Sun is doing a tremendous investment in Netbeans at the moment. I don’t really know why they are doing this. Well yes, in comparison to Eclipse it is necessary to get a kind of equalization. But, it’s still clear that Netbeans has lost it’s position to become number one in the IDE standards field. The Eclipse community became too big the last years to still fight against it for win. For me, Sun is burning money. Would be nice if they could share their knowledge and engineers to further improve the Eclipse code base. Mantisse is a good example that this would be worth to try for the Java community.
When I worked at Sun there was no Eclipse and we used “our own dogfood”. Although, Netbeans and its wizards helped to get things coded, you had to understand what you’re doing, before they really helped. Not a kind of wizard I experienced from other apps before. Seems to me that this is still true after three years of improvement. Documentation was really a challenge those days. There are still some problems, too.
I developed with Borland’s Delphi in the mid 90ties. In some places even Delphi 3 offered a lot more than you can find in todays IDEs. As I did a lot of GUIs those days, GUI development was what I had a look at, first, with every new Java IDE. I started with Visual Cafe (you remember the market leader of those days?), Borland JBuilder in its early stages (similar to use like Delphi, but horrible slow), Netbeans/Sun ONE Studio and Eclipse.
Netbeans Mantisse is the first implementation that let me say “Wow. Delphi 3 is back!”. Well, today server-side development is more important. But, the Web 2.0 stuff and also JavaServer Faces (JSF), a desktop-like development model, are on the horizon. My first experiences with JSF show, that there’s still a need for “Delphi 3 quality”.
At the moment a lot of people are looking at what they can do with Eclipse and Netbeans in the Rich Client Platform (RCP) arena. There are ports in both directions and the preferences heavily depend on the past IDE experiences. For me, Eclipse has more to offer in RCP. They started with this idea, and don’t have to follow it (Netbeans is still in early stage). It’s amusing to read from the Netbeans people what it already offers and that you can write RCP as easy. But, have a look at the tutorials. It’s not the same quality Eclipse RCP offers to concentrate on the “business logic”.
Here are some “comparisons” and experiences that can help if you’re still reviewing: