Netbeans 11 - The Apache version

Submitted by peter on Mon, 04/27/2020 - 21:22

Netbeans in 2017

In October 2017, I described Netbeans as follows.

Netbeans could be considered a heavyweight, do everything Integrated Development Environment, or a light weight alternative to Eclipse monster. For PHP Web development, Netbeans does everything you need. You would only step up to Eclipse if your need to plug in something like Rational Rose.

Netbeans is now a monster download equal to Eclipse, although Eclipse still has more options to add on.

Back in 2017, Netbeans was owned by Oracle and acted as spyware. A big corporation trying to keep track of your software use? Not much of a surprise.

Plus Netbeans crashed. Either it is bad software development or it is part of the ongoing Java release incompatibilities.

Back on day one of Java, the Java developers promised you could have one standard Java installed and everything else could use that Java without having to ship a duplicate Java. The truth is most large Java based applications have to ship their own version of Java because Java is rarely compatible.

Tiny trivial Java based applications might reach a state where they can work across more than one release of Java. To work, the applications have to avoid the few things that might make Java better than some alternatives, if only the features worked reliably. In the end, applications ship with a full copy of Java, doubling or tripling the size of the application.

November 2017

In November 2017, Netbeans 8.2 arrived with some improvements.

April 2019

Linux Mint 19.1 has Netbeans 10. Netbeans 11 was released in April 2019. I decided to manually download 11.

The download is a massive 303 MB. At a guess, it includes a full development version of Java due to the endless Java compatibility issues.

April 2020

Netbeans 11.3 was released in February 2020 and is a 371 MB download.

Download from netbeans.org.

Netbeans 8.2 was developed by an independent group. Netbeans development then moved to the Apache Foundation who provide all sorts of support for Java based open software projects provided everything is owned by the foundation. They most likely impose development guidelines. Will this make Netbeans better or just different?

Netbeans 9.0, 10.0, and 11.0 arrived from the Apache foundation in quick succession. It looks like they change the version, 9, 10, 11, as fast as the Netbeans developers used to change the release, 8.0, 8.1, 8.2.

The foundation now says the version, 11, will change every year and the modification, 11.0, 11.1, 11.2, 11.3, will change every three months. The .0 release will be supported for a year.

Version 9 was mostly a rebranding for the Apache Foundation and might have added support for JDK 10 to the existing JDK 9.

Version 10 added support for JDK 11. Their PHP developer added support for new features in PHP 7.1, 7.2,and 7.3.

Version 11 adds support for Apache Maven and Apache Gradle to the existing support for Apache Ant. I do not use or test either. There is a polite note saying Maven and Gradle are both better than Ant but it does not say Ant will disappear.

The Java version is moved up to JDK 14 in 11.3.

Any other changes are trivial. For example, 11.3 features mainly changes for dark themes, along side the usual fixes for Gradle.

Memory

Netbeans 11.3 uses 400 MB just to load the basic start up code with no projects or code files open. They obviously are not ready for modern concepts including loading only what is needed. Actually the idea of loading code only when used was normal until Java arrived.

Speed

The latest version is so fast, it is hard to believe it is a Java application. The exact speed comparison with version 8 is difficult because I now use a fast SSD, letting Java load a billion little files without a read delay.

Well, starting the application is fast. Opening a small code file is painfully slow. I will stick with Bluefish and any other editor for individual file edits and for small groups of related files where I do not need a project configuration.

Projects

Netbeans is one of many applications that let you group work into projects. Some versions of Netbeans did not let me open a file outside of a project,one of the main roadblocks to using Netbeans. Netbeans is back on track with file editing but is still miles behind on speed.

Conclusion

Netbeans was good then it crashed into the problem of Java under Oracle. Now Netbeans is back on track under the Apache Foundation. Comparing Netbeans 11 to Netbeans 8, suggests Netbeans 12 or 14 will be excellent.

Definitely only for tasks that need the big project features of Netbeans.