Sun to spruce up NetBeans tools initiative

Sun Microsystems Inc. and the tools organization on Thursday released a road map for the open source NetBeans tools technology, outlining advances to extend development for the Web and Web services.

The company is providing details of Version 4.0 of NetBeans, having revealed on Wednesday that it is abandoning plans to try to merge NetBeans with the IBM Corp.-led Eclipse open source tools initiative. A Sun official said IBM declined the offer to merge, and Sun then declined an invitation to join Eclipse.

The NetBeans road map features developer productivity enhancements and a redesign of the NetBeans user interface to be more intuitive, according to Sun and

Version 4.0, due to be available in the second half of 2004, is expected to include automatic “refactoring” support in the IDE to provide improved code maintenance. Also to be featured are time-saving code editor features such as “Smart Imports” and “Code Completion” capabilities, according to Sun. A build system to allow for development of more complex applications is to be featured as well.

According to the Web site, Version 4.0’s main themes are coding productivity enhancements and a new project system based on the Apache Ant open source Java development tool. Also, additional work is planned in the areas of Web application support and “out-of-the-box experience.”

Still to be released is NetBeans 3.6, due for availability in the first quarter of 2004. It will include the interface redesign for more intuitive and improved workflow and an improved look and feel for increased visual appeal. “Code folding” in Version 3.6 will allow for easier source code navigation, according to Sun.

NetBeans has been downloaded more than 1.5 million times since the release of NetBeans 3.5 in June, Sun said. Version 3.5 focuses on performance and improves support for building Web applications with JavaServer Pages and servlets, building rich clients with Java foundation classes and support for building Java 2 Platform Mobile edition (J2ME) applications.

Other members of the NetBeans “community” include Compuware Corp., OpenWave Technologies Inc., and Systinet Corp.

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