Move from Eclipse to Netbeans and never look back

July 22nd, 2011

Jasper and I were so seriously annoyed by the spinning beach ball in Eclipse PDT that it was decided to try a switch in editors. I used my free Zend Studio licence to check it out, and he tried Netbeans 7.0. I'm not here to write about the comparison, for me Zend Studio was -not surprisingly, as it's based on Eclipse- even more beach ball prone and quickly tossed aside.

We now both use Netbeans, and we're NEVER going back! Well ok... until we get annoyed with something else that is...  (read on for some of my favorite improvements).

The first sign I had that it was absolutely time for a change was when I asked Jasper to make a miniscule change in a project he wasn't currently working on. The response was, let's say, "less then enthousiatic" because of the fact that he had to change his Workspace in Eclipse to do so... Now, I don't know how you guys feel about this, but when switching projects in your editor takes so long you'd prefer to postpone fixing a bug it's time for drastic measures!

So here is my favorite improvements in Netbeans over Eclipse:

  1. No more spinning beach ball!

Enough said. Really.

  1. Project Groups

When you open Netbeans in the File menu there's an item called "Project Groups". At first, you won't have any groups but you can create as many as you need. These project groups work exactly as advertised, they "group" projects... You open (or create) the projects you feel are connected just as you would create them in a workspace in Eclipse. Any files you have open in a project remain open - even as you switch project groups - just like when you switch worspaces in Eclipse. You can even have the same project included in multiple groups, if that tickles your fancy...

And, most importantly, when you need to fix a bug in a project that's not in the current group, you just open the other group/project instantly without staring blankly at your screen while your favorite editor decides to shutdown and restart the entire world. No time to get coffee either.

  1. Out of the box support for SVN

On my 64-bit snow leopard machine I had a hell of a time getting subversion to work in Eclipse. I don't remember all the details but it involved sleep deprivation, a massive amount of googling, and some evil doomsday device called subversion-javahlbindings. There's a choice between Subversive or Subclipse when it comes to SVN support in Eclipse, and I might as well have been choosing between two kinds of roofing material - absolutely arbitrary choice as I know nothing about the subject matter. Until it starts leaking that is...

  1. The configuration screen

Now this point, I honestly admit, is completely due to the fact that I'm too lazy to read the manual. Every time I tried to find my way by intuition through the Eclipse preferences screen I got absolutely lost and gave up - or got distracted and ended up changing a completely different setting. I completely failed at the Holistic Detective approach to Eclipse tweaking...

The Netbeans preferences screen on the other hand, was a lot easier to navigate when it came to "winging it". I mean, look at it - it has icons ans everyting!

  1. Did I mention the absence of the spinning beachball??

So the transition itself was absolutely smooth, coding hardly slowed down at all. We experienced a couple of "WTF" moments, but they where almost always followed by a "Ahhhaaa!" moment when we found the Netbeans equivalent to an Eclipse setting. So, if you know your way around Eclipse it won't be a costly move to Netbeans. And it's a much nicer neighborhood to live in, I promis...

One change we both made was under "File-Preferences",  "Editor", "Hints", "Language PHP". We switched off the "Possible accidental assignment, assignments in conditions should be avoided" setting, because we where getting too many false positives.

Also, there is an issue (on at least 1 Windows 7 machine in the office) where Netbeans won't open files with class/function definitions when you [CTRL] [click] on the class/function name. Even though it can display the docblocks. Once you navigate and open the file on your own Netbeans wises up and does open the file on a [CTRL] [click]... If anyone has a clue why this is happening, please: do tell!

Ramon de la Fuente

Pointy haired boss

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