Malcolm Clews: My five favourite NetBeans features

Malcolm Clews

Continuing a series of articles focusing on NetBeans users and their five favorite NetBeans IDE features, here’s the next part, by Malcolm Clews.

Hello, I’m Malcolm Clews and I have been working with NetBeans IDE for around ten years, developing, maintaining and supporting our in-house developed application named “Assist”. Assist comprises a Java client application accessing Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s data warehouse via JBoss middleware.

The application’s search algorithms make sophisticated use of Oracle text indexing to provide easy to use, rapid, efficient searching of data sources including Crime, Intelligence, Comms (i.e., records of 999 and non-emergency calls from the public), Firearms Licensing, Foreign Nationals etc. Search algorithms have been tailored to meet the needs of specialist departments so that Assist is considered an essential tool for criminal intelligence research, vetting of applicants for jobs involving contact with children and vulnerable adults, as well as being the first port of call for general users seeking information within the Force.

What are your 5 favorite NetBeans features?

  1. Ease of Use. The first line of code I wrote was aged 34 or thereabouts, a little Turbo C, SmartWare, Ingres ABF, Bourne shell scripting, but in a small way either at home or as a small element of my role as an IT Trainer and then IT Support.In 2005, I was asked to join the team developing and supporting the only in-house Java app, and picked up a little Java and NetBeans from the Java guy. A year later ‘the Java guy’ left at short notice and I picked up his role and have been doing it ever since.Apart from a copy of the “NetBeans IDE Field Guide” I have picked up everything I need by just using NetBeans IDE and have always found it very intuitive and easy to use. For example, a powerful, intuitive, and easy to use feature is “Find Usages”, showing the places throughout your code where a selected piece of Java code is used:nb-clews-1-findusages-1nb-clews-1-findusages-2


    Another powerful, intuitive, and easy to use feature is “Call Hierarchy”, showing the call hierarchy of a selected piece of Java code:



  2. Powerful. The app I develop/support/maintain started life as a pure thick client WebStart deployed Swing application, but later data processing was moved to a middle tier using EJBs deployed to JBoss.The ability to debug the remote data processing EJB code using “Debug – Attach Debugger” is a powerful feature, very quick and easy to set up, equally useful for development and diagnosing issues with the production system.nb-clews-1-debugger-1nb-clews-1-debugger-2nb-clews-1-debugger-3
  3. Oracle (and Sun before of course) backed (and you can add NetBeans community to that). As NetBeans is the ‘de facto’ standard IDE bundled with the JDK, it gives confidence in the ongoing support and development of the IDE, with the bonus of community/user support too.nb-clews-1-jdkThere are support contracts in place for the database, middle tier software and hardware, e.g., with Oracle, but it is important for me as sole developer/maintainer/support for the application to have complete confidence in the primary tool I use for that.
  4. Easy to add functionality via plugins. For example, migrating the app from an open source version of middleware to a supported version involved examining and changing a lot of XML config files, where a lot of previous modifications made locally were not always fully documented.Using the NetBeans graphical Diff tools were invaluable here, though I needed to easily comment/uncomment multiple lines, elements etc of XML, which is available now by default in NetBeans but wasn’t then. A bit of research led to the “CommentUncommentJSP Plugin” which was quickly and easily installed and solved the problem.nb-clews-1-commentnb-clews-1-comment
  5. Potential for rapid desktop app development with the NetBeans Platform. Being able to leverage all of those reasons 1 – 4 above and focus on meeting the users requirements by relatively rapid development of sophisticated desktop apps suggests itself as a strong candidate for any future project to replace the current app.april 2008

In short, the whole is bigger than the sum of the parts, like the Rolling Stones say (showing my age there!).

This article is part of a series of articles focusing on NetBeans users and their five favorite NetBeans IDE features.

Top 5 image via Shutterstock


Malcolm Clews

I develop, maintain and support a Java application that uses Oracle text indexing to provide easy to use, efficient searching of Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s data warehouse.