Apache NetBeans 13 delivers an improved developer experience


The Apache Software Foundation has released Apache NetBeans 13, their integrated development environment (IDE), claiming an easier and smoother startup experience as well as partial upgrades to Maven, Gradle, and PHP. Written in Java and originally designed for the Java community, NetBeans is a cross-platform polyglot IDE that includes support for HTML5, PHP, and C/C++.

This version also comes with the default FlatLaf Light theme look. FlatLaf, an open-source cross-platform skin designed for Java Swing desktop applications, has no gradients or shadows and supports HiDPI displays. However, the other skin themes, such as Metal, Nimbus, and FlatLaf Dark, are still available.

NetBeans 13 comes with nb-javac, a Java fork compiler optimized for Netbeans, in the bundle. The NetBeans project is based on nb-javac for various reasons like parsing and lexification, for features like syntax highlighting, code completion, refactoring, etc. However, it is still possible to use the compiler of your favorite JDK versions in NetBeans. Before this release, on startup, when creating a Java project for the first time, a dialog box appeared and users had to install and activate it. With this release, this is no longer a requirement, which claims to provide a smoother startup experience for a user. Additionally, this release fixes a lot of bugs for Java projects.

This release provides a dependency upgrade to Maven 3.8.4 and minimal Maven daemon support, allowing users to use the mnvd order. Many users will find it convenient to integrate mnvd within projects to make it portable, as they no longer need to install Maven on their machine to use it.

This release also offers increased support for Gradle. It fixed some major bugs, such as project loading in model operations and added minimal support for the java-platform Gradle plugin.

Besides Java, NetBeans supports a few other major programming languages, such as Groovy, PHP, JavaScript, and C/C++. This release fixes some lingering issues with Groovy, such as code completion for class fields and an infinite loop that can occur when parsing sources. NetBeans 13 can now run an independent Groovy script that is not part of a project with the shortcut Shift +F6.

NetBeans 13 provides improved support for PHP 8.1 and support for PHPStan, a static analysis tool for PHP. Ondřej Mirtes, founder and developer of PHPStan, describing this utility, wrote:

If you are unfamiliar with PHPStan, it is a static analyzer for PHP focused on finding bugs in your code. It catches entire classes of bugs before you even run your application.

Originally known as Xelfi for Java IDE, NetBeans was created by a group of math and physics students from Charles University in the Czech Republic in 1996. NetBeans eventually became Sun Microsystems’ flagship IDE and is became open source in June 2000.

A year after Oracle originally offered to donate NetBeans to Apache, the first of several code donations was made in September 2017 as part of Apache’s incubation process.

Excited about this new release, James Gosling, father of Java, prominent engineer at Amazon Web Services and prominent NetBeans user, tweeted:

NetBeans 13 is out! I’ve been using the early versions for a while. It’s lovely. Take it out for a spin. Best of all, it’s all open-source, so you can help make it even better!

NetBeans 13 has many other fixes besides these. Developers who want to use NetBeans can download NetBeans 13 now. New users can consult a number of tutorials in the NetBeans help pages.

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