I first started to learn java last August with the bluej IDE (free) and the book that went along with it, "Objects First with Bluej". This helped me tremendously as I had tried to learn java before and gave up as I couldn't understnad it whe it was taught the traditional way. The book and bluej were the best. Then I decided to go for certification so since February, I have been studying the Bates and Sierra book. The bluej IDE and book brought me far enough where I could understand what was going on in the Bates and Sierra book. I am at the point where I probably will schedule the SCJP exam next week.
I used JCreator for making my programs before, for my studies and during my first job as a java programmer. Now I use the Eclipse platform and I can say that it is the best open source Java IDE I used so far. Working in a team of developers is easy for me now using Eclipse. I suggest it if you're working or planning to work in a big projects.
Glenn Castro<br />Sun Certified Web Component Developer