Alive and kicking: Java-IDE Apache NetBeans hits 12.0


A little more than a year after becoming an Apache top-level project, NetBeans is pushing out long-term support release 12.0. The latest update of the well-known IDE sees the development tool fitted with support for new Java preview features such as records and text blocks, while also improving it for users more interested in web development, and giving it a fresh coat of colour.

The latter is down to Oracle donating a dark look and feel to the project and the integration of an additional theme that can do without too many shadows or gradients for those who enjoy a clean interface while coding.

Beyond the shiny new surface, version 12.0 comes packed with helpers to allow Java developers to make the most of new preview features for the language, which can be used by setting the compiler’s –enable-preview flag. The IDE for example includes syntax colouring, formatting support and navigation features for the new keyword records, and pattern matching for instanceof, both of which are part of JDK 14. 

It also comes with functionalities to let users of JDK 13 convert expressions to or from text blocks and code completion for the switch expression which are previews in JDK 12. Desktop app devs that build their creations using JavaFX will find new OpenJFX Gluon Maven artifacts in the New Project dialog, which are meant to allow running and debugging without additional tweaks.

The NetBeans team also worked to improve Java EE 8 support, which now lets developers create JEE 8 applications and deploy them to the appropriate containers, and tweak the way the IDE works with the build tool Gradle.

Although historically thought as a Java IDE, NetBeans over the years also gained additional functionality to be more useful for web developers – after all there’s quite a number of Java web frameworks still around, Spring being just one of them. To keep it that way, the PHP/JavaScript/HTML section of the tool also received some enhancements, and now includes a TypeScript editor as well as the smarts to work with PHP 7.4.

In the upcoming months, the NetBeans team will be busy integrating C and C++ features that have been donated by the tool’s old steward Oracle. The process is anticipated to take some time, which is why users keen on writing C/C++ apps with the IDE are asked to use the plugin manager to install NetBeans IDE 8.2 modules for the time being.

NetBeans 12 is a long-term support release, meaning that it will receive fixes and updates for a year. It is followed by quarterly updates with previews of new features, which will – after thorough review – end up in the next LTS release which is planned to land in May/June.