NetBeans 7.0 Adds JDK 7, HTML 5 Support; Drops Ruby on Rails

Oracle today announced the availability of the 7.0 version of the NetBeans integrated development environment (IDE).

This is a major upgrade of the open source IDE Oracle acquired when it bought Sun Microsystems. It comes with support for the new features and capabilities in the upcoming JDK 7 release, as well as enhanced integration with the Oracle's WebLogic and Glassfish app servers and the Oracle Database.

"The major focus of NetBeans as a whole is to service the Java community," Duncan Mills, senior director of product management, told "And what we've mainly been focusing on with this release is providing support for the proposed Java 7.0 standard."

JDK 7 is currently available as a developer preview; the final version is expected in late July. Mills said NetBeans supports JDK 7 "as it is now," but Oracle will follow that release with NetBeans 7.0.1 to accommodate any changes and sync with the final version. The company plans to release NetBeans 7.1 in October.

The list of improvements in this version of the IDE include, among other things, editor enhancements; new support for version 3 of the Apache Maven build management tool; integration with version 4.8.2 of the open source JUnit Java testing framework; an improved visual customizer for GridBagLayout; HTML5 editing support and improved code validation in the HTML editor, among others.

This release includes version of NetBeans 7.0 for Windows, Mac, Linux and Solaris. And it bumps up its human language support to include Japanese, Brazilian, Portuguese, Russian and Chinese.

With this release, Oracle is touting the popularity of NetBeans. Mills said the company counts about between 800,000 and 900,000 active users each month. 

"NetBeans comes up often as the most popular Java IDE after Eclipse," observed Al Hilwa, program director in the Application Development Software group of industry analyst firm IDC. "It captures the segment of no-nonsense Java developer that is not as keen to cook their IDE from scratch. It consistently comes up in our surveys as the second most popular Java IDE after Eclipse. This release shows that Oracle understands its value and continues to invest in it as, perhaps, the key Java IDE. This is all goodness for Java developers. What's not to like?"

Hilwa suspects that this early support for JDK 7 will "help speed the transition to JDK 7 as it will allow developers to start enjoying the new capabilities." He's also sees support for HTML 5 as smart and forward looking move on Oracle's part. And the integration with various application lifecycle technologies in this release will allow the IDE to make inroads into ever larger projects, he said.

Stephen O'Grady, co-founder of developer-focused industry analyst firm RedMonk, said the HTML 5 support in particular as an upgrade likely to be popular with developers. "Many traditional IDE users are going to be looking to experiment with HTML 5 front ends," he said, "and the ability to do so within the context of their favorite tool is welcome." 

Mark Driver agreed that the HTML 5 support would be welcome, but he sees the IDE's support for the Java 7 early developer preview as likely to have the greatest impact. "It's a massive update," he said, "and one that many developers will be anxious to dig into."

Dana Gardner, principle analyst at Interarbor Solutions, was among the less impressed industry watchers. "Sorry, but as is likely the case with most software professionals, spending time boning up on NetBeans has been a very low priority for me. And doing so now would be an even bigger waste of time than it already was two years ago," he said in an e-mail. "If you really want to deliver higher quality applications, faster and easier, find a good PaaS and take a pass on NetBeans."

Oracle currently owns and maintains three IDEs. Along with NetBeans, the company continues to support its own JDeveloper, which it sees as strategic, and the Eclipse IDE, which it supports with the Oracle Enterprise Pack for Eclipse.

Missing from NetBeans 7.0 is support for Ruby on Rails. Oracle revealed in January that NetBeans would not be supporting that popular dynamic scripter in 7.0. "After thorough consideration, we have taken the difficult step to discontinue support for Ruby on Rails in the NetBeans IDE," the Oracle NetBeans team said in a blog posting at the time, noting that "although our Ruby support has historically been well-received, based on existing low usage trends, we are unable to justify the continued allocation of resources to support the feature."

NetBeans 7.0 is available now for download on the Web site.

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].