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By now, most Java™ programmers have heard of Eclipse, the extensible open
source development platform that is rapidly becoming the most popular IDE for
Java programming. If you're considering a move to Eclipse and are currently
programming with Netbeans, IntelliJ IDEA, or Borland JBuilder, these developer's
guides will help you compare your current IDE to Eclipse. Each guide starts with
a brief comparison of Eclipse and the other IDEs' features, ease of use, and
stability, and then covers the essential Eclipse features -- and how they differ
from those in the other IDE -- so you can decide if Eclipse is right for you.
Comparison shopping for an IDE
Given how much time you spend using an IDE, you probably have strong opinions
about which IDE is the best. Some programmers might consider Emacs a quaint
relic from the last millennium, while other programmers will abandon it only
when their cold, dead fingers are pried off their keyboard. One IDE is better
than another only to the extent that it makes you more productive, and for a
programmer who has been coding C in Emacs for 20 years, that is a productive
Because the Java language is relatively young, no long legacy of coding exists
in any particular development environment (at least not yet!). The popularity of
each of the various Java IDEs has tended to wax and wane in the race to provide
new features, improve performance, and become easier to use. The most
interesting new development has been the introduction of two free, extensible
open source IDEs: Netbeans and Eclipse. These are rapidly approaching the
capabilities of commercial offerings. Most developers won't need more than what
these two excellent development platforms provide.
Comparing Netbeans and Eclipse
The most recent versions of these two IDEs -- Netbeans 3.6 and Eclipse 3.0 --
have far more similarities than differences. They both have syntax checking,
code completion, and code folding. They both let you compile, run, and debug
your code. They both support Ant, CVS, and JUnit. Also, both now have integrated
GUI builders, although Eclipse's is a separate component, the Visual Editor,
that you must download separately. For more information about the Eclipse Visual
Editor, see the article "Building GUIs with the Eclipse Visual Editor"
listed in the Resources section later in this article.
If you are considering a move to Eclipse and are currently programming with Netbeans, this article is for you. Starting with a brief comparison of both IDEs' features, ease of use, and stability, this article then covers the essential Eclipse features -- and how they differ from those in Netbeans.
The main differences between the two IDEs are that Netbeans has integrated Web
development support, but Eclipse does not; and Eclipse has automated
refactoring, but Netbeans does not. But even if it's important to you, the lack
of a specific feature doesn't have to be a deciding factor. Because both of
these IDEs are extensible with the use of plug-ins, you'll find free or
inexpensive plug-ins available to fill in the gaps. Articles that show you how
to obtain, install, and use plug-ins for developing Struts and Web applications
with Tomcat are listed in the Resources section.
Many programmers prefer Eclipse because of its ease of use; the overall design
of Eclipse keep the tools you need immediately at your fingertips. Many
programmers also find Eclipse faster and more stable. Because these attributes
are hard to quantify, though, you really need to try it out and judge for
yourself whether Eclipse makes Java programming faster and easier for you.
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