From NetBeans to IntelliJ IDEA, Week 1

I have been using NetBeans for a long time now; Because it is easy to use, easy to understand and explain to others, it has impressive Java EE support, etc. I was working on Java EE projects or projects  involving NetBeans RCP applications with 40-50 modules (1m loc or so) which are considered small applications. I didn’t need to have all modules opened or even when I needed NetBeans handled it pretty well. After joining GlassFish team things started to change a little. GlassFish codebase was new to me and the number of maven modules in GlassFish project was way larger than what I could easily open in NetBeans IDE to be able to navigate around in the code, to find the usages of a method, or to locate all of the implementing classes of a particular interface, etc.

I opened a RFE in NetBeans bug-tracking system but till that RFE got addressed I needed to work and thus I decided to give IntelliJ a try and see how it fares with GlassFish codebase and how easy it will be for me to adopt it as the IDE of choice for my day to day work on GlassFish.

First days impressions (Positive):

  • Can import the entire GlassFish codebase and start using it, no delay in code assisting popup and amazingly no lag after the initial scanning and indexing of the entire codebase.
  • Find usage works almost perfectly, sometimes it says that the class/es are outside of the codebase which might be my fault when importing the project
  • Code completion assistant is fast, when I say fast I mean really fast.
  • I like the fact that I can choose between different available LAFs. [The CDE/Motif LAF is still part of the JRE which denotes the overzealousness of keeping the backward compatibility of the platform?]
  • I like the “Store Current Layout as Default” feature which let me store a layout and use it when the layout get too messed-up.
  • I like the “Autoscroll to source” and “Autoscroll from source” though I’d rather have the action to do it manually when the mentioned options are disabled and I want to locate a class in the project view

First days impression (Not positive ones): Some of what I am missing might be available somewhere in the IDE but I haven’t find them yet….

  • I was not able to switch between different profiles for the module, for example IDE, release, etc. Maybe it is somewhere but I have not found it yet.
  • I think the color schema is hard to read because some of the used colors are low contrast, for example the comments, annotations, are hard to read and required some adjustment to be easier to read.
  • I opened some views that I cannot close, IDETalk, commander, Ant Build… they are all on auto-hide in the vertical bar in the left side without any close button or close action in the context (right click) menu to remove the tab from the side bar. Same goes for view tabs appearing in the bottom bar and left bar. But the good thing is we can rearrange them for better accessibility.
  • I think the local history feature in NetBeans has a better UI and usability than IDEA. In NetBeans the local history is shown in the same tab as the code and not in an extra window same goes for  diff window, etc.
  • The code formatter works better in NetBeans (SHIFT+CTRL+F) compared to IntelliJ (CMD+ALT+L). I like the NetBeans hotkey better as it has something from Formatting in the hotkey. (I tried couple of unindented unglized code snippet in both).
  • The Favorites view does not allow me to add a file system directory to a favorites list which limits the favorites view usage to project members (classes, packages, modules) …

I will post another blog entry after I used IntelliJ for another two weeks to give you a more in depth comparison of how they work for Mavan projects (my comparison will be mostly on Editors and Project/ navigation and refactoring features. Nothing on other languages support, Java EE, JavaFx, application server support, etc.)

An analysis on the monthly increase of NetBeans IDE active users count

Few weeks ago I was talking to Jiří Kovalský about NetBeans and its 1,000,000 active users and I asked him to check whether it is possible to have the number of active users by month or not and today he got back to me with a nice chart showing number of active users for each month since Jan 2004. Jiri is  NetBeans community manager and also he is the first person in the NetBeans team I get acquaintance long ago during NetCat50.

Here I attached the chart and then I will do an short analysis of what the chart can represent.

Number of NetBeans Active users per month

Now a brief overview of the chart:

  • NetBeans team started to count the active users in Jan 04
  • During summer and new year eve there is a decline in the number of active users each year and as overall number of users growth, this decline can be seen more clearly.
  • Number of active users is increasing continuously.

Now I want to merge the above chart with another table which is different NetBeans versions release dates.

NetBeans versions release dates

  • The last line in the bar is for June 2011, The July numbers are not calculated yet.
  • It took NetBeans two years, until Jan 2006, to get 200,000 active users at the beginning but the growth in number of active users was accelerating from the beginning as chart suggests.
  • In its next 3 years, from Jan 2006 to Jan 2009 number of users increased by 400,000 to a total of 600,000 active users which means the user growth accelerated quite well. This is the post NetBeans 5 ear when each version’s  changelog had quite a large number  number of bug fixes, performance improvements and new features.
  • The biggest increase in the number of users in duration of one year can be seen between June 2010 and June 2011 with about 200,000 users. This is the second year that ORACLE was in charge of Sun and its products.
  • It looks like that after NetBeans 6.9 the number of active users is increasing faster than before and the reason is clearly the stability and performance improvement in addition to tons of new features in the core and support for PHP and C++.

As a long time user of NetBeans IDE I should say that NetBeans has come a long long way to become the IDE that we use in our daily jobs nowadays. The number of features introduced in the IDE and the number of bug fixes is enormous. You can find and try NetBeans 4 or 5 and compare it to NetBeans 7 to understand the huge distance between these two.

NetBeans seen several shifts in its direction specially during netbeans 6 time when More languages were being supported in IDE and diverse set of SOA and XML development features were being included in the IDE. Then Again another shift happened and all those features and language supported were dropped and NetBeans team put more effort into the core to make the core more stable and feature rich which as you can see in the chart has payed off pretty well.

The 1,000,000 active users number is not just a number, it shows that a vast, versatile and living community is behind NetBeans IDE as users, contributors, and the core development team. Long live the good community and the good IDE.