Sunday, 26 October 2008

On Eclipse versus Netbeans

It's amazing how Eclipse has gained so much momentum that people don't even try to look on Netbeans to see if their need could not be fulfilled by this other IDE. OK I am a longtime Netbeans user, but my (recent) experiences with Eclipse were not good ones:

  • having the right install and dependencies for a particular plugin is very very often a nightmare. Believe me, it never works out of the box, even with commercial plugins

  • I really don't like the perspective stuff, it is surely a good idea, because you think that you will only have what you need for your current task, but at the end this forever changing environment is really disturbing. And having the IDE saying that "you must change your perspective" is something that is the contrary of a user-friendly experience

  • Eclipse UI is bloated and not homogeneous. I don't count the times when I had to search for a particular basic thing, and discover that it was hidden deep somewhere in the configuration options

  • Some things that are done very well and "out of the box" by Netbeans are complex with Eclipse: UI development (no good UI designer in Eclipse), Jar creation and ant configuration (I was amazed to discover how it was complex to simply create a jar with a main class attribute on the version of Eclipse I used, and you have nothing to do to make it work with Netbeans, it is working out of the box)

  • Some cryptic bugs in Eclipse with the projects, that can be very very annoying, especially considering that they don't disappear when you restart. I never had these in Netbeans

But the problem is that people like Eclipse, just because they never look at Netbeans and they think that the problems of Eclipse are just a downside of all What Eclipse can offer to them. It reminds me of the dreaded "Start" button of Windows. In more than one cases, I discussed with people who wanted to begin development with Java in my company, they had a pre-installed version of Eclipse on their PC, and as they asked me, I stated the differences between these two IDEs (it is very easy to work with Netbeans even with copying the installation directory anywhere). They often choose to work with Eclipse (because of the buzz, I think), so they never choose. And they are happy, because they know nothing else, and think that their problems can't be avoided. And in the end, I often had to help them with their Eclipse problems...

Update: And The Visual Editor only works with Eclipse 3.2 (Callisto), it has not been updated since then. Eclipse is now 3.4 !!! Want to do easy Java UI development ? Use Netbeans or buy MyEclipse. Beware that if you want the UI designer (code copied from Netbeans, so don't expect it to be bleeding edge stuff), you have to throw 60$ a year for the professional edition. Netbeans UI designer is bleeding edge and is free.


laborg said...

there is definitely some truth in what you say, but I experienced netbeans to be very slow (starting, code completion, etc.). I think both projects should learn from another and maybe we will have the best of both worlds... maybe...

mithrandir said...

What version of Netbeans did you use ? I'm currently using 6.1 and I don't experiences any problems apart from starting which I reckon is slow for this version (my PC is average I think). I'm starting to use 6.5 RC, and start-up improved by a factor compared to the previous version.

However, you're right, there is o silver bullet after all, and the usefulness of one environment greatly depends on what we want to do with it ;-)