Even though Eclipse is surely the dominant Java IDE in the market, there are some reasons that make me prefer Netbeans over it :

  • Netbeans is a coherent IDE : you don’t have to check the dependencies for a plugin and the right version for every dependency to get it work (check GMF version, WTP version etc..). Plugins in Netbeans are supervised by the development team and integrate easily and very well in the current Netbeans version.

  • Netbeans works out of the box : The functionalities provided by Netbeans are available from the plugins manager. You just have to install/activate them and begin working. In Eclipse, there is the update center, but it is tougher to get a stabilized IDE with a set of complementary tools. Moreover, many valuable Eclipse plugins aren’t in the Eclipse update site, but belong to independent enterprises.

  • Netbeans is free : Well, I know eclipse is free too, but a lot of the valuable plugins are commercial (UML, GUI design..). Even if free components in Netbeans don’t offer all the functionalities the commercial plugins in Eclipse do, I prefer having an IDE dealing mainly with free plugins.

  • Netbeans is actively supported : Sun makes a lot of efforts to market Netbeans, so we have all kinds of tutorials, videos etc (Netbeans TV, Netbeans Magazine, Netbeans tutorials..) that are made by Sun. Eclipse tutorials and screencasts are numerous but they aren’t supported by IBM so they are less coherent and less ‘Enterprise quality’ documents.

  • Netbeans is made by Sun, the Java inventor : Netbeans has recently been on the edge concerning innovative Java technologies (JSF, Java FX..). It is easily understandable as Sun is creating those technologies.

  • Netbeans integrates some nice productivity tools : Eclipse has better refactoring, but is beaten in other aspects by Netbeans who integrates GUI Builder Matisse, advanced JSF Web design, JUnit testing, Ant compiling and a Profiler in a user friendly manner.

I know the debate is very heated about this topic. You can leave your opinions and comments either you prefer Eclipse, Netbeans or any other IDE.

Edit in 1st March 2008 : After three months of heavily using Netbeans and then three others with Eclipse, I completely changed my mind. I currently consider Eclipse to be way more productive and feature-rich than Netbeans. Maybe I will write a new post to explain in detail what makes Eclipse superior to Netbeans in my opinion.