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Keywords: NetBeans, Java, Ruby, development tools

Title: Pro NetBeans IDE 6

Author: Adam Myatt, with Brian Leonard and Geertjan Wielenga

Publisher: Apress

ISBN: 1590598954

Media: Book

Level: Introductory

Verdict: Recommended for those moving to NetBeans for the first time.


One of the rules of life that for developers is gain proficiency in your tools of choice. It's one of the things that marks out the most productive of developers from the rest. Where others spend time struggling or doing things the hard way, those who've got the knowledge will turn to their IDE (or other programming tool) and get that to do the hard work for them. For those who've been attracted to the latest NetBeans 6.x release but who are wary of the cost of transitioning (all those new keyboard shortcuts, menu locations and obscure options that have to be rediscovered), then a good guide will be invaluable. And that's precisely what Adam Myatt (and co-authors) is attempting to provide with his 'Pro NetBeans IDE 6', published by Apress.

The book contains 16 chapters that cover the whole range of NetBeans capabilities, from basic source editing through to GUI applications, web applications, JRuby/Ruby, rich client applications and more. In terms of scope the book has very wide coverage, but not necessarily at the expense of depth. For a NetBeans beginner there's coverage of every major area of functionality that comes with a complete install of the package.

The book starts with a chapter that looks at downloading, installation and configuration. This is actually a good place to start, as it covers how to change the default fonts and colours, how to change the defaults for things like indentation, how to navigate through the different screen elements and so on. For someone completely new to NetBeans it's a good introduction to the basics you need before moving on to look at specific areas of functionality.

Source editing, code completion and templates are covered in the next three chapters. Core material in other words for all developers regardless of the specifics of the type of development they're doing (web versus desktop, for example). The treatment is very thorough, with good text explanations backed up by plenty of screenshots. There's a lot to learn here, and these chapters are certainly worth some attention. The problem with IDEs like NetBeans and Eclipse is that it's fairly easy to get started, but once you've got going it's easy to keep going without exploring some of the functionality locked away behind obscure menu choices or options. Reading these chapters helps avoid that pitfall.

Next up are two chapters that look at debugging and profiling. While everyone does debugging, profiling is not so common. NetBeans 6.x includes profiling be default, and makes it easy to access and use. Again these two chapters are worth studying as there are plenty of tips and tricks to pick up along with a solid understanding of how all the pieces fit together.

Other noteworthy chapters include the one on source control, which looks at CVS and Subversion (support for both is included in NetBeans). Build management is covered in the chapter on Ant and Maven, which is certainly worth a read for those who've not used either of these build tools (though to be honest you can get away with letting NetBeans do all of the work for many simple to medium projects). Unit testing is covered in the chapter on JUnit, and refactoring also gets a very useful introduction in the chapter dedicated to the topic.

NetBeans 6.x is also a great IDE for Ruby development, and there's an entire chapter devoted to that topic. It covers both Ruby and JRuby, as well as Rail development. While good as a quick introduction, this is one area that really warrants deeper treatment. However, this is more that adequate as a good first introduction.

The final set of chapters look at development for specific types of platform: desktop applications using AWT/Swing (using the Matisse GUI builder); web applications; web services and finally looking at how you can use the NetBeans rich client platform as the infrastructure for your own applications.

There's no doubt that NetBeans 6.x has been the great comeback release, taking back the initiative and momentum that had been claimed by the Eclipse platform. NetBeans 6.x looks good, has good performance and bundles in a whole lot of useful functionality. For those wanting to quickly get to grips with this powerful environment this book provides an excellent hands-on guide. Recommended for those moving to NetBeans for the first time.

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Contents © TechBookReport 2008. Published March 10 2008