Monday, March 09, 2009

NetBeans as a platform for software

I've just bit played with a NetBeans as a platform for my own plugins, created some and see how it works. I'd say, quite nice stuff, technically way better than Eclipse and overall impression is pleasant. You could use it for various desktop stuff, especially if you need IDE-like software and it is now. For example, if you want some management or monitoring system for enterprises that looks for doing business (read: looks damn ugly). Mostly it is very cool if you want to extend your system with various plugins etc. E.g. have UML modeling, but also have your own workflow builder etc.

However, if you ask me about software art or something serious, I would tell you that I would not use it for my projects (although I seriously considered NetBeans once).

  • It is too much "IDE-ish". Even an attempt to "make it right" as Blue Marine project [1] still contains too vivid smell of plugin-based platform. To get rid of it smell you need to remove a lot of things. It will suck more blood from your body that you just do it all yourself from the scratch.
  • Too heavy for JNLP. Even with one single "Hello World" plugin — almost 20MB.
  • You need do unnecessary wrapper-works and other hacks-n-tricks in order to use Swing-X components. Why?..
  • I don't like its Plugin Manager from user point of view (nothing wrong with it itself — works perfectly).
  • Plugin mechanism is too heavy and can be simplified to much lighter incarnation. It gets better, but still there is way too much XML.
Personally, I vote for minimalism or, if possible, extreme minimalism. I love to remove everything, unless it is just impossible remove everything else. With NetBeans, still, you have some persistent bits that I would love get rid of it for ever.

One curious thing: an author of Blue Marine complained that first attempt was actually done on a solution from scratch and he was completely unhappy with it, therefore he revealed NetBeans for himself. In fact, I am opposite... — the World is that different! :-)

1. Frankly, I have just zero idea who needs this thing on Windows with Google Picasa, on Mac with iPhoto and on Linux with F-Spot... Well, but anyway somebody has a fun, right?

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