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which IDE to learn Java with?

paul wheaton

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20495

Earlier today I got an e-mail asking me about which IDE to use when learning Java. I think the best response is covered in "Just Java" by Peter van der Linden:
Do not use an Integrated Development Environment at firs. As the all-wise Yoda remarked "Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Consum you it will."
IDE's just make one more thing for you to learn, and they introduce unnecessary complicationsof where to type and where to look for output.

permaculture Wood Burning Stoves 2.0 - 4-DVD set
Tim Uckun
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 19, 1999
Posts: 88
I think you may be right on a philosophical level. But isn't it a pain in the butt to lay out all your fields from code? Also do you think that by drawing on the screen and seeing the code that gets generated is a good learning experience?

"There are some who call me TIM?"
paul wheaton

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20495

Java makes it really easy to throw together a GUI without the IDE. I think it takes the same amount of time to throw the app together in a plain editor - and my code is leaner and easier to understand.
The IDE wizards throw in a lot of extra code to cover every contingency - and then they don't cover *every* contingency.
Tim Uckun
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 19, 1999
Posts: 88
I downloaded all of the following IDE's and tried them out a little. PowerJ learning edition. Visual Age for Java free edition, Visual Cafe 2.5 Beta database edition, Jbuilder client server 2.0 trial version. If you want I can give my first impressions here of the downloads. IT might be helpful to the other beginners out there.
paul wheaton

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20495

Sure - let's hear it.
Tim Uckun
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 19, 1999
Posts: 88
Ok but here is the scenario. I am a long time programmer (since 1980). I have never programmed in Java before but I have programmed in C and C++ in the DOS UNIX environments. Only GUI programming I have done has been with VB and some Delphi. My platform is a Dell Dimension p450 with 128M ram running windows 98. So here goes but remember these are just first impressions of a novice.
[This message has been edited by Tim Uckun (edited January 22, 1999).]
Tim Uckun
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 19, 1999
Posts: 88
Visual Cafe database edition V2.5 Beta.
I don't know why this is the only download available from the Symantec site as they up to V3.0 final. It seems a mistake to make a beta the only available evaluation tool. In any case I was very frustrated by this tool. It kept crashing and locking up for no apparent reason. I was able to get one wizard to build me a data entry screen (I should say that the main reason for the purchase will be database programming). The screen ended up being laid out in a vertical format with no scroll bars. You could only see about 3 fields of the 15 or so I picked out. Also it decided to make my text areas very long for some reason. It did come with sqlanywhere which seemed to work without any problems. The IDE felt very familiar being based on a VB/DELPHI paradigm (like most of them are these days). I would not purchase this product based on this eval. Perhaps the V3 is solid or even v2.5 final but the beta is unusable. They really should put a working version for download.
Tim Uckun
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 19, 1999
Posts: 88
PowerJ Learning edition.
This seems the most like the VB of all the ones I have tried. It loads fast and and seemed very stable. It includes no middleware and no wizards of any sort. No database access as far as I can see so you'll have to roll your own. I think it would be good tool for those who already know how to program in Java. The editor has all the goodies (syntax highlighting etc) and there is a TON on help files and PDF files for you to read including "thinking in Java". They should have included a little more sample apps though. They have some very simple apps that you can look at but nothing with database access or RMI or anything.
This product is FREE. No time limits or crippling or anything. The Client Server edition comes with a BUNCH of stuff including site management and transaction management. The website decriptions of the Client Serve edition make it seems like a very comprehensive solution but they won't let you play with it. Sybase has a good rep with powerbuilder so I suspect that it's a good Product. They called me a couple of days after the download and suggested that I check out their on line and CD rom based Java training. I asked them some specific questions about the product which the person could nto answer and she said she would put me in contact with someone who could answer them. They haven't called me back since. I would consider this product because they seem to embrace both the M$ view of the world and the Sun view. I have to make my app work with M$ products so this is a compelling point.

[This message has been edited by Tim Uckun (edited January 22, 1999).]
Tim Uckun
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 19, 1999
Posts: 88
Visual Age for Java Eval.
A great looking if somewhat confusing tool. It never crashed on me and seems very solid. This tool is very unlike all the others. You don't deal with files! you don't save or load files or projects you just create classes. There are no wizards but a bewildering array of cryptically named (for me anyway) beans that you build your app with. It's half visual and half not. It seems like it's a closer ideal of a purely OO environment. This also comes with no middleware. I was not able to create a simple data entry screen because I did not know what I was doing. I think that this tool would be very powerful for somebody who could think in Java and Objects. The professional edition is only $99 but the enterprise edition still in the 2K range with no middleware. Of course IBM would love to sell you any one of their Middleware solutions for an added cost.
Tim Uckun
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 19, 1999
Posts: 88
JDesigner PRO.
A very unconventional looking tool. First of all it looks absolutely great. It did lock up on me once and I don't know why. Sometimes the screen doesn't seem to want to redraw. This maybe because of memory though because I did have a couple of large programs open at the same time (netscape, access, eudora).
Almost everything you do with this tool is a wizard. They have wizards for everything. The toolbar is a bit cryptic but it does have helpers. They include a couple of tutorials which are very helpful and they explain concepts to you step by step. While going through a wizard you have a chance to make adjustments to everything in minute detail which is nice. I was able to create a very complex data entry entry screen in no time at all. They even have a wizard for master-detail forms and server objects. The product comes with it's own middleware server. Once you download the product expect to hear from them. They emailed me and called me a couple of times they were very nice and answered my questions promptly but they are persistent and they want you to buy.
I did not attempt to edit any of the code generated nor can I vouch for it's quality but this tool made me feel like I could be productive very fast. Overall a very positive experience.
Tim Uckun
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 19, 1999
Posts: 88
Jbuilder 2.0 Client Server.
I ordered this CD from Java Developers Journal. It cost $4 dollars to cover shipping.
This a LARGE package. It includes Datagateway, Interbase database server, visibroker, and the IDE. No crashes so far. I like the IDE a lot. It reminds me of a cross between Delphi and Cold Fusion Studio (which is my favorite dev tool for html, PERL or any text based editing). Because there is so much and I have been busier then normal for the last couple of days I have not yet given it more then a quick glance. There are some examples but no Database ones. There is no database wizard to generate forms for you. There are Data access beans but I do not yet know how to use them. I suspect that it would be like delphi in that you must place data source controls on your form then bind text boxes manually. As a result I have not yet built a data entry screen. I have a lot of respect for Inprise I am sure it's a solid tool. I'll try to devote a little more time to it.
Tim Uckun
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 19, 1999
Posts: 88
Final Notes.
I have not downloaded VJ++ from M$ yet. I may or may not depending on time. I am very familiar with M$ developement packages having been a long time VB and Access developer. So I suspect that they will work similarly.
I have not dealt with any of the technical issues like "is it pure java", "which version of the JDK", "AWT or SWING" because I myself am confused about these things. Also I did not delve deep enough into the editors to tell you if they emulate something or if you can customize them to your content. For all I know they are no better then edit. So there you have it the blind leading the sighted. Take my experience for what it's worth.
paul wheaton

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20495

Thanks Tim!
Although I avoid the IDE's, it seems to me that most people use JBuilder. A lot of those people use it without any of the wizards or Borland classes - again it has to do with knowing Java before learning the IDE. It seems the most popular feature is when you are typing in a method name, JBuilder will help you complete it. When you are trying to remember method parameters, JBuilder pops up a list and shows you.
Don't bother with Microsoft stuff. It's best left to the truly advanced who can know what to avoid so that their code will still be Java.
Paul White

Joined: Jan 25, 1999
Posts: 1
>I don't know why this is the only download >available from the Symantec site as they up >to V3.0 final. It seems a mistake to make a >beta the only available evaluation tool.
The Trial verison of VC 3.0 should be posted on the website this week.
The big change with 3.0 is that it is Swing based and can use any JDBC driver for database access. It also uses only JFC classes for database access (unlike the proprietory classes in JBuilder)
>Perhaps the V3 is solid or even v2.5 final >but the beta is unusable. They really should >put a working version for download.
We did - we have - we will :-)
Perhaps what is not clear from the reviews (particularly for any newbie) is the quality of the docs and help system. VC DE comes with 7 manuls, a tutorial, context-sensitive help, and all Java reference info in Helpfile format. If you take advantage of our 60-day moneyback guaranteee you could take a look at this as well.
Also, according to IDC, Visual Cafe is the most used IDE.

The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and not of Symantec corporation
Tim Uckun
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 19, 1999
Posts: 88
Thank you Paul for pointing out that there is a new version available for download soon. I am looking forward to playing with it.
I stated at the outset that I was a newbie and tell you the truth I did not dive too deeply into the help files of any of the IDEs that I played with. Just enough to attempt to build a simple data entry screen. If it seemed like the process was going to be above my head I just skipped it. You product did offer up a wizard so I ran it.
Anyways like I said the blind leading the sighted
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 22, 2008
Posts: 18944
For learning Java:
Notepad, Visual Slick Edit, or any other favorite text tool.
For Using the Drag n Drop IDE features:
JBuilder2 or VCafe
For doing hard core Java
I lean towards VCafe over JBuilder, but it(JB) is pretty cool too. Those are the only two I've used extensively, and they seem to be the editor's choice type winners recently.
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 22, 2008
Posts: 18944
I am a semi-beginner with a little over a year of experience.
I learned on the mac, and used CodeWarrior, which was confusing. I haven't checked it out for PC. It might be a better choice for someone with more programming experience--all the commands and terminology are more "general" than "java oriented." Or maybe they're just "proprietary". I had a hard time figuring them out. It wasn't a GUI back then, but they have a new version that is.... it was cheap, though--$60 student rate, and they sent me the new GUI update.
I also used VC on the mac. That worked fairly well, but I ditched it because it didn't work with swing, and the upgrade was $$.
I've been having good results with the JBuilder Enterprise demo that came with "java poop" (and there is quite a good version available for free.)
But I still think I might prefer a more lightweight tool for just creating classes. I will go check out Kawa. I was really excited by "spotcheck", a very java-aware editor for mac, but I never could quite get it to work. It allowed you to expand and contract your classes, methods, etc, just like an outline, right there in your code.
just my $2 worth.
Ray Marsh
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 12, 2000
Posts: 458
Originally posted by Tim Uckun:
Visual Age for Java Eval.
A great looking if somewhat confusing tool. It never crashed on me and seems very solid. This tool is very unlike all the others. You don't deal with files! you don't save or load files or projects you just create classes. There are no wizards but a bewildering array of cryptically named (for me anyway) beans that you build your app with. It's half visual and half not. It seems like it's a closer ideal of a purely OO environment. This also comes with no middleware. I was not able to create a simple data entry screen because I did not know what I was doing. I think that this tool would be very powerful for somebody who could think in Java and Objects. The professional edition is only $99 but the enterprise edition still in the 2K range with no middleware. Of course IBM would love to sell you any one of their Middleware solutions for an added cost.

I have Visual Age for Java Professional Edition 2.0. IBM sends a copy with every AS400, so we had a couple laying around the shop. I took one home ( with permission ) and installed it. However, I've only fired it up twice and never used it. First, it's too much too learn right now and right now I'm learning Java. Second, it requires too much memory for my over-the-hill pentium ( 64 min , 128 optimal )
Something of note on VAJ is that soon, I hear, it will feature a way to encapsulate ( not Java encapsulation, I think ) legacy programs inside of Java servlets so that you won't need massive re-writes to move to a Java environment, or you could extend your legacy functionality to the intranet and best you can still utilize your existing skill sets.

Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength. – Charles Spurgeon
Gary Smith

Joined: Apr 03, 2000
Posts: 16
Hi folks,
I would be interested in opinions on IDE's as debugging tools. Most objections I see against IDE's are with regard to hindering the learning process and producing wizard-bloated code.
I'm a relative newcomer to Java (5 months) but have 12+ years of C/C++. Our Java project is fairly large (200 sub-packages) and is compiled up from command prompt (WinNT or Solaris) with gnumake. I want an IDE that will let me suck in a single 'exe' within the project and debug through it, it should:
1) Be easy to pick up selected source that comprise a Java app to make a debuggable project. Pickup extra classes/jars as required.
2) Do all the usual debugger stuff (Step In/Over, Run To Cursor, (conditioned) breakpoints, watch vars (local & member), etc)
3) Handle multiple threads & allow context switching
4) Allow just-in-time debugging of selective Exceptions (standard & my own).
5) Allow multiple JVM versions (with easy switching between the two)
I have looked at VisualCafe 3.0 (doesn't take on a new JVM very well), I have Forte but have not yet played with it and I am currently looking at JBuilder 3.5 Foundation.
Does anyone have any opinions on this ?
Jesse Tilly
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 25, 2000
Posts: 37
I think you'll find it frustrating (but doable) at best and impossible at worst. Every year I try out the new IDE's and every year I come across programs that are (1) Too big (Visual Age) (2) Generate very bad code (Visual Cafe) (3) Are no different from Emacs+CLI (Kawa) (4) Are too expensive (all the enterprise versions).
This year is different as I have to make the decision for more than myself. A lot of people want debuggers and, personally, I have not found much need for them as log audits and error response pages typically suffice. My experience has shown that the best debugger is Visual Age's. IT is also the cheapest with their full-blown version being available in VA Professional (all the others require you to buy their $2k+ enterprise editions).
As for your "exe" requirement. That really doesn't exist in the majority of Java applications. Java is meant to be run in an environment, whether it be a browser, a Java-enabled device, or an application server. Traditional debugging requires that you *also* debug the environment. Very cumbersome for application servers, easily done with applets, and mapped perfectly for applications. Unfortunately, most work is on the app server end of things.
Before looking beyond Emacs, Visual SlickEdit (an awesome editor in the vein of Emacs, but with Windows "ease of use"), Kawa and other cheap/free editors and the command line, I'd ask yourself what you get from a debugger. If all you're doing is stepping through the code to determine state prior to an error or checking for memory corruption, then you're wasting your time with Java. Almost everything in Java can be dumped to a console or log. As apps can be more distributed (RMI, EJBs, Servlets), you lose the debugging capability right away. Memory reference checking (something I did a lot of in C++ programming/debugging) is worthless in Java. Handles and pointers are non-concepts.
I hope this helps.
Cindy Moncsko

Joined: Aug 11, 2000
Posts: 7
Hello, I used VisualAge for Java and liked its debugger. I could step through parts of a single line of code before the whole line was executed. I could also follow my code into to the Sun JDK classes and see what is going on behind the sceens. This was very usefull when we were debugging a memory leak. When you examine a variable you get all the fields. How does this compare to other IDE's?

Angela Poynton
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 02, 2000
Posts: 3143
I use VisualAge for Java at work for writing large application which involve many packages, I like the way you can see where you are and where everything else is. also the wizards for creating Pagage, Classes, Methods, Interfaces and Fields are useful since sometimes when you're typing the whole thing in you forget to add "static" for example, going though the wizard helps you to think about these things.
i think the De-Bugger is great too, you can do pretty much anything you want to do with it.
I don't write "visual" applications so I can't realy comment on that side of the tool but I certainly think it's a great tool to use.
The repositiry system is quite good too when working within a networked environment.
For really small applications though (ie. when I'm at home learning more about Java and writing test apps,) i use TextPad, it's great cos it highlights keywords, has clip libraries and downloadable extras which you can ue to expand you clip library to include JSP tags etc. Also you can download extras which allow it to recogise syntax of other languages and extras such as JSP and highlight those keywords too!

Pounding at a thick stone wall won't move it, sometimes, you need to step back to see the way around.

Joined: Dec 27, 2000
Posts: 3
for beginners: no overkill or underkill a good ide is kawapro 5.0
John Lynn

Joined: Dec 29, 2000
Posts: 15
I just downloaded Forte for Java Community Edition 2.0 -- oooo sweet! I am running it on an 800Mhz w/512M RDRAM, though. It's a pleasure to work with in this environment...
[This message has been edited by John Lynn (edited December 30, 2000).]
John Wetherbie

Joined: Apr 05, 2000
Posts: 1441
I've used Visual Cafe, JBuilder, Forte, and Kawa in the past but I have written more code in vi than all of them together. I think it's the Word effect. Word started out as a very good product and then they added so many features that it reduced its usability.
Guess I'm just a throwback...

The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen all at once.
- Buckaroo Banzai
Peter Tran

Joined: Jan 02, 2001
Posts: 783
My 2 cents...
I try to keep away from all IDEs for all the same reasons that others have posted why they keep away too. Summarize:
1. Too big.
2. Too expensive.
3. Too slow.
4. Stability issue.
5. Generate extra code or not 100% JAVA compliant.
Personally, I use Visual SlickEdit V6.0. The latest version has awesome support for JAVA. They've added some cool features to this latest version. You should check out their website to see all the goodies. You can even plug-in your favorite debugger. I can create a JAVA project containing 100+ source files and compile the entire thing in less than 1 minute. See my other comments on VSE in another forum.
My manager has recommended CodeWarrior. He's say he hasn't be able to get it to crash yet and it's a pretty good IDE.
Like some others here, I tend to stick with System.out or System.err.
[This message has been edited by Peter Tran (edited January 05, 2001).]
Chuck Lalli

Joined: Jan 06, 2001
Posts: 12
My experience has been enlightening. I was using VAJava 3.02, worked through IBM's tutuorials and most of a book's examples, learning Java along the way. I downloaded KAWA (which I like) and started trying to write my own code. Realized very quickly I had no real idea what I was doing.
My recommendation: use an editor, or a very lightweight IDE like Kawa, and learn to code in Java. Then, experiment with the various IDE's and see which best fits your style.
Aatif Kamal

Joined: Jan 09, 2001
Posts: 2
I am using KAWA for last 2 years for java application development and i found it very helpfull and easy to use IDE.
Here I also want to mention that I stared learning java with Kawa and found it very help cause of its search feature, using wich we can serach Java documentation for any function, class ..etc
In Kawa's latest version (i.e. ver 5) they have given excllent support for EJBs too.

Jeb Beasley

Joined: Jul 15, 2000
Posts: 9
I vote for Kawa very strongly. And also AnyJ, but less so.
KawaPro makes it easy to learn java and the java tools. It does not have GUI wizards, but makes setting up class paths and compiler options very easy. Its IDE is inutitive and debugger is easy to use. You can change JVMs and debuggers. You can run the jar tool and save you configuration, same with the javadoc tool, rmic and so on.
I do all my GUI layouts by hand. Its just like nesting tables in HTML.
My 2 cents
Geoff Griffiths

Joined: Mar 18, 2001
Posts: 17
Greetings all. I am just a newbie at Java but I have been using Forte for my coding. I have just been using it as a text editor and really only using the debugging and compiling functions. I tried using jbuilder but had massive problems but that was probably just me.
Harry Pfohl

Joined: Apr 21, 2001
Posts: 17
I vote for Kawa too.
It has all you need except a layout builder.
Did you try JEasy http://www.jeasy.de ?
daman sidhu
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 19, 2000
Posts: 184
Hi Guys,
I have been working on J2ee env for quite some time now specifically on websphere, and i find that for enterprise development the best IDE is Visual Age for Java, and all my votes are for it, it has such a beautiful debugger in it, and then it has inbuilt servlet engine and persistent name server in it, so that one can really do all the production work on it and test it in Visual age itself and then later deploy the same to app server, moreover the concept of shared repository and team connectors is also very good in a developement env.
But if one wants to learn java at beginner level, then i suggest the way almost everybody does that, and which is the best, - text editors,
Stuart Goss
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 21, 2001
Posts: 169

Do not use an Integrated Development Environment at first. As the all-wise Yoda remarked "Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Consum you it will."

Hi Paul, I liked what u said very much.
Venkataramu Pendiyala

Joined: May 16, 2001
Posts: 25
Visual age for java offers more features than any other Ide.
you can easily develop EJB's , servlets etc. it has own test environment, you can test your code in its own environment. then you can deploy it to server. so go for VAJ(it is a IBM product, belongs to websphere, compatible with WAS)

Jenn Green

Joined: Nov 26, 2000
Posts: 28
I am a relatively new java programmer. Got my cert in November and then immediately had to start learning to use Visual Age and i HATED it. However, 5 months later of using it one and off, i have become comfortable with it and use it almost exclusively. The integrated debugger is fabulous (though confusing at first) and following the code created by VAJ has certainly helped develop code reading/interpreting skills. Now, I haven't used another IDE so I am a little biased.
Anyway, i just recently got certified in VAJ and am reasonably happy with the product - but I am the first to admit it is a resource hog. I think the trick to VAJ is to force yourself to use it and it does start to become clearer. The online help files are a pretty good source of information.
Jonathan Andrew King

Joined: May 21, 2001
Posts: 9
Hi Folks,
After using JBuilder 3.5 then JBuilder 4 and finally JDeveloper 3.2, I'd say you can't beat Cygwin's vi and Apache's ANT ! It's the best way to learn. If you are doing a commercial development then an IDE allows integration to other components such as an Servlet Engine, Application Server or Database server.
Still the benefit you get from the IDE while learning is an integrated debugging environment allowing you to step through code and set watches.
seetarama raju
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 07, 2001
Posts: 104
Hi, venkataramu

does the visual age for java is compatiable with weblogic. if it is so please let me know, how i can connect it
Joseph Russell
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 08, 2001
Posts: 290
Has anyone used BlueJ? It was created with the purpose of learning Java. They wanted something that would teach OOP concepts and didn't feel other editor accomplished that.
Here's the link:
Check it out and let me know what you think.
Ken Lai
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 06, 2000
Posts: 30
Whoa! This thread lasted for like 2+ years!
Anyway, unless one already knows how to use an IDE, using an IDE to learn the Java programming language (any language in fact) would actually make the learning process less effective for the following reasons (that I can think of):
- There's always a learning curve for IDEs (as if learning the language itself is not confusing enough?)
- IDEs do lots of things to help you, either by creating more code that you might not be able to understand, or
- IDEs may force you to code in one way or another (may narrow your view about the language)
- IDEs do more for you (such as automatic get/set method generation for the fields you create, or the automatic implementation of abstract methods/interfaces done for you when you extend abstract classes or implement interfaces), but do you know why they do those things for you? At this point you might have to stop your reading about variable scope and go to later chapters to find out why those methods are implemented/created for you, which may even further confuse you!
- Whoa I can just draw GUI objects and the IDE will just generate the code, cool! Well, what if you're looking at some code that have been previously created by someone? Now what? Do you know why it's generated that way? Is it because of how your IDE is designed to create the code or is it because of the language limitations?
Well that's all I can think of, but I do understand there are some benefits to using IDEs, such as:
- IDEs allow you to look at the states of the variables of your code and allow you to see what's happening in real time! (well, sort of)
- Some IDEs allow you to look at library codes and browse the class hierarchy very easily, this may help you to understand how the classes work as a whole
Bottom line, once you know the whats, hows, and whys of a programming language, IDEs will work wonders for you. But to learn an IDE on top of a programming language might slow down your learning.
[This message has been edited by Ken Lai (edited May 29, 2001).]
Mike Muschal

Joined: Jun 07, 2001
Posts: 5
IMHO, the freeware application JCreator, available at www.jcreator.com is the way to go. True, there is a learning curve that competes with Java, but it's many features and perfect price make it ideal.
I agree. Here's the link: http://aspose.com/file-tools
subject: which IDE to learn Java with?
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