Borland Software Corp.s JBuilder X and Metrowerks Corp.s CodeWarrior Development Studio for Mac OS, the latest development tool sets to arrive for review at eWEEK Labs, attack what we might call the plague of developer choice. The tool options facing an application developer have ballooned enormously beyond what used to be the fairly simple choice of a high-level programming language. The decision tree now leafs out into an intimidating array of platforms, subplatforms and frameworks.
Developers want their tool sets to be correspondingly comprehensive, but that doesnt mean every possibility needs to be in the developers face every time a menu gets pulled down—or even every time the toolmakers bill must be paid.
Borlands JBuilder X offers multiple personalities to bring order to a developers day and lets a developer target a wide range of clients with its category-leading tools for the entire Java development cycle. Metrowerks (a subsidiary of Motorola Inc.) offers modular pricing for developers who want to pick and choose their target operating systems. It lets them develop for old or new Macintosh environments and for x86 machines from a single Mac OS X seat.
Its easier to begin our in-depth look with Borlands latest JBuilder update because our fingers practically know the way when its time to type about this product. We do it pretty much every six months, as the JBuilder team tries to divert our attention from other Java tool-set providers by doing more and doing it better on a schedule that no one else can match.
We worked with the Enterprise edition, still priced at $3,500 and retaining our Analysts Choice honors. This is the package to order if a development team wants the synergies of the included Crystal Decisions Inc. Crystal Reports, Altova Inc. XMLspy and the novel Salesforce.com Sforce Toolkit for working with the companys Customer Relationship Management application server. A feature matrix for JBuilders many versions is at www.borland.com/jbuilder and is a valuable guide.
JBuilder Enterprise is the lowest-priced version of the product that provides the exemplary integration of UML (Unified Modeling Language) tools that we consider a highlight of Borlands Java offering. Other notable features of the Enterprise edition are its inclusion of the Optimizeit suite (comprising profiler, thread debugger and code coverage tools) along with extended testing aids.
Watch out for some thoroughly confusing product nomenclature, however. The full-strength Optimizeit Enterprise Suite, which includes a tool that examines performance across multiple tiers of the J2EE (Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition) stack, is not included in JBuilder X Enterprise—its only in the $6,500 Borland Enterprise Studio for Java.
The Enterprise Studio package is not sold through the usual channels, but rather through the companys direct sales force—and just to make things more interesting, the version of the Studio package that includes JBuilder X is designated as Enterprise Studio 7. Dont say we didnt warn you.
As of this writing, moreover, the $9.95 Personal Edition of JBuilder had not been updated for JBuilder X but was still being offered on a JBuilder 9 foundation.
With all that out of the way, we found that Borland had answered a challenge that we issued in our June 2003 review of JBuilder 9, to survive the Curse of Version 10. The curse: that many products seem to lose their way or fade from superiority by the time theyve been around that long.
The most welcome improvement in JBuilder X is its improvement on the well-established idea of named work spaces, which Borland has realized in a far more granular fashion than weve seen before.
Ever since the earliest days of Java development environments, weve favored the ability to decide which tools would be visible at different stages of our work and to switch readily among those different configurations. The Personalities feature in JBuilder X extends this idea into various menus and other environment components so that options not relevant to a particular project no longer need to distract the developer from the task at hand.
For example, when we unchecked the User Interface Designer personality in our Project Properties settings, the Design tab thats normally visible at the bottom of the JBuilder work area simply disappeared. The tool had not been uninstalled, just put out of the way. We could restore access to the visual user interface designer merely by rechecking that personality. We commend Borlands execution of this feature in that it is presented in terms of tasks, not low-level features.
Even more convenient is JBuilder Xs new pop-up filter control in the Structure view of a project, which furthers the theme of clutter reduction. This simple slider allowed us to suppress display of, for example, all nonpublic elements.
Borland has added a File Browser tab to the Project pane that was already our exemplar of convenient navigation—now made even better by letting us root around in the raw file system without observing the niceties of whether something was formally included in the project currently at hand.
JBuilder has always been ahead of the pack when it comes to squeezing the maximum available information from Java source code, and JBuilder X continued that tradition with new refactoring features, along with class-manipulation commands to move methods or fields into a subclass or superclass of the class that defines them.
Technology Editor Peter Coffee can be reached at [email protected].