Sun Microsystems will make available, on 8 April, an "early access" release of its visual development environment for Java, called Sun Java Studio Creator, Sun officials said on Monday.

Previously code-named "Project Rave", the development, debugging and deployment system is viewed as Sun's easy-to-use counterpart to the Microsoft Visual Basic programming language. Java Studio Creator also claims to boost performance with a feature called JavaServer Faces. A general release of the product is planned for late June.

Coding with Java Studio Creator is intended to be visual and efficient. "It simplifies Java development," said Sun spokesman Jim Inscore. "It allows you to do a lot of Java development without code. It allows you to focus on business development rather than doing plumbing."

The product is based on the NetBeans open-source platform, specifically Version 3.6 of NetBeans. Version 3.6 adds stronger support for JavaServer Pages syntax in the code editor, and improvements to code completion and debugging.

Also included in Java Studio Creator are a Java Enterprise System run-time, allowing developers to evaluate applications in pre-production; a SQL database server; and the J2SE (Java 2 Standard Edition) software development kit.

Java Studio Creator supports Java Database Connectivity RowSet technology for simplifying database access, Java XML Pack software and J2EE 1.3 and 1.4 Web container technology.

The early access release will be made available on Sun's Web site. Some 10,000 developers have signed up for the preview, Sun said.