Shell's TechBlabber

…ShelLuser blogs about stuff ;)

Replacing NetBeans with Visual Studio Code

logoAlthough I’m not a fulltime programmer I’ve always been interested in software development, and during my time as Solaris systems administrator I quickly developed a fondness for Java.

Although it’s perfectly possible to write Java programs on a command line (which is even recommended as a learning experience) you’ll be more efficient when using an Integrated Development Environment, or IDE for short.

I quickly took a liking to the NetBeans IDE and have been using it ever since I got hold of version 4.1, now more than 12 years ago.

This week though it all came to an end.

And the most ironic part? I’m now using software which was designed and developed by none other than Microsoft, the competitor for Java if there ever was one. Am I slowly turning into a Microsoftie? 😉

The problem

When I got my new PC I started to collect the installers for all the software I was used to. Although I normally make sure to keep a backup of every installer I download (and actually install) this backup wasn’t of much use to me considering that my previous computer was a 32bit Windows 7 machine.

And speaking of my new PC: I decided to go high end, the computer runs on an Intel i7 processor, has a whooping 16Gb of memory, a nice NVidia GTX 1060 card with 6Gb of memory and my Windows 10 64bit environment is installed onto a 256Gb SSD drive. So it has every potential for fast computing.

So why does it take around 2 minutes before NetBeans 10 finally starts and opens the IDE? That is totally unacceptable to me, especially considering the hardware I’m using.

NetBeans isn’t what it used to be 😦

The NetBeans as I remember used to set the standard for the actual Java runtime itself! I’m serious: when version 6 hit they introduced the Swing visual designer which allowed you to design a GUI by dragging and dropping components onto a palette. What made this so awesome was that you’d get tons of guidelines which clearly showed you the spacing between all components.

And it didn’t take long before the library, as developed within NetBeans, eventually got included with the official Java runtime. Now that is impressive in my opinion.

Today you can still experience this feature, my favourite modelling tool (Visual Paradigm) also supports this.

But these days? It has been around 1.5 years since NetBeans officially supported Java EE (Java Enterprise). If you want to develop for Java EE within NetBeans 10 you’ll be suggested to install plugins made for NetBeans 8.2. You know: the version from the time before Apache took control over the project.

The heck?!  It doesn’t even support Apache Tomcat anymore out of the box 😦

No: Java isn’t slow!

Now I know what some people are going to say or think. Of course longer starting times were to be expected considering that Java is slow. Well, for those of you I’d like to suggest that you try to play Minecraft (the Java edition) and then we’ll talk again.

Speaking of which: both Minecraft and Visual Paradigm both start up faster than NetBeans, by at least a minute! And those two programs actually have to do something, all NetBeans has to do is present me with an editor (and a bit more, but nothing as extensive as Minecraft).

If NetBeans is already this sluggish and slow during startup then I can only shudder at the thought of actually having to build a bigger Java project.

Visual Studio Code


Visual Studio code is awesome!

VS Code is an editor build for coding and put on steroids 😉  Although it might appear to be somewhat of a slimmed down IDE it definitely isn’t. Out of the box the best it can do is provide formatting support for a several languages, support Git repositories and it has an extensive extension system where you can (de-)install, check and update extensions (“plugins”). In fact: these extensions make VS Code the awesome editor it is.

Although it doesn’t support Java by default the only thing you have to do is install the Java Extension pack and you’re good to go, it really is that simple.

The user comes first

The point where I really became plain out impressed was when I learned that the standard building application used for Java projects is Maven. And I personally dislike Maven with a passion 😉 What still made this such a good experience though was learning about the fact that I could overrule just about everything I wanted to.

If you take a look at the screenshot above you’ll notice a section called “Ant target runner”. That is actually one of the major extensions doing its job. Because I heavily favour Ant I searched for, and found, an extension which would allow me to use Ant instead of Maven. And bingo.

Of course this also means that you’ll have to write your own build targets, at least at first, but that’s what you get for using an editor and not a full fledged IDE. Still… VS Code does support code snippets and templates so it’s not a problem that can’t be overcome.

But seriously: it. just. works.!

Open source too!

You can say about Microsoft what you want, and some things are definitely not quite right or vague at best, but they’re also doing a lot of things right when it comes to certain software and services. Microsoft has stated numerous of times that they were invested in Open Source and what do you know?

VS Code is an open source project which can be nabbed from GitHub. Full access to the source and documentation and everyone is encouraged to help out with it.

And from what I can tell so far (note that I’m only using this for a few days now) the community is pretty much alive and there are some seriously nice extensions available as well.

Expect more to come 😉

If you’re interested and want to learn more about this editor then be sure to visit their website.

February 13, 2019 - Posted by | Editorial, java, Software | , , , ,

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