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My Eclipse experience with Java 8 was so bad, I switched to NetBeans

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Have you ever thought about taking a vacation from your IDE?

Recently, RebelLabs published a report, Getting started with IntelliJ IDEA as an Eclipse User, which among other things also gives users of one IDE an opportunity to test another IDE more easily based on some shortcuts and tips we provided. I wish that there was some guide like this for Java 8 with IDEs, because when it came out, I wanted to start using it right away with Eclipse….

However, it took me 4 days after Java 8 release to find a blog post about the topic, which in turn refers to another message, which then points to a Wiki page that describes Eclipse’s support for Java 8. ) that refers to a message on the JDT mailing list which in turn refers to a Wiki page where a how to for Eclipse Java 8 support is described.

In the same time it took me to find all these resources, I was downloading Netbeans in parallel with Java 8 support out of the box, which came out at the same time as Java 8. Just as IntelliJ IDEA almost instantaneously made a release.

Eclipse, I love you, but you’re somehow missing the boat here! However, getting acquainted with Netbeans doesn’t happen right away, and there are plenty of things to look out for…

For example: looking up shortcuts is a must unless you want to be in your own private little hell, but at least there is an easy PDF to refer to from the Help menu in NetBeans. Most of them are substantially different compared to Eclipse, and I believe they lean more towards the IntelliJ shortcut style.  Perhaps IntelliJ and NetBeans are very similar and Eclipse is the black sheep of the gang.

The same counts for functionality: in Eclipse, a lot has to be added as a plugin (think servers, UI design tools, code inspection) but, just like with IntelliJ, Netbeans has a lot of them out of the box.

Here are 6 more differences I discovered between Eclipse and NetBeans, in case you wanted to know:

  1. Automatic imports – Imports are usually not done automatically, it requires Alt+Enter or import fix ( Alt+Shift+I )

  2. Build automatically – Eclipses auto-building behind the scenes is really great. In Netbeans, I have error signs on class files which do not have errors, but that’s only detected upon opening the class file.

  3. Different views – It took me a while to figure out how to convert the package list view to a tree view (once I got really fed up with the list view, I went through all settings and options only to find out on Google it’s hidden in a right-click menu in the Projects view, and the Files view doesn’t have the option!)

  4. Autocompletion – Sometimes I get no autocompletion on XSDs or wrong hints and autocomplete proposals. Maybe I just have to get used to these?

  5. Different buttons – Completion overwrite/completion insert are two different buttons? This is hard to get used to if you come from default overwrite. (But the overwrite doesn’t seems to work)

  6. Refactoring methods – It appears that the refactoring of methods in the way I usually do it in Eclipse is a bit cumbersome. In Eclipse, you can change the method signature just by changing the signature on the places it’s called. With NetBeans, this only comes with the proposition of creating a new method with that different signature.

So far, those are the weirdest things I’ve come in contact with, which aren’t that bad. And, apart from the CTRL+Zing a lot more than usual, I find it pretty OK to code in Netbeans.

But yes, for all those old Java EE 6 projects that I have at work, I remain using Eclipse with pleasure, mainly thanks to the many plugins I’m used to. At the same time, I could have just as well followed the instructions on that Wiki page, but I thought hey, let’s give NetBeans another chance. Maybe I’ll become an IDE hopper–but for this purpose it would be great if the default shortcuts in IDEs were equal!

Leave me some tips in the comments section if you have any, or ping me on Twitter @redlabbe.


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  • Walter Nyland

    Just go to Tools | Options and switch the Keymap to use Eclipse shortcuts instead of NetBeans shortcuts…

  • macs don’t have a shit key

    I think you have a typo: “Alt+Shit+I” should probably be “Alt+Shift+I”.

  • Colonel Sanders

    Don’t you have a “shit” key?

  • Another advantage of Netbeans over Eclipse is a single coherent user interface. Eclipse can feel like a patchwork of random things put together. Having 1 group control the user experience makes things work well together for users.

  • Wasting two days failing to get Eclipse set up with Maven and Subversion support ~4 years ago is why I have only ever used NetBeans. Watching my coworkers struggle with broken installs and upgrade dread has only reinforced the decision. It’s the MySQL of IDEs.

  • pd
  • liberate_your_mind

    The link you highlighted was only posted yesterday; the problem the author of this post described occurred a couple weeks ago. No need to be so rude and disrespectful.

  • Walter Nyland

    Yeah, hilarious. The link highlights something posted yesterday! In response to the dumb retorical question there: “How much easier does it get?” the answer can only be: “Not easy at all to guess the content of instructions that haven’t been written yet.”

  • balder

    Yes I use it daily!

  • balder

    Yes, I thought of that, but deliberately did not do that. Perhaps using the IDE’s specific shortcut set increases development with that IDE. I would think that there is a reason the shortcuts are set the way they are. ( Or did coders just randomly pick them? ). some standard would be nice though, but I don’t see the world agreeing on that, yet.

  • balder

    Hi @pdeva since you do not have the option to comment enabled on the given link. I’ll add one more remark here, you can correct your post, but I guess you as well as me suck at looking up stuff?
    * I’m not an Engineer at ZeroTurnaround. I only write for RebelLabs.

    And if you had read the article you’d notice that I also provide links on how to do it…. (eclipse and java8)

    Looking up is one thing, reading it is another.

  • nathar

    Eclipse is the slowest damn thing out there, with a totally outdated and sloppy UI and with totally unresponsive experience…I give it a try every now and then but they need to re-write it.

  • Dean Schulze

    Another area where Netbeans is vastly superior to Eclipse is generating JPA Entitys from a database. Eclipse Entity generation isn’t worth using.

  • Matt Hicks

    You mention IntelliJ a couple of times, but never actually state why you didn’t give it a try? Having used all three and finally settling on IntelliJ it is more like NetBeans and Eclipse are both the red-headed step-children and IntelliJ is the prodigal son. :)

    I spend between six and twelve hours a day staring at my IDE and I must say that it is the most important tool I use. I’m always amazed at people who scoff at the price to buy it when, for any real developer, the value added from it pays for itself in reduced headache and efficiency increase.

  • balder

    If I’m correct the generation of the entities is not done by the IDE itself but by libraries built for that.
    The used library should be flamed instead ;)

  • balder

    Trying all 3 at the same time isn’t that easy. Work has to be done also, not only fun.
    Yes I could have tried the newest intelliJ but went for Netbeans. Perhaps next will be intellJ, or will I just go back to vim? I still have a community version around somewhere. IMHO to be fair, given that Netbeans and Eclipse are free for use, I would need to compare the community version of IntelliJ.

  • Oliver White

    Yikes, what a hilarious typo! Fixed now :-)

  • IMHO switching to netbeans is even worse :D I’d wait for eclipse guys to do something better than switching the whole IDE which i’ve trusted for years,

  • meh

    It doesn’t support facets.

  • Paul-Sebastian Manole

    After I read your article, I read this http://blog.eisele.net/2011/03/why-netbeans-isnt-enterprise-solution.html – I have also felt like Eclipse is a better experience.

  • Sven

    Your readability of your Website is awful, gray letters on white background is good for eye cancer.

  • Johaness

    Eclipse has a very bad user experience, Im unsing this tool about 10 years and sometimes I hate it! the main problem is the freeze, lock of resources, run configurations always bug and lost configurations, all those things drains productivity in a team. The best java ide is fair beyond InteliJ IDEA and nothing else.

  • John

    That’s the real problem of eclipse: collection of unstable but looks-great plugins. That’s why so many people hate eclipse. In the beginning, eclipse was “super”. After a while, it quickly becomes junk.

  • Guest

    Right Click -> format is my favorite

  • Manius

    Ditch Maven and use Ant with SVN, problem solved.