Java and NetBeans - finally a brew that I am able to enjoy

As an academic teaching Computer Science for the past thirty years (currently here) I have seen major changes take place in terms of the programmers working environment. While I have played around with many programming languages, I have worked with assembler, BASIC, Pascal, C, C++ and Java. I have done so using Intel hardware platforms running UNIX and MSDOS in terminal mode and then MS Windows and Linux with X. Incidently these have also been the first teaching languages I have used over the years to introduce computer science majors to programming.

Since 1992 I have run Linux on my desktop and only used MS Windows when forced to do so. This would be in order to interface to my university (and employer) and other systems that absolutely required it. An example of this requirement would be the browser base university Student management System. Not only does this require MS Windows, it also only works with MS Internet Explorer. Another example would be the universities home page. Try the drop-down menu on that page using Firefox running under Linux. You are free to comment on this, even complain. I did, but as you can see it did not help.

Despite the wonderful environment a GUI desktop provides, I still love the command line environment and still use it extensively. When I migrated to Linux I developed a similar passion for Emacs and still use it for the preparation of papers and lecture slides (using Latex and Prosper) and programming. However because of my university's commitment to MS, I have also used Borland's programming IDE with Pascal, C, C++ and Java. But because of my commitment to free software , I have always been on the lookout for an IDE that I could share with my students with them working under MS and me under Linux.

When NetBeans first appeared, I tried it, but only once as it was so slow on my box that it was unusable. This has however changed in recent times and I have tried it again, only to abandon it as it was often an overkill for small teaching level programming projects. I also tried Eclipse and abandoned it for the same reason. These more recent efforts were renewed efforts to migrate from Emacs to bring myself into line with my colleagues and students who as I have already mentioned mostly used Borland's IDE. I should also admit that I also wanted to access the additional capabilities these IDEs now offered.

This year I have once again tried both NetBeans and Eclipse. This time NetBeans 6.0 won me over. It worked out of the box both under Windows XP and openSUSE 10.3. It is also fast thanks to advances in hardware and so far has allowed me to easily develop non-GUI Java applications (programming assignments) for the Object Oriented Programming module that I am currently teaching. My students who used Borland's JBuilder previously, were equally impressed.

For me, NetBeans now works and I have encouraged my colleagues to consider using it for their teaching!

I am now about to move on to GUI Java applications for my Object Oriented Programming module and am reasonably confident that it will work just as well. Needless to say I am still using Emacs for my papers and slides as neither NetBeans or Eclipse provided the same level of support for Latex as Emacs does.