Ive scraped along trying to learn Java on my XP machine, now I am thinking about getting a new iMac. Are there suitable IDE's for the Mac environment? Anybody here had experience with programming Java on a Mac?
Absolutelty! In fact, a large number of javaRanch staff, myself included, use OS X on Macs for development.
All the major IDE players work just fine on a Mac, as do open source utilities and servers such as Tomcat, Ant and ilk.
The only drawback I can think of to Java on the Mac is that the latest Java version lags behind those available for the other platforms. That's not an issue for those just trying to get work done -- who aren't going to use the latest version until it's well-proven in the field anyways -- but may impact those that need to be on the bleeding edge at all times.
There are three free Java IDEs for Mac that I'm aware of: 1) XCode from Apple (for Mac only), 2) Eclipse free open source, and 3) NetBeans which is also free open-source.
I'm using Eclipse because I'm developing cross platform desktop applications.
NetBeans sounds good because Sun is endorsing it, Sun's tutorials reference NetBeans and now there is an upgrade path from the ultra-academic BlueJ to real-life NetBeans, and NetBeans has a Swing GUI editor built-in
I'm sticking with Eclipse for now, but I'm keeping an eye on NetBeans.
As for the JDK version, if you buy and iMac now, I think it will come with JDK version 5 installed as the default version of Java, and some of the older versions of Java installed as alternate versions. For Java 6, I think you'd have to download the pre-beta, developer preview version 6 in which you should be able to run the tutorial code from but you wouldn't want to ship for Java 6 until Apple declares it production software.
NetBeans sounds good because Sun is endorsing it...
That has to be the worst reason to ever use anything I've heard in a while. The JDK being the exception, I tend to run screaming from anything Sun endorsed (EJB, JSF, Netbeans, etc). Screaming I tell you, screaming.
I just got a Mac myself. Eclipse runs without any trouble, but it's more the 'sidekicks' that are not available for OS X, or don't work. ClearCase client tool is one of them. Very important if you use ClearCase. Skype behind a proxy is another pain.