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5 Reasons Why NetBeans Rocks

Published Fri, 24 Jul 2009 • 4 comments

I'm a long time NetBeans user, but I'm still surprised how many developers still haven't given it a go. Certainly there was a time in the deep distant past when NetBeans couldn't compete at the same level as Eclipse or IntelliJ, but NetBeans has been a first rate IDE for a long time now.

Read on for 5 features that might not be obvious to someone test-driving NetBeans for the first time...

#1 Project Local Libraries

Ticking the innocent looking ""Use Dedicated Folder for Storing Libraries" checkbox on creating a new Java project will simplify project portability down to a complete non-issue. All JAR dependancies are stored in the "lib" folder underneath your project and are automatically copied to the distribution folder at build time. You can guarantee to take your project to any machine and run the build with Ant (or NetBeans) and it just works.

NetBeans Project Local Libraries

#2 Customisable Ant Builds

NetBeans uses Ant (by default) for managing all aspects of building, running, testing and documenting your Java projects. And while the builds are machine-generated they're not impossible to read and work with.

However, you don't even need to modify the NetBeans generated build logic - there are a whole bunch of "override points" in the build logic in which you can embed new logic, or override the default behaviour.

And since NetBeans uses Ant to build, deploy and run, you can guarantee that if it worked in your IDE, then it'll work on the build server or anywhere else you want to build the project.

NetBeans Build Customisation

#3 Built-in Profiler

The built in Java code profiler in NetBeans kicks ass. There are certainly equally useful, or better, tools available commericially, but for a pain-free out-of-the-box experience, the NetBeans profiler is great.

Features include -

NetBeans Profiler

#4 Refactoring Tools

The refactoring tools are exactly what you would expect and allow you to move, rename and safely delete any code element as you need. The "Introduce Method" is particularly useful for refactoring code blocks that start to get a little too large. "Introduce Method" is probably not the logical name (it was renamed from "Extract Method") but it does the job none-the-less.

NetBeans Refactoring Tools

#5 Call Hierarchy

Tucked away in the context menu is the under-rated "Call Hierarchy" tool. Right click on any method and invoke the tool and immediately see all the callers, and their call stacks. Flip the switch and see the call stack that this method makes to other methods. This one tool can give you a very fast detailed understanding of what a method's dependancies are. It's a great way of coming up to speed on a code base without doing heaps of opening, closing of files and manual "eye-balling".

NetBeans Call Heirarchy

About the Author

Richard Nichols is an Australian software engineer with a passion for making things.

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