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NetBeans: Introductions to the Open-Source Project, More Than an IDE

  • By Wade Chandler
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The NetBeans Wiki contains much information. It is such a valuable resource it really deserves to have a visible link to it from the Docs & Support page. Something like "NETBEANS WIKI HERE" would work for me. Not only will you find information created by NetBeans developers, but also many community members have created documents based on their experience in areas where documentation is lacking or from a different perspective you may find more useful. You will also find information related to development of the IDE and the RCP.

Beyond Documentation and Help: Digging into NetBeans

If getting into the innards of the project is more your forte, you will find the Community page useful. From here you can access the Release Roadmap for a quick peek at what is on the horizon or the past. You will also find information on the different NetBeans teams, contributing, where to get the sources and how to build them, NetBeans development guidelines and processes, the different projects/modules home pages, and the NetBeans issue tracking system Issuezilla.

Issuezilla is a good resource even if you do not plan on working with the sources yourself. Anyone can create issues or requests. This is how the development team knows what issues you are having with the software or different areas of the project including the NetBeans web site and project infrastructure such as CVS. It is how bugs get fixed and problems are resolved; general usage issues should be resolved in the appropriate mailing lists or IRC however.

Aside from defects, you can file enhancement and feature requests in IZ. The NetBeans teams cannot guarantee that all enhancements and features will be implemented due to a lack of resources and time, but most requests are seriously examined when the developers and module owners have time to review them.

For this, you will need to create an account on NetBeans, and the IZ page has links and information with the details. Setting up an account is quick and easy, and like everything else in NetBeans, it is free.

The UI specifications page is a good place to look if you are interested in the user interface design of NetBeans. Here you will find links to different resources regarding the UI including members whom you may want to get to know at some point if contributing to the UI and improving it is something you feel you would enjoy.

Are you into quality? You can help improve the quality of the project at the QA page. There is a community acceptance program called NetCat. I participated in the NetBeans 5.0 NetCat program, and it was a good way to share and contribute with other community members on an upcoming release. I was able to get to know a few members I had not previously communicated. I even received a T-Shirt as I had submitted so many feature requests and bugs.

There are many ways to contribute. I have found it personally rewarding and have made many community friends. If you find contributing to other open-source communities fun and rewarding, I believe you'll like the NetBeans community the same.

Working With Others

You will find, as with most things, you have different experiences with different module owners and developers. People are different and working with some will certainly be easier than others. If you have problems don't simply become frustrated, throw up your hands, and walk off. Please communicate your issues with other community members and try to resolve them.

Sometimes, detailing and explaining your issue more fully helps. Other times, it helps to communicate or use someone else as a mediator. Diplomacy comes in pretty handy when getting to know different community members and working with them. This is also true for working with employees of Sun Microsystems, the company who open-sourced NetBeans and continues to be the primary sponsor of the project. It basically boils down to people are people.

I have experienced this with different open-source projects, so communication problems are nothing unique to NetBeans. There are X different people with X different personalities and experiences. Sometimes that which one perceives as hostility or harshness is perceived differently from another person and is not always the intent of the person you are communicating. Other times, shortness is just a trait of the person you may be dealing with regardless if it's a good social tool or not. In general, this is good to keep in mind when working with any open-source project, and NetBeans is not different in this aspect.

In the NetBeans Dream Team, we will at some point try to address some community issues with regard to contributors, users, and NetBeans developers and how the relationship can be more symbiotic. Currently, we do not know exactly what this will mean or entail, but we certainly want to look at it. I feel there is something lacking, but I have not myself been able to put my finger on it, and I'm not saying it is bad, but instead some things seem like they could be better.

Either way, improvements can never hurt and certainly if we can collaborate better it will benefit all involved with the project. If you have any experiences, good or bad and from a community point of view, please feel free to share them with me at my comments email address. Let me know the issues and what worked and didn't work for you.

The NetBeans Dream Team

The NetBeans Dream Team, which I am a member, is a group of NetBeans community members who have been deeply involved with the NetBeans project for a while. Members have no affiliation with Sun Microsystems, the NetBeans project owner, other than being involved and supporting the NetBeans open-source project. No Dream Team member can be a Sun employee. This is a requirement.

The Dream Team is planning different things. Some of them involve improving the NetBeans IDE or the Rich Client Platform; others involve improving the community, while others are directed towards promoting NetBeans as one of the members' favorite open-source projects. The team may also be working on documentation for different things a user may want to do inside a NetBeans project which documentation may not be available.

Members have special insider access to the project as they are long standing community members and contributors. They are recognized for this. I may be biased in this regard, but no more than a member of any other community, which they have devoted a number of years. I will not be writing to convince you one way or another about the NetBeans project other than to tell you about it. I will try to be as non-biased as possible for someone as involved and I'm sure my editor will help me address this if I get out of line.

One way the Dream Team can help the community, and be a good resource, is try to communicate concerns between the project owner and the community at large. They can talk to community members and users in detail and try to express those concerns to the NetBeans developers and insiders at Sun. This happens now as members help out on mailing lists and IRC chat and bring community members concerns to the group.

The Dream Team can also work the other way and help the developers request things from the community, which helps them, make the project better for members and users. You can think of the Dream Team as an ear or bridge for the community. Community members and users can feel welcome to share concerns and information with the Dream Team.


I hope I have given you enough information about the NetBeans project to get a feel about what it is and where to find out more information about it. In the coming months, I hope to explain different features and how to use them. If nothing else, I hope you find my information useful.

About the Author

Wade Chandler has been developing software for over ten years. He has worked with different languages including C, C++, Java, Perl, different Basic and Pascal flavors, Assembler, .NET languages, and scripting tools including different scripting pages as JSP, PHP, and Cold Fusion along with JavaScript, HTML, XML, and other technologies such as Flash and Director (Shockwave). He has also worked with different operating systems, server applications, networking, DBMS, and protocol and PDA development. He is currently working for Decision Dynamics, Inc. of South Carolina.

He has been a member of the NetBeans community since NetBeans was called Forte for Java and is a member of the NetBeans Dream Team. He has contributed to different open-source projects in different capacities including but not limited to Apache Tomcat, AXIS, and other Apache projects, the visual JasperReport designer iReport, and different Linux distros (currently OpenSuSE being his favorite). Wade is also a member of the SwingLabs.org community. He has been devoting most of his open-source time to NetBeans and some day wishes to again devote time to other projects.

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This article was originally published on June 27, 2007

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