Eclipse vs. Netbeans, Emacs vs. Vi - and why not just beeing pragmatic?

The feedback for my recent post "Eclipse 3.3 or NetBeans 6.0 - with surprising result" was classic - and even a little bit funny.
However it remembered me at the early eclipse days. These days I used Eclipse (1.0 / 2.0) in my commercial projects against the German mainstream - however many developers disliked the idea. In Germany, free, opensource software wasn't really popular. It was in the timeframe about 2001/02. In my opinion the Eclipse SDK was much better, than the majority (perhaps except IntelliJ) of commercial and "enterprise" IDEs and tried to push it. I used a high end IBM ThinkPad Notebook for my daily development work - it was enough to suspect me to work for IBM (Eclipse + ThinkPad = IBM) and so my bias. So the questions I had to answer were like: "You are biased - but - what is the marketshare of Eclipse? How successful is Eclipse in another projects? How many companies already rely on Eclipse?" Such questions were really hard to answer for the 1.0 version :-).

Actually I had no interests to introduce Eclipse, because of strategic or political reasons. From my perspective it was a little bit more efficient than the competition. Several years ago I took a closer look on Netbeans and I like some ideas - like the completeness of the functionality - and start to work with it. I liked it more and more and now I use Netbeans in the majority of my Java EE 5 projects. The reason are simple:

  1. The installation effort is almost non-existent - I download it and start with my work - no additional plugins etc. are needed
  2. The innovation pace is considerable - I just enjoy it - however this is really my "bias", it do not have impact to my commercial work.
  3. The concepts are different - so I searched for "resource perspective" in Netbeans and found the "Favorites" - a totally different approach. It is hard to say what is better - but both concepts are different and work really well.
  4. I enjoy Netbeans Look And Feel. It's just different. I used Eclipse for years - I enjoy the switching between both.

It seems like many developers invested a lot in Eclipse, and do not like the idea to switch to another IDE. In contrary - I like the idea of learning something new - to grasp the key bindings is really not a big deal.

But, who knows? In case the cooperation between Eclipse Foundation and Microsoft, as well as the Microsoft Efforts To Improve Java, or the Java-innovation in Eclipse 4.0 will be significant - I would propably switch back... For now Netbeans 6.0 (I cannot wait for 6.1 / 7.0 final), works a little bit better for my daily work - and I enjoy it. ...although I still use a ThinkPad (but no more from IBM - now it is Lenovo), people suspect me not to be independent and ask me about my relation to Sun. Because I'm a Java Champion the relation should be clear - I'm not a Sun employee :-).

Some advices:

  1. Try from time to time new tools IDEs. It is not really bad idea to switch between Eclipse, IntelliJ, Netbeans and JDeveloper back and forth (not in one project of course, but e.g. in Proof Of Concepts)
  2. Be pragmatic, choose an efficient tool for your job. BUT: your code base shouldn't be dependent on it!
  3. If you are consultant / developer - don't care about esotheric discussions about standards, market share etc. Just take the tool and do the job...
  4. Distrust mainstreams - they are not always the best choice for your particular problem
This entry was inspired by Kristian, and F. Simoni - thanks to both!

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I'm a long-time Eclipse user, and I've been very positively suprised by the features of the new NetBeans 6.1 beta.

Traditionally the NetBeans pre-release versions have been very crash-prone, but this one works pretty well, so I've used it to start a couple projects.

I've been very happy with its Mercurial and Maven support, as well as Spring 2.5 support, even if it can't show XSD comments in XML configuration autocomplete like Eclipse.

Its autoformat has now reached a kind of minimum acceptable level, as well as its import guessing. I find the NetBeans UI to actually be more responsive than the Eclipse UI. I run them both on the Update N JDK.

Ironically the reason I started looking into NetBeans was because it offered WYSIWYG JSF development support I wanted to move some of the beginning developers on at my previous workplace, but that side doesn't work very well. Maybe if they spent less time pandering to junior Ruby developers...

Posted by Mikael Gueck on March 30, 2008 at 03:54 PM CEST #

Mikael, what your relation to Sun? Are you biased?

thanks for your comment!,


Posted by Adam Bien on March 30, 2008 at 05:25 PM CEST #

I did not have sexual relations with that woman.

Posted by Mikael Gueck on March 30, 2008 at 07:23 PM CEST #

We use both Eclipse and Netbeans in our project. Most developpers on our team have learned to use both for their respective best features. Actually, our projects are based on Maven and are totally independent from any IDE so each developper is free to use his IDE of choice.


Posted by Jacques Ledoux on April 01, 2008 at 04:36 PM CEST #

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