL AB by Sun Microsystems, the NetBeans IDE 6.1 added integration with MySQL. You can start or stop the MySQL server right from the IDE. A default connection is generated for you, and you can browse database tables easily and create connections to these tables with one click. Getting started developing with the NetBeans IDE and MySQL is even easier than before.

Mobility

In the Java ME area, Mac OS X is now officially supported and the Mpower emulater can be easily used from the IDE. Several new SVG components have been added and the quality and stability of Mobility Pack has been enhanced as well.

RESTful Web Services Support

The RESTful web service support in the Netbeans IDE is based on the JSR 311 standard. The IDE has a wizard to create RESTful services from JPA entity classes. You can also create RESTful services based on popular design patterns provided by the IDE. Another wizard generates JavaScript client stubs that invoke these services. A popular feature is the test client that provides an interactive way to test and view the result of web service invocations. RESTful web service support was available since NetBeans 6.0 as a plugin, now it is part of the Netbeans IDE 6.1 standard distribution.

Support for Popular SaaS Services

The Web Services node in the Services tab has been enhanced to support SaaS (Software as a Service) services such as services provided by Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, and YouTube. This feature enables Java developers to easily create mashup applications using those services. Developers can simply drag and drop operations under those services into a POJO, Servlet, JSP or RESTful web service and the IDE will generate all the plumbing code to access those services.


There are many other new features I didn't discuss yet – for example the improved Javadoc code completion, inspect members and inspect hierarchy improvements, SOAP UI monitor integration, WSDL, XML and XSD editor enhancements and much more. Again, please visit the New and Noteworthy page for NetBeans 6.1 to see all the improvements.

Although NetBeans 6.1 is a point release, the amount of new features is very impressive. It is clear that NetBeans is going to expand into new communities mainly because it currently provides a very large collection of new plug-ins for various technologies that were not well supported before, such as JavaScript, Groovy, PHP, Hibernate, Spring, Axis and others. Thanks to the performance fixes NetBeans will appeal to users with older computers who wouldn't consider NetBeans before. Again, these are exciting days for the NetBeans community!

For more information about NetBeans IDE 6.1 visit:

NetBeans IDE 6.1 Features Pages
NetBeans IDE 6.1 Tutorials and Documentation

As always, we welcome and encourage your feedback on our mailing lists and on your blogs.
(May 2008)
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