There’s an Eclipse plugin for that (and one in the works for Netbeans)

Seems I constantly hear that. Why is it that Eclipse always gets the first plug in, and Netbeans is tagging along behind? I’m sure it has to do with the considerable financial backing of Eclipse versus Netbeans. And normally I’m a “root for the underdog” kind of guy. But as a consultant, productive time is money. Non-productive time is not. Come on, I just want a tool to help me do my job, and I don’t want to have to fight with it. And if it’s really slick, well, that’s a bonus.

The earlier post about Eclipse was actually kind of old (a couple of months, to be exact), and I posted it last night as I was cleaning out my drafts folder and obviously didn’t read it before doing so or would never have posted it.

In the past couple of months I have learned more about Eclipse. It is such a slick IDE that I find it hard to believe that it is a free product. I must admit that I didn’t use Netbeans 5 very much. It was buggy in my opinion, so the latest version of Netbeans I used was 4.x. Here is a quick list of reasons I might never switch back to Netbeans*:

  1. Debugging – debugging in NB 4 is clunky. You have to set up a special target in your Ant build script. Lame. I did this anyway at my last job because somtimes you just have to debug, and checked in the change to build.xml into CVS. On my current engagement, polluting the shared source is not an option, so I had to have a local copy hanging around just for debugging purposes. I had to make sure it was always in sync with the version of build.xml in the source repository. Again, lame.
  2. Eclipse “Quick Fix” – what a nice feature! Modifying a class to extend another and/or adding an interface? Ctrl+1 will let you add skeleton methods before the IDE even complains that you class now doesn’t implement the right methods, etc.
  3. General polish – the Eclipse IDE is, well, polished. It shines. It’s probably the gleam of the IDE that keeps me from believing that these guys actually are giving the IDE away! It is slick. I’m constantly discovering new features.
  4. Refactoring – hands down better than NB 4.
  5. Application start – my GOD(!) it seemed to take FOREVER for Netbeans to come up. Holy crap! What the hell?!? Eclipse starts up quickly and doesn’t scan the ENTIRE (!) classpath for what seems like every keystroke as you’re editing a source file (that’s AFTER it takes 5 minutes to scan the classpath at IDE startup time…yes, there were a LOT of JARs in our project, but what…the…hell…is…going…on…???).
  6. Random lockups are gone – It seemed like NB would just sort of lock up while it was doing…something (I never did figure out what). Eclipse doesn’t do that (or not as much), and when it does, it usually tells you what it’s doing.

Again, I didn’t use NB 5 very much, and it probably has some big improvements over NB 4. But, I ain’t switching back. The general polish, great easy-to-use debugger, easy-to-use refactoring, and super-fast compiler are just too much for me to ignore. Or cause me to switch back. And it seems like every time I turn around I hear, “There’s an Eclipse plug-in for that…and one is in the works for NetBeans.”

I don’t see how Eclipse will ever be, well, eclipsed. It’s just too slick a product. Everybody writes a plugin for their widget for Eclipse first (but I’m sure there’s a Netbeans plugin in the works ;-)). And it’s SO easy to use. The Eclipse team will have to screw up pretty badly to get me to even LOOK at Netbeans. But I promise this: I will continue to download and play around with Netbeans on my own time.

* Bear in mind that I used NB with “Existing Ant script” so some of my user experience with NB might have been different if I had used it from a File/New standpoint.

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