J2EE support in NetBeans 4.0 is getting closer

NetBeans support for Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) is something that at least one Canadian-based enterprise development firm is anxiously awaiting, as Sun Microsystems Inc. recently rolled out the first beta version of its new integrated development environment (IDE), NetBeans 4.0.

The first beta of NetBeans 4.0 doesn’t include support for J2EE, which is used for building enterprise-wide back-end applications — to date, NetBeans has only supported Java 2 Platform Standard Edition (J2SE), but NetBeans said on its Web site that it would release a J2EE module collection as a separate download for NetBeans 4.0, beta 2. This would extend the NetBeans IDE Web-tier development capabilities, allowing for Web services development.

David Green is the chief technology officer for Make Technologies Inc., a Vancouver-based software development company with a standards-based automation approach for software development used by enterprise organizations and developers. He said the J2EE module for NetBeans would boost productivity of his company’s developers.

“It will make a big difference for enterprise developers,” Green explained. “Typically, a developer will have to build all of the [J2EE] components by hand and that’s a very time consuming process…but from what’s promised, I expect to see productivity improvements in [the J2EE] area. To get any automation in that area makes a big difference.”

NetBeans said the J2EE module would be released in October, but for right now, the community group, which was made open source by Sun in 2000, is touting the productivity and programming improvements to 4.0.

Highlights of the new release include language feature support for J2SE (code-named Tiger) and Ant-based projects. Ant is a new project system based on Apache Ant that automates the build process of an application and is an open architecture that third-party modules can extend to support current and future types of Java applications, NetBeans said.

The new beta will also include Mobile Information Device Profile (MIDP) support for Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition (J2ME). MIDP is a set of J2ME application program interfaces that define how software applications interface with cell phones and pagers. It is available as a separate download now.

Also included in NetBeans 4.0 is Java refactoring. Refactoring allows developers to make changes to their code without affecting functionality. The refactoring in NetBeans IDE 4.0 provides features such as renames, move class, rename package, change method parameters, encapsulate field and find references, NetBeans said.

“As you’re building a system, the nature of your understanding of the problem changes as you progress in the implementation. So usually, you figure out part way through that you can reorganize code differently to make it more understandable,” Green said. “[Refactoring] significantly changes how maintainable the code is, makes it easier to understand for other developers and makes it easier to make enhancements or changes to the system.”

In essence, it reduces development time, he added, because refactoring by hand is detail-oriented and time consuming.

Make Technologies not only develops on NetBeans, but also makes a plugin for NetBeans that automates building J2EE systems, Green explained. The company is currently IDE-independent, and is not exclusively a NetBeans shop, but also supports Eclipse, Green said.

While Green said the fact that NetBeans is open source is a driving force for his company to use the IDE, he explained that having vendor support for the IDE is also important.

“The fact that Sun stands behind it is great,” he said. “The community around the IDE is also a big factor for us.”

NetBeans is an open source, multi-platform product that is available on Solaris, Windows, Linux and Macintosh. Sun, the NetBeans project sponsor, has been in the news recently after Eclipse, an open source consortium that supports development in other languages, was made open source by IBM Corp. Many people within the open source community have been calling upon Sun to make its NetBeans IDE work with the Eclipse IDE.

Sun has not yet made a move to make both Eclipse and NetBeans work together.

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