I’ve seen mentions of NetBeans IDE more than once, but full-featured development suites is not category of software I follow closely (learning curve and everything). Seeing it at FileHippo was last straw and I got to check it out at last.
NetBeans is open source development environment that can be configured to work with multiply programming languages. This post will focus on PHP and more flavors might get covered when (if) I get to them.
NetBeans is written in Java (not surprising for Sun Microsystems product) and so requires Java Runtime installed. I updated runtime just before installation and it failed, turned out open IE window prevented new version from installing (but not old from being uninstalled).
While reading up I’ve run into few mentions of performance issues and suggested configuration tricks. So far IDE feels snappy and responsive (even by my tough standards) but I am not working on anything excessively complex either.
What it does
As by definition of development environment NetBeans IDE revolves around code editing and related functions that make live easier. Since PHP requires no compiler in this case it is mostly about code itself.
Overall experience is very polished with excellent color scheme, that is very easy on eyes and plenty of smart and unobtrusive help from IDE. It takes under second to fall in love with auto-closing quotes and brackets. :)
Excellent code highlight, completion and syntax checkup functionality. Unlike common static approach to code highlight NetBeans is also lighting up stuff relevant in this exact second. For example simply placing cursor on variable makes it light up everywhere in code.
Mix of PHP and XHTML is easily distinguishable and syntax is checked for both. Often good but at times becomes annoyance when parts of XHTML code are PHP-generated and treated as missing from syntax viewpoint.
PHPDoc comments are automatically processed and show up in auto-completion and tasks. Even faster than checking docs generated with PHPXref.
Coming from Notepad++ I can say that purely text editing in NetBeans has long way to go:
- there is no word wrap (seriously), it seems that people beg for it for years already;
- default settings turn tabs into spaces (if I type tab I mean tab) and even after tuning that tabs behave really weird at times;
- there is too much white space in interface for no good reason, it contributes to light feel overall but I want every pixel available used for code, might be tuned… but out of the box – too spacey.
Frankly put I feel that editor component is inferior to Scintilla. It makes up for that with rest of functions, but is is clearly compromise and not superior alternative.
NetBeans for PHP brings to the table number of functions that make you write better code from the start, instead of seeing it fail at runtime all the time. On other hand I find text editor component lacking, considerable downside in otherwise good experience.