NetBeans 6.9 Release Emphasizes JavaFX

One of the questions lingering in the aftermath of Oracle's acquisition of Sun Microsystems is, what happens now to the open source NetBeans integrated development environment (IDE)? Oracle's release this week of NetBeans 6.9 should allay at least some of the fears of the many fans of this still-popular IDE.

In this release, the first under Oracle's stewardship, the company is spotlighting a new plug-in: JavaFX Composer, which is a visual layout tool for building JavaFX GUI apps, along the lines of the Swing GUI builder for Java SE applications. The capabilities and features listed on the NetBeans community Web site includes a visual editor for a form-like UI using components in JavaFX 1.2.1 SDK; dynamic design editing based on states; data access to Web Services, databases and local storages; support for JavaFX binding; a simple animation editor; and multi-screen-size editing.

JavaFX is the Java-based rich Internet application (RIA) platform created by Sun. The Composer component is designed to allow developers to "quickly build, visually edit, and debug [RIAs] and bind components to various data sources, including Web services," the company said in a statement.

This release also supports JavaFX 1.3, Java Card Connected 3, the Spring 3.0 framework, the PHP Zend Framework and Ruby on Rails 3.0.

With NetBeans 6.9, Oracle appears to making good on its promise to promote NetBeans as a development environment for dynamic scripting languages. Oracle now owns three IDEs: JDeveloper; the Eclipse IDE, which Oracle supports with the Oracle Enterprise Pack for Eclipse; and NetBeans.

"NetBeans is clearly being positioned as the primary environment for JavaFX," said Al Hilwa, program director in IDC's Application Development Software group. "While it's good to see some action around JavaFX, I wonder if it will generate much adoption, given that the market is looking at HTML 5, if they have not committed to Flash or Silverlight, at this point. I would look for [Oracle] to make a good case for why developers would stop everything and start doing RIA in JavaFX."

The list of other improvements in this release of the IDE includes:

  • Additional support for Java Enterprise Edition 6, including Contexts and Dependency Injection (CDI) and JSR-299.
  • Enhanced JavaFX script editing and refactoring.
  • Improved Java language editing, including more than 80 new "hints."
  • Support for CSS code completion, find usages, and renaming capabilities for HTML and CSS.
  • The ability to quickly code, test, and deploy OSGi bundles using Maven and Felix.
  • A bundled Felix container with the ability to deploy other containers, such as Eclipse Equinox.

Ted Farrell, chief architect and senior vice president of tools and middleware at Oracle, confirmed that, with this release, Oracle has "continued to focus on the visual tooling capabilities within the IDE."

"We believe that the ease of use and developer productivity provided by NetBeans is key in helping developers of any skill level take advantage of all of the great Java technologies," Farrell said in a statement.

"I think NetBeans developers are going to be relieved to see investment from Oracle in this IDE," Hilwa said. "It is definitely an IDE with followers, even if it's dwarfed by Eclipse in terms of user base. Given that Oracle is heavily behind JDeveloper and has packs for both Eclipse and .NET, it's good to see NetBeans get this much investment."

The NetBeans IDE is available for the Windows, Mac, Linux, and Oracle-Solaris operating systems. NetBeans 6.9 (Milestone 1) is available now for free from Oracle's NetBeans download page.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].