A few months ago I mentioned I had started using NetBeans 6.1 for my java development instead of Eclipse, which was my tool of choice until then. The reason for the change at that time was that I needed to look into some JBI stuff and using NetBeans + Glassfish was a natural choice for that.

By the time I was through with that project and had started to work on other things I realized that I had grown rather used to NetBeans and actually preferred it over Eclipse! Both are excellent developer environments, but I actually like the NetBeans UI a little better and sort of found it nicer to use overall.

A couple of weeks ago I finally moved to NetBeans 6.5, the latest release, and it’s been working pretty nicely for me. A few things have contributed to this:

A decent color scheme

The default NetBeans configuration isn’t very usable for someone that prefers dark color schemes on their editor like me; and doesn’t include many default choices.

However, I found the additional Ruby themes plugin, which includes the Aloha and Dark Ruby Pastels schemes. I disliked the second (too similar to Vibrant Ink, which I hate), but Aloha was fairly nice.

With a bit of customization of Aloha to tweak it a bit for Java code I ended up with something looking like this:


You can install the extra ruby themes from the Tools –> Plugins menu option.


It’s not secret I’m a Vim user, and I rather like the way Vim handles editing text and the its modal behavior. In Visual Studio, I use the most excellent Viemu plugin, which is the only plugin I consider a must-have these days. I’ve written about Viemu before.

NetBeans, however, didn’t have anything like this, or so I thought, until I ran into jVi on sourceforge. What a fantastic tool! It’s actually a subset of Vim embedded into NetBeans and supporting the modal editor behavior and all the common key bindings and operations.

I downloaded the alpha for NetBeans 6.5 and it’s been extremely stable for me and working great! I love it!


One downside with jVi I ran into is that it’s configured through it’s own set of settings, some of which overlap (and take precedence) over the NetBeans one, like the tab behavior. But once you’ve configured it to your liking it works very nicely, though occasionally conflicts a little bit with NetBeans functionality (not often, though).

What I don’t like about NetBeans

NetBeans does have a couple of issues that nag me. One is that memory usage is still fairly high (usually around 200MB), however, the slowdowns that I used to see after extended use with 6.1 don’t seem to happen with 6.5 anymore, but I’m not sure if that’s because of changes in NetBeans itself or because I finally bit the bullet and installed JDK 1.6 to run it.

The second issue is startup time: It still takes forever to load from scratch. Fortunately, performance once it finishes loading is quite acceptable and the editor is usually very responsive, so it hasn’t been that much of an issue. It helps a lot that I usually just leave it open and save the state of my VMs instead.

I still turn to Vim whenever I need to do some quick editing and don’t need the full IDE, but then again, I also do that for C# code. That said, VS 2008 usually loads a lot faster than VS2005 for me, so this is less of an issue there (it helps that I don’t install as much crap as I did for 2005).

Tomas Restrepo

Software developer located in Colombia. Sr. PFE at Microsoft.