Is this really JBuilder?

Today I attended a briefing on JBuilder 2007. The briefing was given by CodeGear’s Jon Harrison and was in two parts, the first covering the thinking and background behind the product, and the second a hands-on demonstration of some of the features. Please note that I have not yet tried out the product, and Jon only demonstrated a few of the features, so what follows are just my first impressions.

This product is Eclipse, not JBuilder as we know it. I doubt there is much of the JBuilder 2006 code remaining. What Borland CodeGear has done is to package up Eclipse with new visual editors for EJB and Web Services, plus some tools which look like they are based on the Together visual modeling technology, plus OptimizeIT, which is a Borland profiling and debugging tool, plus specific support and integration with several open source products (Subversion, Bugzilla, XPlanner, JBoss, Apache Continuum). Those used to PrimeTime, the old JBuilder IDE, will need to learn Eclipse to use the product; not much will be familiar to them. At least you can import existing JBuilder projects.

Harrison explained that CodeGear did not want to duplicate existing Eclipse projects, but rather to build on them. He described it as “sitting on top of a pure Eclipse environment.” CodeGear wants to avoid creating a proprietary Eclipse, though note that JBuilder 2007 is a closed-source product so to some extent this is playing with words. 

One consequence of this decision is that the excellent Swing GUI editor in JBuilder 2006 has gone and is replaced only by the immature Eclipse Visual Editor. There is other missing functionality. There’s no support for J2ME, nor for Borland Enterprise Server (Borland’s J2EE application server). To sweeten the pill, JBuilder 2006 is included in the box with JBuilder 2007.

Another disappointment and retrograde step is that JBuilder 2007 is initially Windows-only, though CodeGear fully intends to support Mac OS and Linux in due course.

The most interesting aspect of JBuilder 2007 is its project management features, unfortunately reserved for the Enterprise edition. Harrison did not demo these, but showed some screenshots. Project Assist supports team working by integrating the open source ALM products mentioned above, while the Project Portal is for monitoring team progress. The Project Portal is based on LifeRay, an open source portal framework.

I doubt this will be an easy sell for CodeGear, but there is hope. It was clear from the Q&A session that while Eclipse has large numbers of users, not all of them are happy. Problems include dependency management, and the difficulty of maintaining a consistent and reliable development environment across an enterprise. Thus there is scope for providing a commercial Eclipse distribution, especially if combined with strong update tools that pre-package Eclipse add-ons with all the dependencies worked out. I realise that Eclipse has its own update manager, but apparently this is not as good as it should be.

That said, I question whether this product should bear the JBuilder name. The official line is that this is just another transition for JBuilder, similar to when the original Dephi-based IDE was replaced with a pure Java version. That’s nonsense. I have tracked all the versions of JBuilder over the years, and there is nothing that compares with this radical change.

The product has apparently gone to manufacturing and will be available before the end of the year.

More information on JBuilder is here.

Update: please also see the comments below from Joe McGlynn, from the JBuilder team.

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9 comments to Is this really JBuilder?

  • Hi Tim,

    One of my colleagues forwarded me a link to your blog entry. As part of the JBuilder team I’d like to make a few comments.

    First, this is not the primetime JBuilder. You’re absolutely right. We could have “ported” JBuilder 2006 to run on Eclipse, but that doesn’t really serve the needs of Eclipse users or JBuilder users ultimately.

    By moving JBuilder to Eclipse we’re brought our JBuilder customers to the de-facto IDE standard platform. They can take advantage of the community, ecosystem and ability to extend and customize their tools.

    We’ve been very careful not to violate the Eclipse usability model or build slightly improved replacements for Eclipse features. We’re looked to extend the IDE in both familiar and new ways instead.

    As one example, using the LiveSource engine we’ve built new EJB LiveSource and WS LiveSource tools. Both embrace the Eclipse WTP management model and provide great visualizations of complex applications.

    OptimizeIT is completely new, this is the first release of Opti that is built for Eclipse (previous releases were just “touchpoint” integration), and JBuilder is the only place to get it. It’s built on top of the latest version of TPTP and already supports Java 6.

    Everything we have built sits directly on pure Eclipse 3.2.1. We package Eclipse Callisto and a number of other plug-ins that we’ve tested for convenience, but our value is in the new productivity tools we’ve developed.

    The ProjectAssist and TeamInsight features are a completely new offering for *team* productivity. Project Assist lets you define a developer tool stack for SCM, bug tracking, project planning, requirements and continuous integration builds. It installs all of the components, configures them, and makes it easy to provision projects and users onto the system. A team can be up and running in about 30 minutes, including continuous integration builds and a project portal.

    Each member of the team gets an XML file that we use to pre-configure Eclipse for your projects. This allows you to immediately pull/check-in source; and provides live lists of assigned bugs, tasks and features on a project. The team can open and close bugs, create requirements and complete tasks even while offline. Every check-in produces an automatic build, powered by Maven2. Every build collects quality metrics, and these metrics are trended over time.

    We worked with several open source teams to make this happen, because the core tools are the ones developers have already gravitated to. In fact, if you’re already using Bugzilla, Subversion or any of the other tools we’ll let you just plug them into your TeamInsight deployment. We provide inter-operability, configurability and productivity on top of them.

    We’ll be updating and extending the product with regular releases throughout the year. We’d love to get you a copy of the product to review if you’re interested.

  • Tim

    Thanks for the comments Joe and for providing more details. I’m looking forward to taking a closer look in due course.

    Tim

  • Hmmm. Interesting article, Tim. I original misread the article on The Register. I thought BOrland had kept their GUI designer. Having read your article and re-read The Register, I see I had mis-read it. This is a bad move as I see it. My only experiences with the Eclipse GUI designer have been bad. I’ve found it slow which is why I could never entertain a move from JBuilder to Eclipse. As we predominantly develop Swing-based applications for our corporate intranet, it looks like I’ll be sticking with JBuilder2006 for a while longer.

  • Larry

    I’ll second David’s comments. With regard to GUI design in Eclipse, it is just not there yet… and I also misread the original Register article as David did, since that’s the obvious fly in the Eclipse ointment.

    We were required to use Eclipse for one of our projects (for compatibility with an existing project) and our developer’s perception is that although touted as a general purpose application development environment, Eclipse’s origins as a framework for an IDE are all too apparent and make for some unexpected difficulties developing GUIs.

  • Mikey

    Make it 3 for David’s comments – bad move Borland! The new lower pricing model is what you guys should have done when you launched JBuilder 2006 or JBuilder X. I believe this is the one the big reasons you have lost users to Eclipse.

  • Ian Hayes

    If the new Eclipse based JBuilder product had been a single low price ($299?) all features offering then it might have had a chance.

    Otherwise the words “flogging” and “dead horse” come to mind.

  • Matthew Dovey

    I can’t help feeling a sense of deja vu.

    Not that long ago Borland made the move from a Windows based JBuilder to a Java based JBuilder – whilst ultimately a good move, this was not a painless transition:

    i) the initial release despite being Java based ran on Windows only. I think it took a further major release before it became platform independent – likewise the initial JBuilder 2007 release seems to be Windows only, with other platforms to be supported with a maintenance update.

    ii) quite a lot of functionality was lost in the initial java based version and it took a numer of releases before they reappeared (integrated Javadoc support springs to mind but I can’t remember what the others were – just that they existed).

    iii) ironically, the move to a java based JBuilder coincided with the last rebranding attempt by Borland – the infamous “Inprise” fiasco where Borland forgot that the it was the name “Borland” that was so associated with IDEs and Development tools from programmers which had grown up and learnt their skills on the old Borland Turbo tools. I can’t help thinking that the “Codegear” branding may be as shortlived a mistake as the “Inprise” branding was.

  • John Hetherington

    I have JBuilder for about 2 years as a teaching tool at Diploma and Degree level programming.
    We have just obtained JBuilder 2007, I had grave difficulty producing a Gui front end with it.
    Nothing is intuitive with it, the palette is non-existent, the menus are confusing. All the database components are gone, no JFileChooser or JColorChooser, no dbswing, more dbswing. Yes some of the the beans are there.
    JBuilder is no longer a RAD tool, its hard to imagine a bigger mess of what was a very promising tool although with Microsoft influence it is all very understandable. Sun Systems Netbeans is now on its own in the Java RAD arena.
    I also use C++ Builder 6 which is a fantastic RAD tool especially with the STL and Boost Libraries.
    Regards to all from a programming Tutor in a New Zealand Polytechnic

  • kokkoonleong

    The only reason I went into java was JBuilder. It was (not the past tense) an excellent tool. However, with Turbo JBuilder, Borland has just about abandoned it forte in GUI IDE. Previous versions of JBuilder had excellent GUI designer. VB and Delphi programmers will definitely not be attracted to JBuilder 2007. It might be strong in other areas but GUI-programmers should look elsewhere – maybe Netbeans which has improved its GUI designing capabilities in leaps and bounds.