With its newly updated NetBeans Java IDE, Oracle has focused on updating the tools and libraries so they can be used to build more sophisticated user interfaces.
"There are a lot of interesting new features scattered throughout, but the bulk of the effort has been around improving interfaces, both for the desktop and the Web client," said Bill Pataky, Oracle vice president for product management.
For the desktop, NetBeans IDE 7.1 updated the software's Matisse editor, which now uses the latest version of the Java Swing graphical user interface library. NetBeans 7.1 is also the first IDE to fully support the latest release of JavaFX version 2.0.
The software also comes with a visual debugger for Swing and javaFX, one that can be used to pinpoint elusive problems in the code. "You can look at every property as it is being executed inside the user interface," Pataky said. "It makes debugging for the desktop client much, much easier."
For building web clients, the software has expanded support for both the Java Server Faces (JSF) library and the latest version of CSS, version 3. Web developers will be able to enjoy code completion, syntax highlighting and many of the other advanced features long used by their peers building desktop applications.
NetBeans is one of the many technologies Oracle acquired when it purchased Sun Microsystems early in 2010. The company has continued Sun's tradition of offering the developer software at no cost, as well as posting the source code. Along with the open source Eclipse, JetBrains' IntelliJ and Oracle's own JDeveloper, NetBeans is one of the chief developer environments written for Java and other languages based on the Java Virtual Machine.
Since the acquisition, Oracle has positioned NetBeans as the IDE for developers interested in exploring Java's latest features. In contrast, JDeveloper is aimed at Oracle customers using the Oracle Application Developer Framework, a technology Oracle acquired when it purchased BEA Systems in 2008. The company also contributes to the Eclipse project as well, in recognition of that IDE's large user base.
NetBeans can be used to create Java applications for desktops, servers, and for the web. It also can be used to create applications in PHP and C/C++, and an array of JVM languages such as Scala and Groovy.
Other new features include integration with the open source Git version control system, which allows multiple programmers to work on a single program at the same time. A developer can view earlier versions of a program through a tabbed interface. The software also now allows "mercurial branches," Pataky said, in which experimental versions of a program can be created and removed if not successful. Debugging for PHP has also been improved.
Oracle also tied the software in more closely with its own technologies. Users can build programs using the latest JDK (Java Development Kit version 7), as well as Java EE 6 (Java Platform Enterprise Edition version 6). NetBeans streamlines the process of deploying programs on the latest version of Oracle's application server, WebLogic Server 12c.
NetBeans is available for Oracle Solaris, Linux, Apple Mac OS and Microsoft Windows.