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One of the first things you should do when you are working with Java is to choose an editor. A product you can use to create your Java source code files and which if it's a completely Integrated Development Environment can also help you build and compile your applications. The truth is, Java source code files are just text files, so you can really use any Text Editor you are comfortable with. If you know how to use older developer editors such as Vi or Emacs or if you are a Windows developer and you love notepad, those will do fine.
But there are many Integrated Development Environments or IDEs available for Java developers. One of the first questions you should ask is, which operating system do you want to develop on? Java applications are designed to be write once, run anywhere. So once the application is built you should be able to deploy it on multiple operating systems, but you as a developer probably have your favorite operating system that you like to work on. So perhaps you are looking for an editor that's specifically designed for Mac OS X or maybe you are a Windows developer and you have no plans ever to work on Mac or Linux.
But you will find in the world of Java that many of the best development products out there are cross- platform and work on all operating systems including Windows, Mac, Linux and other variants of UNIX. Another question you should ask is, am I willing to pay a license fee? Many of the best development environments are completely free, including Eclipse and NetBeans, but when you start looking at some of the paid options you might find advanced features that are worthwhile, especially if you are going to be working in a team development environment where you're building very large scale applications.
I think that if you are a new Java developer you'll find that one of the free IDEs does everything you need when you are getting started. And later on when you start building very large scale applications it's worth checking out some of the paid options. Here are some of the options that are available exclusively on Mac OS X. The first one might be a bit surprising, it's Xcode. We know Xcode as the primary development environment for building Mac and iOS applications, Xcode is completely free and available from the Mac App Store and it does have rudimentary Java support.
It's best for small scale projects though. It doesn't have a lot of the capabilities that development environments that are designed for Java have. And also because Apple has been pulling back from support for Java over the last couple of years, for example the latest version of Mac OS X Lion is delivered without a Java runtime environment already installed, we don't know how much support there will be for Java in the future. But if you are already comfortable with Xcode and know how to navigate around it, it's worth checking out.
Other options that are unique to Mac OS X are two products that are related called BBEdit and TextWrangler. These products are both from the same company and they support syntax coloring, function scanning, and other tasks that are common to programmers, editors. Neither of these tools is a specialist IDE for Java, that is, they weren't designed specifically for use with Java, but again if you are already comfortable with these tools and you like products that really take seriously a Mac style interface these are worth looking at.
BBEdit is a commercial product and requires a paid license, while TextWrangler is free. Both products are available from www. barebones.com and at least TextWrangler is available from the Mac App Store as well. If you are a Windows developer and you have no plans to work ever on Mac or Linux, you can check out some of the light-weight Java development environments that are specifically built for Windows. One of the most popular is called JCreator. There are two editions, one free and one paid, and it has a very similar interface to a Text Editor called TextPad.
It has the same layout of panels, menus, and configuration options, but both of these products are specifically designed for use with Java. JCreator is a very light-weight application, it starts up incredibly quickly compared to products like Eclipse and NetBeans. And both versions JCreator LE and JCreator Pro are available from www.jcreator.com. And speaking of TextPad, you can also use this very popular shareware product to build small scale Java applications.
TextPad has the ability to hook into the JDK commands, such as java and javac the compiler to compile and run small Java applications. It's shareware, not free, but it's pretty inexpensive, and it's available from www.textpad.com. So that's a look at products that are unique to Mac and Windows. But most of the Java developer community uses cross-platform Java IDEs. The whole idea of Java is portability. The idea that you can build a single application and then run it on multiple platforms without recompiling and being able to do the same thing, move among operating systems and use basically the same IDE is very appealing to Java developers.
So here are two free IDEs that work on Mac, Windows, Linux, and other platforms. NetBeans was originally created by Sun Microsystems and is now owned and offered by Oracle. In addition to Java, NetBeans has editions that support C, C++, and PHP. Some distributions of NetBeans have an included Java Enterprise Edition server. So if your goal is to build Java-based Web applications, NetBeans gives you the ability to get everything you need in a single download and installation.
You can download NetBeans from netbeans.org. Eclipse is one of my favorite cross- platform IDEs for Java and is the IDE that I'll be using throughout this course. Eclipse is open source and completely free. It was originally built as a Java Development Environment By IBM, before IBM gave it to the Eclipse Foundation. But now Eclipse is also used for many languages and development environments. For example if your goal is to build Android applications with Java, I highly recommend Eclipse because the Android developer tools from Google are also delivered as an Eclipse plug-in.
So you can take your Eclipse installation for Java, add-in the Android SDK tools and you'll have everything you need in one development environment. You can download all the different distributions of Eclipse from www.eclipse.org. And like NetBeans you'll see that there are distributions available from many operating systems including Windows, Mac, Linux, and so on, and also support for many programming languages. Once you move out of the completely free IDEs, you start getting into a set of products that are really designed for large scale team development.
IntelliJ Idea is the first one. There is a free version known as community and a paid edition known as Ultimate of IntelliJ Idea. IntelliJ Idea has its own support for Android development, and again it's cross-platform like Eclipse and NetBeans, so you can install it for Windows, Mac, or Linux, and you can take a look at it at www.jetbrains.com/idea. And finally there is JBuilder. At one time JBuilder was the dominant Java developing environment in the world.
That was in the late 90s though, and since that time with the introduction of Eclipse and NetBeans things have evened out quite a bit. But JBuilder remains a very powerful Integrated Development Environment primarily used by large development teams on large scale enterprise applications. JBuilder was originally created by Borland, and again it was designed for enterprise-level development. You can take a look at JBuilder at www.embarcadero.com/products/jbuilder.
This survey of IDEs for Java gives you a sense of the amount of variety that's out there, and there are many programmers, editors that I haven't mentioned that could work fine for Java development. I encourage you to look at these options and other options you might find on the Web and choose the development environment that's best for you. As you work through this course, I'll encourage you though to use Eclipse, the same IDE that I'll be demonstrating the code with because it will let you follow along and do the exercises using the same look-and-feel as you see on the screen.
And once you get into building your applications though, choose any of these IDEs for your own Java development.
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