Forrest's Java Notes on 11/30/1999
Submitted by
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 16 Nov 1999 12:51:44 -0800
From: ozymandias G desiderata 
To: Todd Kerpelman 
Cc: cc@cyborganic.net
Subject: Re: Java development tools 

>>>>> "tk" == Todd Kerpelman  writes:

    tk> Hey, cc'ers.

    tk> So I've been thinking, "Ya know, I really aughta take some
    tk> time and learn Java. I hear it's the rage with all the kids
    tk> these days." I've got my little O'Reilly books, but I'm not
    tk> really sure what tools I should be using for compiling and
    tk> debugging and the like.

    tk> I saw that Sun has their Java SDK for Windows (which is the OS
    tk> I'll be programming in) -- although that looks pretty bare
    tk> bones. Is there an IDE out there that people would recommend?
    tk> Or is there something else entirely that I'm missing?

I use two (sometimes 3) development environments for developing Java,
that being what I do full-time. 


My primary platform, which really isn't very integrated at all.

Pros: If you're an Emacs person, well, using XEmacs is pretty darned
      swell. Jikes is a Java compiler written by IBM. It's written in
      C++, so is very fast, and the IBM engineers wrote it to compile
      the actual language specified in the Java Language Specification
      1.0, along with its various appendices. It's worth pointing out
      that the Javasoft JDK does not possess this salutary trait. You
      can also tell Jikes to be extra-pedantic with a command-line
      switch, which I think is the sort of thing that could be useful
      for budding Java developers. Oh, and all the various bits and
      pieces are FREE-O-LA.

Cons: You have to figure out how to build NT XEmacs, which is
      unfortunately not a simple process. Also, figuring out how to
      wire together the various bits of the IDE is less than
      straightforward. I can provide guidance and elisp code snippets
      for thems what is curious.


I use this a lot when I have to debug. Symantec's debugger is second
to none and their compiler, while erratic in its behavior, is still
pretty fast.

Pros: The aforementioned debugger. If you like your environment fully
      integrated, well, Visual Cafe is fully integrated -- it even
      talks to Perforce (my version control system) and OptimizeIt! (a 
      code profiling tool that every serious Java developer will need
      sooner or later). Visual Cafe has an eminently sensible way for
      specifying the classpath for projects run under it -- and
      difficulties with the classpath are one of the most noisome
      sources of difficulty in developing Java programs.

Cons: The whole environment is totally erratic. Symantec seem to be
      more interested in adding feature points than in building a
      stable, consistently usable product. Plus a large amount of the
      product is biased towards building GUI-driven applications (a
      weakness of most Java IDEs), so those of us who spend the bulk
      of our time developing server applications are SOL. The project
      management parts of the system also get gunked up frequently,
      forcing periodic rebuilds. Costs actual dollars.


The closest that anyone has come to providing something I've been
asking for for FOUR @#$ING YEARS -- a usable object browser for Java.
I use VisualAge a lot when I have to reverse engineer a body of code,
especially if I don't have much time.

Pros: About as tightly integrated as it's possible for an environment
      to be. This is also a con, because it makes using outside
      products a pain in the ass (I _still_ haven't figured out how to 
      get it to talk to Perforce), but it makes VAJ's fancier
      object-browsing capabilities possible. I guarantee you that if
      you use VAJ to learn how to write Java (and you don't have to
      worry about external source repositories), you'll end up feeling 
      a vague sense of pity for people who have to use lesser tools.

Cons: Well, there's a reason more people don't use VAJ -- it costs
      like nine billion dollars, and it doesn't play nice with
      others. If you can do everything you need to do within VAJ,
      you're set. Otherwise, life gets difficult. You can download
      evaluation versions for free from IBM's site, if you're willing
      to do a little poking around, and a little more poking around
      may yield a free, full version that just doesn't have all of the 
      extra libraries that come with the product. Still, if you're a
      professional developer, the high cost is irritating.

I've also used Microsoft's Visual J++ (what's up with these gratuitous
"Visual"s slapped all over development tools? Are they redundant or
merely useless?), and while I found it a pleasant experience,
Microsoft started charging money for it _and_ started monkeying with
the Java spec, so I stopped paying attention.

Good luck, and I hope I've been of help!


       . . . the self-reflecting image of a narcotized mind . . .
ozymandias G desiderata    ogd@bitmechanic.com      desperate, deathless
(415)558-9064                                             ::AOAIOXXYSZ::

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