NetBeans 6.0M3 vs. Eclipse 3.3M2

NetBeans 6.0M3 vs. Eclipse 3.3M2

Summary: Last week Sun and the Eclipse Foundation both released milestone versions of their flagship Java IDE/rich client platforms. This planetary alignment provides a unique opportunity to compare the state of development of these two open source projects....

TOPICS: Open Source

Last week Sun and the Eclipse Foundation both released milestone versions of their flagship Java IDE/rich client platforms. This planetary alignment provides a unique opportunity to compare the state of development of these two open source projects. We'll start with NetBeans.

NetBeans 6.0M3

NetBeans 6.0M3 was released on September 19th, 2006. Milestones are on a 5 week schedule, with 4 weeks of development and 1 week of testing. Before version 6, NetBeans used another system of "Q-builds". The NetBeans New and Noteworthy page lists a total of 3 new features for M3. Chief among those is support for Windows Vista:

NetBeans 6.0M3

The Vista look and feel design document details all the work that went into supporting Vista, including a new set of icons and pixel-accurate gradients and bevels developed by the NetBeans team. The other two features added to 6.0M3 were a stop and rerun button for the Ant view, and support for per-project launch configurations. 

Eclipse 3.3M2

Eclipse 3.3M2 was released on September 22nd, 2006. Milestones are on a 6 week schedule, with Integration builds and tests every week. This release rhythm has been in place for several years (see previous articles on the Eclipse Way) and is famous for producing on-time high quality software. The Eclipse SDK New and Noteworthy page lists a total of 31 new features for M2. One of the cooler features in M2 is support for new options in the live annotation of source code:

Eclipse 3.3M2

In 3.3M2 you can select from three different coloring schemes and choose whether author and revision information should be displayed as text in addition to the coloring. The screen shot above shows the revision numbers, background colored by author, and additional information in the hover help.

Other changes include:

  • a number of enhancements to the Java editor and refactoring,
  • a new Clean Up preference page that allows clean up profiles to be shared within a team via regular source control,
  • a built-in Java disassembler for when source is not available (I bet this will be an area of more activity in the future),
  • a new editor for creating "cheat sheets" (interactive check-list style help pages),
  • support for targetting non-Eclipse OSGi frameworks such as Oscar and Felix (available separately),
  • 200-300% faster loading of PNG images and 30-60% faster loading of JPG images,
  • a wicked new SWT graphics example program,
  • and more.

Because Eclipse uses the native operating system widgets, no special changes were needed to support Windows Vista or MacOSX Leopard. Eclipse SDK version 3.3 is planned for production in late June of 2007 as part of a coordinated release of a number of projects code-named "Europa".


If these recent milestones are any indication, then Eclipse development is far out-pacing its open source rival. This is likely because Eclipse benefits from a huge and growing ecosystem of contributors around the world, many of whom work on commercial software based on Eclipse RCP. Despite intense marketing and bundling efforts, and breaking down the barriers between the NetBeans and JDK teams, Sun has so far failed to put a dent in Eclipse's momentum. If you can't beat 'em...

Topic: Open Source

Ed Burnette

About Ed Burnette

Ed Burnette is a software industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience as a programmer, author, and speaker. He has written numerous technical articles and books, most recently "Hello, Android: Introducing Google's Mobile Development Platform" from the Pragmatic Programmers.

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  • dynamic language support?

    How does dynamic language support line up in netbeans vs eclipse?
    & more?
    • Re: dynamic language support

      Plug-ins have been written to support all those. Last time I tried them, the groovy one needed work but the others (RDT and PyDev) were pretty good.
      Ed Burnette
  • criteria?

    I'd like to see a comparison of how productive developers are using the two IDEs. Just because one IDE may have more features and more companies in the community does not necessarily equate to one being better than the other. I have used both tools and have found NetBeans to be much easier to use and better suited to the development of web applications. To me the NetBeans vs. Eclipse battle is very similar to the battle between Mac OS and Windows. I prefer NetBeans for many of the same reasons that I prefer the Mac.
    • Re: Criteria?

      I guess it all depends on the user. I have found myself to be much more productive in Eclipse than Netbeans. I have also found that in the past, initial Netbeans releases have been buggy. Eclipse has always (I started using it around 2.x) ran smoothly for the tasks that I perform.

      I will say that I have always preferred Netbeans GUI editor.
      • GUI editor

        NetBeans Matisse set a high bar for Swing GUI editors but there are some good free and commercial ones for Eclipse too. Personally I still code mine by hand. One reason is I like to have table or data driven forms that eliminate redundancy.
        Ed Burnette
  • NetBeans Development

    Hey Ed,
    Actually you're conclusions are pretty off, I guess you haven't
    noticed but we also have a beta of NetBeans 5.5 out, with the
    addition of UML, BPEL, XML Tools, C/C++ development, and
    coming soon the Sun Java Studio Creator visual web
    development offering, along with base features supporting Java
    SE 6 and Java EE 5. We also recently announced our products
    with BlueJ for an educational version and now have a JBoss/
    NetBeans bundle. I'm sure I'm forgetting a few things as well,
    but as usual, we're working on 2 releases at the same time and
    most of our development is going into NetBeans 5.5 as we get to
    our late October release. One thing I'm really proud of is that
    we're responding to our #1 voice of the customer issue with the
    multiple Sun development tools and focusing our efforts on
    getting all the functionality of those tools into NetBeans. When
    5.5 comes out, and the "packs" on top of them are out, we'll
    have acheived that goal. NetBeans 6 promises to be very
    exciting when we ramp up, you'll see huge editor improvements.
    Stay tuned, and make sure you look at all the development, not
    just one of the releases.

    Tim Cramer
    Executive Director: Java Tools
    • One small thing ...

      Will this version be able to print just a selected session of text?
    • Packs and bundles

      Hi Tim. I do Java SE programming so that's the part I'm most familiar with, and it was not NB 5.5's primary focus.

      You write about the "packs" coming out for NetBeans and say that's a good thing, but then criticize the need to add "plug-ins" to Eclipse to get more functionality. It's just different words for basically the same thing isn't it?

      You mention the JBoss/NetBeans bundle. How about the JDK/NetBeans bundle? Doesn't that give NB an unfair advantage over IDEA or Eclipse, in the same way that bundling Internet Explorer with Windows gave Microsoft an unfair advantage over Netscape?
      Ed Burnette
      • Re: Packs and bundles

        Just stay tuned on the packs and NetBeans, keep watching that
        space for NetBeans 6, you'll see some pretty amazing
        innovation. As I've been stating publically all the time, we're
        open sourcing our other 2 java tools, and trying to get that
        functionality into the hands of developers as quickly as possible.
        Therefore, we temporarily have some packs that incorporate
        these projects moving to open source. We'll sort it all out by the
        NetBeans 6 FCS.

        I'm not going into a debate with you on your blog about the
        bundle argument, though I think your comparison is quite
        a bit of a stretch.

        I'm just pointing out that your not doing a fair comparison, and
        so are a lot of other people.
  • poor, biased article

    I'm a heavy eclipse user, I like it a lot. However, this article is heavily biased towards eclipse with little or no real-world justification. PNG images load faster now in Eclipse? Whoo-hoo! Who cares that you have to buy or find plugins to edit XML, manage JEE descriptors and generally do a zillion things that Netbeans does out of the box for free.

    The basic point is that both projects are incredibly valuable and so is the "co-opetition" between them. Netbeans is more of a VisualStudio replacement for Java, and Eclipse is an uber-extensible platform which comes out of the box with excellent code facilities and that's it. Different viewpoints, different strengths, different weaknesses.

    I just wish people would grow up and value differences.

    • Visual Studio replacement

      Actually I'd argue that Eclipse is the Visual Studio replacement. NetBeans's marketing positions it as an Eclipse replacement. Both are extensible platforms. But maybe I'm just splitting hairs.
      Ed Burnette
      • Visual Studio competitor

        In response to Ed's point about Netbeans/Eclipse being like VisualStudio.

        I've recently been working as the architect of a .Net2.0 project -- people here are using VS2005. To application developers, the substrate of VS as a platform is not really relevant/visible. They just see all the good things they get out of the box like schema editors, database explorers etc.

        In this respect, although Eclipse is possibly closer to the foundation of VS, Netbeans looks much more like VS to the app developer. I really value the extra that it brings out of the box. In this sense it competes directly with MyEclipse, which costs.

        Please don't mistake me however -- I really like eclipse and I prefer it over netbeans. However, I've seen people who are the other way. Netbeans also includes an extensible platform -- they were there well before eclipse. It also seems to have less of a internal model of the source code -- in this respect it is very much like VS.

        p.s. I have no affiliation with either IDE, apart from working for OTI back in the late '90s.
  • Bad comparison method

    I am a fervent user of Eclipse and I loved it until this last months... As I can observe, Eclipse route maps and functions releases are driven by Big Commercial Members(IBM, BEA, Oracle, ...) and the community is still waiting java ee 5 functions. Perhaps, they want to first release their Containers to java ee 5 before give the OK to give support for it in Eclipse. I know the WTP team have receive patch to release javaEE5 support in WTP 1.5 and 2.0, but they still argue on strategic planning of project model and so on, and loose time to millions of developers out there ...

    If I had to compare Eclipse to Netbeans today, I ll say that I am very close to switch to Netbeans because they give support for what we have asked so long:
    - Faster EE developement (EJB3 , JPA, Annotation support)

    If Spring team don't want to loose all credits, they must quickly adopt Annotations and kick-out their XML programming artifacts, for one place Java annotated sources.

    This is the target of millions of smart java developers out there.

    Please take care of you.

  • Seriously Bioses

    I have been using eclipse at my work place, looking at the netbeans development it seems that they are way ahead in WS and VWP development. Creating EJBs or WSs can be done in a snap. This was really a poor comparison, you have enlisted all the new features of Eclipse but nothing of NetBeans. Anyways I am switching to Netbeans pretty soon.
  • Malicious

    Obviously, the text is written by an Eclipse fan. You cant compare two products just by counting features in update, while ignoring existing ones. E.g. does the eclipse have any decent (free) visual GUI designer? NO! NetBeans? YES, one of the best I ever saw, and not just in Java world.
    Second, NetBeans is not written by a horde of enthusiasts. A very powerful and rich company stays behind it, which secures its future for a very long time.