A First Look at NetBeans 6.7

A few days after Eclipse Galileo, Netbeans released its latest offering, Netbeans 6.7. Here is a first look, as always from my entirely biased perspective.

“Out of the box” readiness has always been a forte of Netbeans (pun intended for old-timers). The integration with the Kenai open source software hosting site takes nothing more than entering your password. You can do issue tracking from inside the IDE. Think of it as “Mylyn for Kenai”.

Glassfish integration is also smoother than in Eclipse. And you don't have to fuss with a Subversion adapter, like in Eclipse. Subversion and Mercurial are built in.

Most importantly, there finally is an equivalent to Eclipse's workspaces, called “project groups”. I have a dozen Eclipse workspaces, for different books, courses, experiments, etc., and find that one of the truly indispensable features of an IDE. The Netbeans feature isn't quite as powerful—you can't have two project groups with different code formatting conventions.

I am told that Netbeans has great support for PHP, but that's not my cup of tea. I tried activating Scala support, following the “nightly build” instructions from this page, but I got an error “Could not connect to compilation daemon.”

One big disappointment for me is the lack of support for a JSF component set. Netbeans used to include the Woodstock components, which Sun unfortunately abandoned. The promise at the time was that Netbeans would switch to IceFaces, and you can find a conversion guide here. It uses a plugin which does not seem to be available with NetBeans 6.7. (Soapbox: I have always felt that there ought to be a high quality, visually attractive component set as a part of JSF. Can you imagine if Swing had just specified JComponentand left it to third parties to develop component sets? Well, that's how it is with JSF, and Sun is now at the mercy of those third parties.)

If you want to experiment with JSF 2.0, be sure to install Glassfish v3 preview (from here; this is not the same as the prelude version that ships with NetBeans). Then install Vince Kraemer's nifty Glassfish V3 enabler plugin from the Netbeans plugins dialog, and point it to your installation. Unfortunately, JSF editing is disappointing. The facelets plugin doesn't know anything about JSF 2.0. So, it's really no better than Eclipse.

That, in a nutshell, is the problem with this Netbeans release. For a while, Netbeans was faster and better in supporting new Java EE features. For that reason, I regularly used it for my web projects. But with both Eclipse and Netbeans having equally basic support for JSF 2.0, I found myself back in Eclipse. What would it take for me to change again? Autocompletion in JSF 2.0 pages. A JSF component set with a visual editor. A superior Scala plugin. Hopefully in Netbeans 7.0.