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NetBeans IDE tackles Ruby, JavaScript

Open source tools package adds support for popular scripting languages

Move over, Java. The NetBeans open source tools package is making room for popular scripting languages.

Version 6.0 of the NetBeans IDE will be offered in an early-access release at the JavaOne conference in San Francisco, according to officials at Sun Microsystems, the dominant player in the NetBeans space. The NetBeans 6.0 code editor will accommodate the JRuby run time and adds fuller support for JavaScript. JRuby is a version of the Ruby language that runs on the Java virtual machine.

Previously, the IDE has centred on Java and C++ development.

"We wanted to make sure it provided support for multiple languages," said Jeet Kaul, vice president of Java products and programs at Sun.

"JavaScript is everywhere," said Sun's Greg Sporar, explaining why Sun is bolstering support for the scripting language in NetBeans.

"We want to make JavaScript more of a first-class citizen within the IDE," he said. It is easier to program with JavaScript in NetBeans 6.0 than it has been before.

Developers doing Web development are interested in mixing languages to get an application up and running quickly, according to Sun. Afterward, they can leverage Java to add more robust capabilities, the company said.

An early user of NetBeans 6.0 was pleased with the Ruby capabilities but not as satisfied with the JavaScript functionality.

"It's going to rock the [Ruby on] Rails community when they finish it. It's incredible," said George Cook, director and developer at Chrysalis Web Design, of the Ruby support.

"Fast, intelligent code completion, really good support for debugging, code highlighting, syntax help, gem support, rake tasks, migrations, testing -- it's all in there and really first-class," said Cook.

"The JavaScript support is pretty good, but on the builds I have, it doesn't seem to work inside of HTML files. It could be that I'm using the latest Ruby plug-ins," he said.

The editor infrastructure of NetBeans 6.0 also features quick execution of functions such as syntax highlighting and code completion. An enhanced GUI builder, known as Project Matisse, also is included.

Also new in is the ability to move a window out of a frame across monitors, for developers who use multiple monitors. A local history feature in the IDE enables a developer to revert back to a coding status before changes were saved. Developers can run code and decide if the change is suitable and then go back to where they were before adding that code, if they choose.

A configurable Web-based installer in NetBeans 6.0 allows developers to install just the features they want.

The general release of NetBeans 6.0 is planned for the end of 2007.