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J2EE Journal: Article

JDJ Archives: Eclipse vs NetBeans - "Point/Counterpoint" Special

Point/Counterpoint over Java's Desktop UI technology

Rebuttal: Henry Roswell

One of the urban myths on JavaLobby is that the name Eclipse itself was designed to be a joke about blocking out the Sun and designed to antagonize the creators of Java. This isn't true, and what occurred was when the first prototypes were shown to a group of IBM executives they were so impressed by its functionality the comment was made "This is amazing - it eclipses everything we've ever done before".

The reference in other words was to previous IBM tooling efforts, so if anything the name is a snub on IBM previous track recording in tooling. Eclipse is a true open-source project that was seeded by IBM and its business partners to be the foundation for their tools stack, but since has grown into a much larger and more independent movement. The list of current participants is a who's who of the IT business including Intel, Red Hat, Oracle, Borland and many others.

Despite its comparisons to NetBeans, Eclipse itself was not intended to be an IDE per se, and was designed to be useful for "anything and nothing in particular". It's flattering that it gets frequently included towards the top of "Best IDE" polls, but out of the box it is missing lots of features required for Java development - such as those for J2EE artifacts. However, the community that has grown up around Eclipse has recognized this and there is signifigant momentum behind efforts to shape it more towards these product stacks. A lot of Eclipse's strength comes not from IBM but from other participants and grassroots developers who contribute feedback, build plugins, and use the tool in new and exciting ways.

Eclipse also gets employed by people doing more specialist vertical industry development such as SAP, and one of the most exciting projects going on right now is the rich client development platform that will allow more people to take advantage of the workbench and its plugin architecture for their own end-user applications.

It's great that Joe Ottinger both likes and dislikes Eclipse and NetBeans. I won't enter into a debate about NetBeans for the "counterproductive" reasons listed in Joe's opening paragraph. Good technology stands up on its own strengths without needing to knock the competition down, and I have no doubt that there are many excellent features of NetBeans that its users find productive and powerful.

Joe does make an interesting point about operating systems portability, when he recalls the story of opening Eclipse on another OS (presumably other than Windows) and describing it as amazingly ugly. Without knowing more about the particular OS and problem I can't comment on why this occurred.

The feedback he received about why he was using that OS or why didn't he port SWT were probably from a general public forum. The views of individuals on newsgroups, whether they're pugnacious or not, don't often represent the people they believe they are backing, any more than football hooligans don't speak for their team's players. It's not a goal of Eclipse that you should choose your OS based on a specific program, and if the particular platform Joe used was one supported by Eclipse then he should raise issues in Eclipse's bug tracking system and engage the developers rather than the newsgroup pundits.

At the end of the day, "you download your tool and you takes your choice." Having Eclipse, NetBeans, as well as the other great IDE tools out there (JBuilder, Weblogic Workbench, WebSphere Studio) is good for the Java community. It creates healthy competition as they all leapfrog each other's functionality with successive releases - and the real winners are users of Java who focus on their end user's problems rather than engage cycles arguing whether their IDE is superior based on its GUI toolkit or otherwise.

More Stories By Henry Roswell

Henry Roswell is a veteran consultant who would like to think he's seen it all, but is constantly amazed by new events every day.

More Stories By Joseph Ottinger

I am a software evangelist for GigaSpaces technologies, as well as a writer and musician. I've been the editor-in-chief of Java Developer's Journal and TheServerSide.

GigaSpaces Technologies is a leading provider of a new generation of application platforms for Java and .Net environments that offer an alternative to traditional application-servers. The company's eXtreme Application Platform (XAP) is a high-end application server, designed to meet the most demanding business requirements in a cost-effective manner. It is the only product that provides a complete middleware solution on a single, scalable platform. XAP is trusted by Fortune 100 companies, which leverage it as a strategic solution that enhances efficiency and agility across the IT organization.

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