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29 June 2009, 15:30

NetBeans 6.7 released - focuses on Maven and Kenai integration

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NetBeans logo Sun Microsystems has made version 6.7 of NetBeans, its open source development environment, available to download. The new release includes all the familiar functions from version 6.5.1, including application servers, databases, profilers, debuggers, RESTFul services, SOAP support, XML editors and database browsers. The only function to have disappeared in this version is JSF support for Woodstock. In its place is a plug-in offering comparable support for the ICEFaces AJAX framework.

The NetBeans Java development environment was first released as open source software by Sun in 2000. The IDE also introduced support for other programming languages, such as C/C++, and in particular scripting languages, such as PHP, Groovy and Ruby, in the form of separately released packages, several years ago. The new version does not yet support Sun's new JavaFX web presentation technology.

Maven support

Where NetBeans 6.5.1 used Ant for the entire build process, the new version now offers native support for the Maven build system with no need for additional plug-ins or workarounds. Ant support works well, but the Ant scripts generated were complicated and difficult to maintain without NetBeans. Maven projects can now be opened and built directly in NetBeans without requiring conversion or adaptation. Maven archetypes are available for creating Java EE (Java Enterprise Edition) projects. Deployment, remote debugging and profiling now also work with Maven.

The new version includes additional useful functions such as visual representation of module relationships, auto-completion for searching for dependencies in POM (Project Object Model) and full-text searching in the repositories. It is possible to search for unknown classes in other Maven modules in the repository, which can then be opened and included in the project.

NetBeans also includes parts of the future Java EE 6 specification. The development of "No-interface" View Beans, @Singleton Beans and Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB) 3.1-REST hybrids can be done with a pure web project (WAR). NetBeans knows about annotations and libraries – following a one-off deployment (from the run menu), the changes are activated as soon as modified classes are saved, with no further build or redeployment required. The preview of Sun's Glassfish v3 application server starts up in just a few seconds and the time taken to save changes to the server is barely measurable. The HTTP session is, however, maintained, so that status is not lost during deployment.

Kenai: NetBeans goes cloud computing

Another new feature is support for Kenai, a platform comparable with, Google Code or Sourceforge. As well as version control systems such as Subversion and Mercurial, Kenai also contains well-integrated issue tracking software (Bugzilla), JIRA, continuous integration support using Hudson, forums, wikis and an IM client, all of which are integrated into NetBeans. Setting up cloud projects in NetBeans is easy, merely requiring a Kenai invitation, after which projects can be created directly in the IDE and published in Kenai. SCM (Software Configuration Management) access is no longer a problem; projects can be found, integrated into NetBeans, opened and edited using full text searches. As well as the familiar database, web services, Enterprise Beans and server nodes, the Services tab now also includes Hudson builds and an issue tracker. When checking into an SCM, it is possible to edit the status of entries.


Refugees from Eclipse will like the "Synchronize Editor with Views" function in the View menu. After activation, NetBeans carries out bidirectional synchronisation between the project tree and the active editor. The need for time-consuming searches for currently active files in the Projects tab and associated package tree, or the use of short cuts, is done away with. There is also a completely revamped interface for Mac users.

The start-up behaviour of NetBeans 6.7 (tested with Java EE support) has unfortunately deteriorated. On starting, the development environment looks for known tags in the source code and searches through all open projects. This feature can, however, be deactivated under Preferences -> Editor -> Tasklist -> Enable Java Tasklist. The indexing of downloaded Maven repositories and the total number of open projects also have a negative effect on start-up time, but the Project Group – a group of either user-selected projects, projects dependant on the main project or all projects in one folder – should offer some relief.

Installing the IDE and major features is not only easy, it also ensures reliable exchange of projects within a team. Only a few optional functions, such as the UML functionality or the XML schema designer, need to be installed using the plug-in manager.


The Java Edition of NetBeans 6.7 makes a favourable impression. The integrated support for Java EE and Maven is particularly noteworthy. Kenai integration is good and makes a major contribution to easing collaboration on open source projects. Following Oracle's takeover of Sun, however, it remains to be seen whether NetBeans will prevail over Oracle's JDeveloper development environment and whether the pace of innovation will be maintained.

(Adam Bien)


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