NetBeans Is A Top-Level Apache Project
Written by Mike James   
Tuesday, 21 May 2019

When Oracle "donated" NetBeans to the open source community, many thought that the future looked bleak, but now more than two years on it has graduated to being a full Apache project. What does the future hold?


I have to admit that we have been slow to report this news, other items kept getting in the way, but the fact that NetBeans is now a full member of the Apache Software Foundation is still news.

Geertjan Wielenga, Vice President of Apache NetBeans said:

"Being part of the ASF means that NetBeans is now not only free and Open Source software: it is also, uniquely, and for the first time, part of a foundation specifically focused on enabling open governance. Every contributor to the project now has equal say over the roadmap and direction of NetBeans. That is a new and historic step and the community has been ready for this for a very long time. Thanks to the strong stewardship of NetBeans in Sun Microsystems and Oracle, Apache NetBeans is now ready for the next phase in its development and we welcome everyone to participate as equals as we move forward."

NetBeans has long been the one everyone likes to forget in favor of more "trendy" IDEs. Eclipse is the one that comes to mind when you think of Java IDEs yet it lacks so many of the features of NetBeans that is is surprising anyone takes it seriously. Programmers want to talk about Visual Studio Code and IntelliJ before they want to talk about NetBeans and I've really no idea why - feel free to tell me.

Netbeans supports Java as well or better than the rest. It has a drag-and-drop GUI editor, not fashionable at the moment, but very handy for initial layout. It supports PHP, HTML and JavaScript. It also supports C and C++ development and its remote development feature are the best you can find. You can use it as a local development environment or you can use it as a cross-platform development environment with the help of a build server.

All of this and yet I still have to struggle even to get people to try it. It's not like it costs anything!

Despite assurances that NetBeans is business as usual, there are slight cracks showing. For example, there is no longer an installer. Yes, all you have to do is download the zip and unzip it somewhere, but beginners are easily confused and is no simple step-by-step instructions - unizip it yes but where and how do I run it?  It is clear that there might well be enough core contributors, but there isn't much spare for documentation and packaging. (Update: there are third party installers and these might make it into the next release.)

Version 11 has also recently been released and it still lacks easy C/C++ support out of the box. You still have to go back to the version 8 libraries. I asked what the situation was and Geertjan Wielenga replied:

"No one is abandoning C/C++. It's in fact the next part of NetBeans that will be donated by Oracle to Apache, sometime during this year, probably around September, and then it will be integrated into Apache NetBeans, too."

Perhaps we underestimate the size of the code base and how much work has to be done to "donate" code to the project. Given the problems that JavaEE is having, and hence the Eclipse Foundation is having with Oracle (see RIP Java EE), it is perhaps also amazing that the NetBeans transfer is going so smoothly - at least above the water line it seems this way, who knows what is going on under the surface.


If anyone wants to see the other NetBeans languages, i.e. everything but Java, develop, I'd suggest helping out - that's what open source is all about.

More Information

Apache NetBeans

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 26 May 2019 )