Sun released the latest version of its open-source, multi-language IDE, NetBeans 6.5. In this interview with Artima, David Folk, Group Marketing Manager for Developer Tools, and
Frank Sommers: What are the key new features in NetBeans 6.5?
We received strong and positive feedback around the PHP features. As a result, a major feature in NetBeans 6.5 is full-fledged PHP support: PHP is now a first-class language in NetBeans. That includes editing, debugging, syntax highlighting, code completion, code generators, some wizards.
Frank Sommers: Do you support working with any of popular PHP frameworks and tools, such as WordPress or Drupal?
David Folk: For PHP, our focus in NetBeans 6.5 was to make editing a first-class experience. We wanted to make sure we had all the basics for the edit-compile-debug cycle. To that effect, the editor features code-completion, navigating around in the source, and the necessary elements you’d expect from a first-rate IDE’s editor.
A lot of those features are based on the work we did with the code editor in NetBeans 6.0. In 6.5, we enabled some of those features to be accessible to PHP developers. That includes quick-fixes, semantic checks, debugging, and better support for working with Web services from within PHP code.
We think that serves PHP developers better than most other tools they might currently use. PHP developers work primarily with text, and most tools PHP developers use are text-based. PHP development is done really at the code level, whereas Java developers have abstracted things away at a bit higher level, such as in enterprise frameworks. Therefore, in addition to supporting code edit features, we have lots of tools in NetBeans that allow Java developers to become even more productive, especially when working with enterprise or client-side frameworks.
We are looking at supporting some PHP frameworks, or popular tools, in a future release, but we haven’t made any decisions about those yet.
Frank Sommers: How do you decide what languages to support in NetBeans? What languages are you planning to support in upcoming NetBeans version?
David Folk: We listen to the community about needs for languages to support. We want to meet the needs of lots of different developers. I like to think of NetBeans as a big tent: A PHP developer making changes to, say, WordPress or writing a Web front-end, is radically different form someone doing C++ development or Java development in NetBeans. At the same time, developers also move between languages, based on the problem at hand. Having a single IDE with a broad level support gives us an opportunity to re-use some features.
Deciding what languages to support is really around demand, and looking at where languages align with our platform story. Python or PHP are complementary to Sun’s Web stack, for example.
From a tools perspective, we want to support both the JVM-based and native implementations of those languages. Whether someone’s using JRuby or Ruby, native PHP or PHP on the JVM, we want to have a single IDE that meets his needs.
For upcoming releases, we anticipate having a larger story around Python. Over time, we will look at more statically-typed languages as well. As I listen to the JavaPosse, for example, people are talking about Scala on a regular basis. There is some support for Scala already in NetBeans, and you can download that through the update center. We haven’t put much effort into that now, but there are some folks working on it. At this point, we’re still in the planning stage for the next release.
What do you think of the latest NetBeans features?