NetBeans releases superior HTML5 support

OVUM VIEW

Summary

The latest release (7.3) of integrated development environment (IDE) NetBeans supports advanced HTML5 editing capability, based on project Easel. As HTML5 grows in adoption and heads for dominance in client-side application development, with its emphasis today on web and mobile user interfaces, the need to support HTML5 developers also increases. While there exists a proliferation of text editor tools for HTML5 of varying degrees of sophistication, NetBeans 7.3 provides an HTML5 developer experience on a par with established languages such as Java. Ovum believes that this feature-rich HTML5 support will draw increasing numbers of developers to the NetBeans IDE.

NetBeans Easel offers live link between source code and user interface

NetBeans has been growing at 8% year on year, with over 1.2 million active users, as measured by NetBeans’ automatic update service. This is a significant user base. The tool is developed by the same team behind the development of the Java platform, and there is a close link between releases of Java and NetBeans. NetBeans is more than just a Java IDE, with 30% of active users using it for PHP development, a server-side scripting language, as well as other languages such as C++.

A fully featured HTML5 editor is the latest enhancement to NetBeans, offering enterprise developers the capability to develop Java Enterprise Edition applications on the server side with HTML5 on the client side. In particular, the latest mobile devices can offer significant processing capability, resulting in the pendulum swinging back to thicker client-side applications being developed. The server side now focuses on the data connectivity and security aspects, while a heavier client can today work online or offline and run applications that a few years ago would typically be found on enterprise servers.

Many free HTML5 editors on the market today offer minimal developer productivity support, whereas NetBeans Easel offers code completion and live connection to the UI that developers expect with advanced languages. The UI integration is impressive, so while the mouse hovers over source code, the related real estate on the UI becomes highlighted. In addition the UI regions are color-coded to show what type of source code created them. Where UI elements are created dynamically, Easel will allow the related CSS code to be identified and the user can edit this code, seeing dynamically generated JavaScript render in the UI.

NetBeans Easel allows developers to work on source code and immediately see what effect this has on the UI, reducing the entry of errors into code. It is integrated with Chrome Browser, has RESTful service support, and can inspect JSON queries and drill into the data returned. This release is aimed at web and mobile applications. The next release will target hybrid mobile apps and offer PhoneGap support, along with integration with Android and iOS browsers.

While premium products for HTML5 design and development do exist, the open source community, and in particular the Java community, will welcome the NetBeans HTML5 editor, which offers first-class HTML5 support and will give the NetBeans IDE a welcome boost.

Oracle’s client-side development strategy

One of the uncertainties in the Java community has been whether a pure Java solution for client and server is to be pursued, and particularly where JavaFX sits in the portfolio. Oracle’s answer is that JavaFX, at least for the near future, is to be developed as the technology of choice for desktop and embedded applications. For the desktop, Java is commonly used to build tools or other more interactive client applications. Until now, this development has been done in Swing or SWT, often through rich-client platforms such as NetBeans or Eclipse. Oracle is positioning JavaFX as the migration path in this configuration. For embedded, the Java team is intending to make inroads against the current dominance of C/C++. The machine-to-machine and “Internet of things” market is likely to grow in the near term, with good opportunities for Java. Java is not traditionally viewed as suitable for the realtime embedded space but the platform has made strides with improved garbage collection technology, and this builds on the success of Java ME in the (now legacy) feature phone market.

For mobile, Oracle’s technology of choice is HTML5 to supplement Java on the backend. In particular, for Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF) users there is the option of a combined HTML5 and ADF client-side technology. The advantage of Oracle ADF on mobile devices is that by using a headless JRE, it is able to support business logic on the device written in Java, together with JavaServer Faces and HTML5 for the UI. Oracle ADF is the core technology behind Oracle’s Fusion Middleware and Fusion Applications, and the tie-in with HTML5 demonstrates the important role HTML5 has in this stack.

Understanding Oracle’s triple IDE strategy

For many who imagined Eclipse would sweep away all other open source IDEs, the situation is more nuanced. Eclipse continues to have a formidable presence in the development ecosystem and offers a wide choice of project languages. Oracle is a foundation member of Eclipse and is involved in working groups for Java Server Faces (JSF). It also provides Java Enterprise Edition tooling and the Oracle Enterprise Plug-in for Eclipse.

In addition, Oracle has JDeveloper, an IDE designed to facilitate advanced development using Oracle ADF, including ADF Mobile-based apps. As new Java technology matures it is trickled into JDeveloper, which offers stable releases for enterprise applications that by their nature require a slower change cycle.

NetBeans is the IDE most closely associated with the Java platform and serves the wider Java community. NetBeans tracks the JDK releases, so the latest JDK compiler releases plug straight into concurrent NetBeans releases; it is therefore at the “bleeding edge” of Java innovation. With NetBeans, every Java release can be immediately run within an IDE, without relying on other IDEs to match Java’s release cycle.

APPENDIX

Author

Michael Azoff, Principal Analyst, Software Solutions Group

michael.azoff@ovum.com

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