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Eclipse vs Netbeans

By , 9 January 2007

Eclipse vs Netbeans

I've been a big fan of vim pretty much since I left high school. I'll admit that it isn't the most welcoming of text editors, but after having grown accustomed to its UI and key bindings I thought I'd never have to look for another editor again. Vim is lightweight, fast, allows you to work without reaching for the mouse, has syntax highlighting for about a billion different languages and can do practically anything you can imagine if you care to check the manual.

Eclipse vs Netbeans

When I started programming in Java, vim did just fine. But as the complexity of my work grew and the number of artifacts to maintain increased I found that vim let me down in two ways:

  • Vim has no file manager / speedbar to quickly locate and load files on the disk.
  • Vim doesn't help you build your project, and I was getting tired of maintaining ant scripts and lib directories.

I figured there couldn't be any harm in trying some of those IDEs that everybody was ranting about. I mean, when have the masses ever been wrong? It turns out that they weren't wrong, but not for the reasons I expected.

Here's the comparison table I made of the IDE's which I evaluated. Its dated July 2005, so it's not supposed to be current but I think it is still interesting nevertheless. For some stupid reason I didn't record what versions I was evaluating. I know it was Netbeans 4.1 and Eclipse 3.1 though.

  Eclipse Netbeans JDeveloper Java Studio Creator
Vendor Eclipse Foundation Sun Oracle Sun
Maturity still quite young still quite young mature built on netbeans
Stability crashed several times no crashes no crashes no crashes
Licensing/cost OSS/Free OSS/Free ADF license for runtime/$100 per end user of app. proprietary, USD99
Technology Support
J2SE yes yes yes yes, but meant for JEE apps
J2EE various plugins yes yes yes
JSF various plugins - MyEclipse, Exadel no yes yes
JDO plugins no no.. toplink only no
Ant optional all builds based on ant ? all builds based on ant
Code Editor Features
Autocomplete yes yes ? yes
Hyperlink code no yes ? yes
WYSIWG HTML editor plugins no yes yes
WYSIWG JSP editor plugins no yes yes
WYSIWG JSF editor plugins no yes yes
CSS editor ? yes ? yes
XML editor yes yes yes yes
GUI Editor Features
GUI Editor Visual Editor plugin yes yes JSF only
Round-tripping yes no ? ?
Data binding ? no ADF binding (JSR 227) JSF only
Modelling Features
UML modelling plugins, e.g. Omondo no yes no
UML class round-tripping yes, with Omondo - yes -
Flowcharts plugin (GFE) no ? no
Profiler ? plugin ? no
Debugger yes yes yes yes
Database inspector plugins yes, read only yes yes, read/write
Subversion integration plugin generic SCM support ? generic

I also looked at IBM's WSAD, Borland JBuilder and Sun Java Studio Enterprise, but they didn't make it into the table. The results above don't show any clear winner but my final evaluation comments were as follows (/me braces for a backlash from the Eclipse community):

My first impression of Eclipse is that it is a hackers tool. It seems to be a bit unstable and the large volume of plugins available makes it difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Netbeans seems like a neat little package, although it seems to have a smaller user and developer base and probably lacks some of the features of Eclipse.

JDeveloper looks very useful, but has a scary licensing scheme. Sun's Java Studio Enterprise looks to be more than it's equal and has a sensible licensing scheme.

I'm going to go with Netbeans because its a no-nonsense product and provides a nice upgrade path to Studio Creater or Studio Enterprise if I decide I need the extra features.

So there you have it. I use Netbeans because it's neat and it's stable.

The story doesn't quite end there though. In the next episode, find out which of the world's problems Netbeans hasn't solved and find out if vim and I will ever get back together!

To be continued...


About Roger Keays

Eclipse vs Netbeans

Roger Keays is an artist, an engineer, and a student of life. Since he left Australia in 2009, he has been living as a digital nomad in over 40 different countries around the world. Roger is addicted to surfing. His other interests are music, psychology, languages, and finding good food. Click here to subscribe to his weekly blog, or stalk him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Comment posted by: Jeff, 9 years ago

IntelliJ first. But netbeans a close 2nd and of course NB is free. Eclipse is a nightmare to use unless you cut your teeth on it.I did not. I will never get used to it. Fortunately I don't have to.


Comment posted by: , 9 years ago
Hey John, I'm not sure why I had problems with Eclipse crashing. Perhaps it was just that build, my OS, environment or hardware. Maybe it was just me - trying to get too fancy with plugins or something. I have used Eclipse since then in another work environment and don't remember having any major problems with stability (although I didn't try to push my luck too far with extra plugins). I guess it was just bad luck for Eclipse at the time.

I still prefer to use NetBeans, but I suppose you've got to thank the Eclipse team for stirring up a bit of action in the NB camp.
Comment posted by: , 9 years ago
David Blair made an interesting comment on the netbeans-user list about how many of the items in red would now be green for NB 5.5. It turns out the if I was evaluating Netbeans today the only 'no' would be GUI Data Binding!
Comment posted by: $NAME, 9 years ago
I used the original NetBeans (Forte), and I switched to Eclipse as quick as I could.  That was back in 2000-2001.  I used Eclipse (or WSAD, it's corporate alter ego) pretty much exclusively after that (I did one project with JDeveloper, and didn't have any problems).  Then I got a Sun workstation and found that Eclipse doesn't run on Solaris.  So I sighed and took a look at NetBeans again.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that everything that drove me away initially ('mounting' directories was a big one -- what was up with *that*?) was gone, and it was a nice modern IDE.  There are still some things I like better about Eclipse, but not enough to make me switch.  Plus, NetBeans integrates with Glassfish (the Sun Java System App Server), so I get to play with the latest toys.  Don't get me started on how much trouble I went through trying to deploy a web service on our allegedly-current Websphere 6.0 server (no Java 1.5 support, no JSR-181 support, no JAX-WS support, ...)
Comment posted by: John Slave, 9 years ago
Eclipse unstable? In mi works i can tell eclipse is very hard to learn (netbeans very easy) but it is more stable and more powerful. Some advantage of netbeans such as visual web pack, put limitations in projects...eclipse is the right direction to move...but at work we have to use netbeans...


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