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

  • By Wade Chandler
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The NetBeans Community and Resources

The introduction to the NetBeans community begins on the NetBeans home page. This is usually with a download of the IDE. From the home page you can find links to most community information. There is a lot of it and it can be a little overwhelming to new comers.

Mailing Lists

One of the first things you should do is sign-up for the mailing lists or use Nabble to use the mailing lists like a forum. Some have complained about not having a forum or a news server. With Nabble you do not need anything extra. Simply use the mailing list like a forum and search the messages and view them by thread without having to actually download all the messages. The only difference between this and a news server and client is the message headers are not downloaded to your system. Either way, the mailing lists are a good resource for getting help with the different facets of NetBeans and offer good, free support.

Each mailing list has an archive available from the mailing lists page. It is good netiquette to attempt to search the archives for previous answers before posting a new question. The point being many members are community volunteers and just as busy as everyone else, so please respect their time as much as your own. This helps everyone.

Internet Relay Chat (IRC)

Next, there is an Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel on irc.freenode.org called #netbeans. This has been around for a while, and is now starting to get more users, so if you had previously tried to use it you might want to try again. Some of the Dream Team members try to frequent the channel and help users as they can along with other helpful community members.

Freenode has a neat tool that allows IRC users to connect from behind firewalls. You can also directly access the IRC channel or link to it from your web site. This is a Java Applet that communicates with another server over HTTP and redirects your messages and others to and from the IRC server. This will come in very handy if you cannot use IRC because your company network blocks a port.

Remember, when using IRC, others are usually working too. So, when you ask a question, it may take up to an hour before a reply is made and other times it may take only seconds. If you come in, ask a question, and leave the channel too fast, you may never see the reply, so try to have patience for your own benefit.

Code Samples

You will find the different samples included with the IDE very helpful. They directly demonstrate aspects of the technologies supported by NetBeans. Look in the IDE under File|New Project and category Samples to see what is available. Then, if you cannot find what you are looking for, visit the Sample Catalog on-line. The samples on-line are usually part of a set of plug-ins known as a pack or part of an individual module. Once you find the ones you need, you can install them into the IDE through the update center.

The samples in the IDE create projects that you can use as complete code and resource examples. The good thing about this is they are pre-built so you can dig into them; get a feel for what is capable, and how to do it while being able to run them. This, coupled with specifications, documentation, and possibly a tutorial covering the used technologies, can get you up to speed on something faster than trying to put all the pieces together yourself.

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Figure 4: Project samples

There is also the Java Blueprints Solution Catalog accessible in the IDE through Help|Java Blueprints Solution Catalog. There are many examples of different EE technologies. Along with code samples, there are complete tutorials and documents written by experts to help get you going. This is a sub-set of what is available on the Java Blueprints Solution Catalog project web site.

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Figure 5: Java Blueprints Solution Catalog


Beyond the mailing lists, IRC, and samples, there is a lot of on-line documentation. I suggest first accessing Help|Help Contents and Help|Tutorials from inside the IDE. Then, if you cannot find what you need, access the different on-line resources. This may save you some time. Many features of NetBeans are documented in the IDE help including the default keyboard shortcuts through Help|Keyboard Shortcuts.

The NetBeans Docs & Support page is easily located from the NetBeans home page as a tab. There are documents available for the standards and technologies supported by the NetBeans IDE functionality. These range Mobile, Standard, and Enterprise Java as well as SOA and BPEL technologies among others. They include tutorials/learning trails, references, demos, and sample applications. Here you will also find links to different areas of the NetBeans Wiki though the links are not specifically identified as linking to the Wiki.

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Figure 6: IDE Help

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This article was originally published on June 27, 2007

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