REVIEW: NetBeans IDE 6.7 Provides Effective Integration with Project Kenai

 
 
By Jeff Cogswell  |  Posted 2009-07-20
 
 
 

REVIEW: NetBeans IDE 6.7 Provides Effective Integration with Project Kenai


The latest version of the NetBeans IDE is a 0.7 release, but it includes so many new features it could rightfully receive a full version increment. What may be the biggest improvement is full integration with Project Kenai, a site Sun built for open-source collaboration, and that's what this review will focus on.

The Project Kenai site itself includes full support for source code repositories. This enables developers to connect through any of several source code version control systems, such as subversion. Through the site you can create projects, host documents, track issues, and even create forums and chat rooms for your projects.

Many of these features can be accessed right from within the NetBeans IDE-not just through a Web browser inside the IDE, but directly through the IDE's menus and windows, without the need to interact with the site itself.

This all takes place through a Kenai pane where you can log into the Kenai Website. You need to have a free account at kenai.com; when you log in through the IDE, you are given the opportunity to create an account. When you click on the "sign up now" link, you're taken to the Kenai site in your browser. That part isn't integrated into the IDE.

Once I was logged in, I could click the Open Project link that's in the Kenai pane; from there, a window opened through which I could search for projects based on keywords or create a new project on Kenai.

Once I had located a project I wanted to take part in, I could click a link to get details on the project. Again, this takes you to your Web browser. (This is one of the very few places you need to go to the Web browser. The rest really is integrated into the IDE.)

Back in the IDE, I could easily join the project. After doing so, the project showed up in the Kenai pane in the IDE. From there, I could click a link on the pane to download the code from Kenai through the subversion software, and then create a local Java project (if one wasn't included in the sources).

From there, I could build and edit the source code, just as I would with any other project.

Easy Project Installation

Over the years, I've found that one major problem with a lot of software projects is getting a project installed on a new developer's computer.

The old method of "Here are the source files, just run Make" barely worked. I can't tell you how many hours I've lost as a developer trying to either copy a project to my computer when I started a new job or copy a project to a new employee's computer, then setting up loads of environment variables and sourcing (and creating) script files. Fast-forward to the 21st century when developers on an open-source project are scattered all over the planet, and all of this gets even harder.

Now, with the NetBeans IDE, you can easily avoid such problems.

Developers can easily create an entire project, put it on a site like Kenai, and then other developers can just pull down all the source and necessary support files (such as build).

Using the Share Local Project on Kenai, I could upload a project to Kenai so that others could easily download it and build it, and even collaborate on it. (Yes, there are other tools, IDEs and sites with similar capabilities, but it's good to see it here, as well.)

By default, NetBeans understands several different version tracking programs, including the one I already mentioned, subversion. There's a Team dropdown menu that provides access to these tools. In this menu is a Kenai submenu that even includes an item for integrating with the chat software on Kenai. When you select this item, a pane opens for chatting with your project's team members who are logged in. This is pretty handy for communicating with the project members in real time, all without having to switch to another chat program.

Issue Tracking


 

Issue Tracking

The Kenai Website hosts issue-tracking software (Bugzilla) that works just as well as many of the best around.

Right from within the NetBeans IDE, I could create issues and assign them to a developer, assign severities, and so on. You can also list all the open issues for the project in another window, from which you can click an issue and see the details and update the issue, adding comments, uploading attachments, you name it.

All of this worked pretty well in tests, and it's tightly integrated right into the IDE. (Although, apparently by appending my employer's initials-ZDE-to the end of my username, Bugzilla decided the "DE" was the standard abbreviation for Deutschland, or Germany and oddly defaulted to German for its language when I tried to access it.)

All in all, I had a good experience with the Kenai integration into NetBeans IDE.

Some parts aren't totally integrated into the IDE, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. For example, each project in Kenai gets its own wiki. You can access the wiki from within NetBeans, but to accommodate this, NetBeans launches the default Web browser. That's fine, though: It wouldn't make much sense to have some kind of windowed interface into the wiki from within the browser.

Also, with these collaboration tools in NetBeans IDE, there's a bit of a learning curve; I got stumped a couple times and had to read the online help. I recommend spending time on the Kenai.com site itself and becoming familiar with it before attempting to use the Kenai integration from within the NetBeans IDE. You'll have a much easier time, as the functionality will make more sense.

Jeff Cogswell can be reached at jcogswell@eweek.com.


Rocket Fuel