Click here to close now.

Welcome!

Java Authors: Trevor Parsons, Jnan Dash, Mike Kavis, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: Java

Java: Article

A Better IDE: NetBeans 6.0 - New Core Features in Depth

A better IDE

New features and improvements in the next release of NetBeans make it a better IDE for any kind of developer. From editing to browsing, versioning, building, debugging, profiling or visual design, there is great news for everybody.

It's that time again. A major, dot-zero release of NetBeans will be available soon - over a year and a half after 5.0, which introduced significant new features like the Matisse GUI builder, and extensive improvements in CVS integration, Web services and module development, to cite but a few. In contrast, version 5.5 focused outside the core IDE by supporting several new Packs that increased NetBeans' overall functionality to a level still unmatched by any other open source IDE. Now, is NetBeans 6.0 worthy of the bump in the major version number? You bet it is, and in this article we'll look at some of the most important and interesting new features in the core IDE.

A New Editor
Common sense says no product can be perfect in everything it does, but NetBeans is getting closer each day. Historically, NetBeans users have been proud of the IDE's complete coverage of Java platforms from ME to EE, its support of effective GUI building, and its intuitive UI and open architecture. On the other hand, the IDE lagged in certain areas, like in the code editor or refactoring. This could put off programmers very focused on source code…those who'll pick emacs over visual designers any day. Well, these problems are no more with NetBeans 6.0.

AST-Based Selection
Selecting words or lines is good enough for text editors, but when working with sources you often need to work with ranges of text that form coherent pieces of code. Say you want to copy all the code inside a for loop body in order to paste it in another loop with similar logic. Just place the cursor in any blank position inside the loop body, press Alt+Shift+Period, and you're done. The editor selects the innermost range of text that includes the cursor position and delimits a node of the source's Abstract Syntax Tree.

Pressing Alt+Shift+Period again expands the selection to the next outer node, in this case the complete for statement; then a new keystroke may select the entire method, and so forth. Alt+Shift+Comma will retract the selection to an inner node. Figure 1 shows this feature being used to select a multi-line statement easily and precisely. I bet you will quickly be hooked on this feature and forget about all the other selection shortcuts! There's nothing like a code editor that groks code, not text.

Semantic Highlighter
The editor's syntax highlighter was promoted to a semantics-aware highlighter. It can apply styles based not only on the types of tokens (like identifiers, operators or comments), but also based on different meanings that akin tokens may have - for instance, an identifier may be a class name or a local variable name, a parameter, a constant field, etc.

One benefit of semantic highlighting is that it helps you take extra care when assigning static fields (since many thread-safety and memory-leak bugs involve statics). Figure 1 shows this; notice that static fields (and references to these) appear in italics.

There are other powerful uses for the new highlighting engine:

  • Identifying usages: Select any identifier, and the editor highlights all its uses in the same compilation unit. Again, Figure 1 exemplifies this - click on a method name and all invocations to it are highlighted.
  • Flagging "Smelly code": The new editor highlights unused variables and imports, as well as usage of deprecated classes and methods. You don't need to perform a build or run a code lint tool to detect these simple (but frequent) problems anymore.
  • Exit and throw points: Selecting a method's return type will highlight all return statements. Selecting an exception in the method's throws list will flag all throws of that exception type. All invocations to other methods that may throw the same exception are also flagged.
Better Code Completion
The bewildering amount of APIs you have to use these days makes code completion one of the most critical features of any modern code editor. NetBeans 6.0 has learned many new tricks here:
  • Keyword completion: If you've just typed a package declaration in a new source file (for example), Ctrl+Space will bring only the keywords that are legal in that position: abstract, class, enum, final, import, interface, and public. Figure 1 shows another example: after the opening parenthesis of a method declaration, the preferred completions are all primitive types.
  • Type-based variable names: Completing at "ConfigurationFile _", the editor will offer the variable names cf, configurationFile and file. (I'm using "_" to represent the cursor position.)
  • Generics-aware completions: When assigning a variable with a generic type to a new expression, the editor will offer all compatible types, including generic arguments. For example, at "Map<String, Integer> m = new _", code completion lists all implementations of Map, each with the same <String, Integer> parameters.
  • Annotation-aware completions: When completing after "@", you'll be offered all the annotations that can be used in the given scope. If the selected annotation requires parameters, the editor will provide completions for these too.
  • Passing parameters: At "x = m(_", the top completions will be values in scope that are compatible with m()'s first parameter. If the method's parameter names are available and there are variables with similar names in scope, this is used to sort the completions further. You'll also be offered full completions with the parameter list filled with those variables.
  • Common constructors: When you invoke code completion with the cursor positioned between class members, you'll be able to create a constructor without arguments and one that receives initial values for all fields (if these constructors don't already exist).
  • Catching exceptions: Completion at "catch (_" will only offer exceptions that are thrown in the corresponding try block, but haven't been handled yet by previous catch blocks.
New Browsing Views
The editor introduces several new views for source code browsing. The members' view shows the members of a Java type together with their javadocs, making it easy to find a particular method, field or inner class. The Hierarchy view shows the inheritance tree of a Java type. Figure 1 demonstrates this view; notice the filter buttons that let you toggle between supertypes or subtypes and between simple and fully qualified class names. You can also choose whether or not to show inner classes and interfaces.

The Declaration view summarizes the declaration of the selected Java element (type, method, or field). Despite its name, this view also shows the inspected element's source code if it's available. The Declaration View is especially useful when invoking code still under development, not yet documented with javadoc. Finally, the Javadoc view shows the javadocs for the selected Java element.


More Stories By Osvaldo Pinali Doederlein

Osvaldo holds an MSc in software enginnering and works as technology architect at Visionnaire S/A, developing J2EE technology-based applications.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place June 9-11, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place November 3–5, 2015 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SoftLayer operates a global cloud infrastructure platform built for Internet scale. With a global footprint of data centers and network points of presence, SoftLayer provides infrastructure as a service to leading-edge customers ranging from ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cisco, the worldwide leader in IT that transforms how people connect, communicate and collaborate, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Cisco makes amazing things happen by connecting the unconnected. Cisco has shaped the future of the Internet by becoming the worldwide leader in transforming how people connect, communicate and collaborate. Cisco and our partners are building the platform for the Internet of Everything by connecting the...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Liaison Technologies, a leading provider of data management and integration cloud services and solutions, has been named "Silver Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Liaison Technologies is a recognized market leader in providing cloud-enabled data integration and data management solutions to break down complex information barriers, enabling enterprises to make smarter decisions, faster.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, phone and digital TV services to consumers primarily in rural areas.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ciqada will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Ciqada™ makes it easy to connect your products to the Internet. By integrating key components - hardware, servers, dashboards, and mobile apps - into an easy-to-use, configurable system, your products can quickly and securely join the internet of things. With remote monitoring, control, and alert messaging capability, you will meet your customers' needs of tomorrow - today! Ciqada. Let your products take flight. For more inform...
SYS-CON Events announced today that GENBAND, a leading developer of real time communications software solutions, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's WebRTC Summit, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The GENBAND team will be on hand to demonstrate their newest product, Kandy. Kandy is a communications Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) that enables companies to seamlessly integrate more human communications into their Web and mobile applications - creating more engaging experiences for their customers and boosting collaboration and productiv...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dyn, the worldwide leader in Internet Performance, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Dyn is a cloud-based Internet Performance company. Dyn helps companies monitor, control, and optimize online infrastructure for an exceptional end-user experience. Through a world-class network and unrivaled, objective intelligence into Internet conditions, Dyn ensures traffic gets delivered faster, safer, and more reliably than ever.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Open Data Centers (ODC), a carrier-neutral colocation provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Open Data Centers is a carrier-neutral data center operator in New Jersey and New York City offering alternative connectivity options for carriers, service providers and enterprise customers.
SYS-CON Events announced today that On the Avenue Marketing Group, a sales and marketing firm that utilizes events to market and sell products to consumers, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. On the Avenue Marketing Group (OTA) is a sales and marketing firm that utilizes events to market and sell products to consumers. On behalf of our clients, we attend thousands of fairs, festivals, expos, concerts, conferences, and sporting events annually, helping them reach millions of individuals ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that BroadSoft, the leading global provider of Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) services to operators worldwide, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's WebRTC Summit, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. BroadSoft is the leading provider of software and services that enable mobile, fixed-line and cable service providers to offer Unified Communications over their Internet Protocol networks. The Company’s core communications platform enables the delivery of a range of enterprise and consumer calling...
SYS-CON Events announced today that ActiveState, the leading independent Cloud Foundry and Docker-based PaaS provider, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's DevOps Summit New York, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. ActiveState believes that enterprises gain a competitive advantage when they are able to quickly create, deploy and efficiently manage software solutions that immediately create business value, but they face many challenges that prevent them from doing so. The Company is uniquely positioned to help address these challenges thro...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Vitria Technology, Inc. will exhibit at SYS-CON’s @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Vitria will showcase the company’s new IoT Analytics Platform through live demonstrations at booth #330. Vitria’s IoT Analytics Platform, fully integrated and powered by an operational intelligence engine, enables customers to rapidly build and operationalize advanced analytics to deliver timely business outcomes for use cases across the industrial, enterprise, and consumer segments.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Alert Logic, the leading provider of Security-as-a-Service solutions for the cloud, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo® and DevOps Summit 2015 New York, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 17th International Cloud Expo® and DevOps Summit 2015 Silicon Valley, which will take place November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Akana, formerly SOA Software, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo® New York, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Akana’s comprehensive suite of API Management, API Security, Integrated SOA Governance, and Cloud Integration solutions helps businesses accelerate digital transformation by securely extending their reach across multiple channels – mobile, cloud and Internet of Things. Akana enables enterprises to share data as APIs, connect and integrate applications, drive part...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CommVault has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. A singular vision – a belief in a better way to address current and future data management needs – guides CommVault in the development of Singular Information Management® solutions for high-performance data protection, universal availability and sim...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SafeLogic has been named “Bag Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo® New York, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. SafeLogic provides security products for applications in mobile and server/appliance environments. SafeLogic’s flagship product CryptoComply is a FIPS 140-2 validated cryptographic engine designed to secure data on servers, workstations, appliances, mobile devices, and in the Cloud.
SYS-CON Events announced today that StorPool Storage will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. StorPool is distributed storage software that allows service providers, enterprises and other cloud builders to run data storage on standard x86 servers, instead of using expensive and inefficient storage arrays (SAN).
SYS-CON Events announced today that Site24x7, the cloud infrastructure monitoring service, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Site24x7 is a cloud infrastructure monitoring service that helps monitor the uptime and performance of websites, online applications, servers, mobile websites and custom APIs. The monitoring is done from 50+ locations across the world and from various wireless carriers, thus providing a global perspective of the end-user experience. Site24x7 supports monitoring H...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Intelligent Systems Services will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Established in 1994, Intelligent Systems Services Inc. is located near Washington, DC, with representatives and partners nationwide. ISS’s well-established track record is based on the continuous pursuit of excellence in designing, implementing and supporting nationwide clients’ mission-critical systems. ISS has completed many successful projects in Healthcare, Commercial, Manufacturing, ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that B2Cloud, a provider of enterprise resource planning software, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. B2cloud develops the software you need. They have the ideal tools to help you work with your clients. B2Cloud’s main solutions include AGIS – ERP, CLOHC, AGIS – Invoice, and IZUM