The IDE Wars: NetBeans or Eclipse for Java Software Development

I’ve been working on several applications for a few years; some are ready or released into the wild. I’ve used NetBeans and Eclipse to develop one application in particular; I’ve written an Earthdawn dice roller application. Earthdawn is like Dungeons & Dragons, but for real nerds. The Earthdawn dice system is complex, including a shifting iterated seven-step algorithm for determining the dice rolled for a given action. In addition, dice explode in Earthdawn. That means that if a given die results in its maximum value (i.e. a d6 result is a 6 or a d12 result is a 12), you reroll the dice and add that to the total, continuing to reroll if the die continues to result in its maximum value and stopping when it does not. Plus, you also have the option of adding a karma die (dependent on race, like Elf or Dwarf) to any roll which permits it.

Obviously, this is a complex system, and dealing with the RNG was not the hard part. The hard part was
figuring out the algorithm by which you can calculate the dice you would roll for any given step. For example, rolling a step 10 means that you roll a d8 + d6. Rolling a step 20 means that you roll 2d12 + d10. You can find this on a chart in the 3rd Edition Earthdawn Player’s Guide, but it actually took doing a Taylor series to determine that there is an algorithm which repeats every 7 steps. This means that my app can calculate what you’d roll for a step 63 dice roll, when the book doesn’t provide a chart that high.

I’ve been fiddling with this app for a year or so, and while I’ve been developing the backend in Eclipse, I found that the frontend needed some serious help. I looked around for an IDE specifically to develop the frontend of a Java app, and NetBeans turned out to be full-featured enough to develop in much the same way that I’d dev a C# app in Visual Studio 2010. I’m an old school algorithm coder, and I don’t do as much frontend app development, as opposed to my long term work in
frontend web development. In fact, most of my experience in frontend app development is in VS from 2003 on. So, believe it or not, I was looking for an IDE experience closer to VS.

NetBeans is open source; I found that specifically for the purpose of frontend Java software development, it’s a far better IDE than Eclipse. While Eclipse works better for academic algorithm coding, NetBeans is tailor-made for someone who wants to turn out an app with a backend; in fact, I coded the backend over rather a lot of time in Eclipse to test it with multiple RNGs developed at CERN, Argonne, etc, and simply copied over the relevant classes into NetBeans to hook them up to the frontend. I’d actually recommend this as the most efficient experience if you’re trying to create a complex backend with a simple and effective frontend…especially if you have an app that needs a frontend instead of a script. NetBeans has a simple application package process as well, if you need to pack up the app and send it out. I have
Ubuntu, OpenSUSE, Windows, and Mac users in my group, and Java will execute on each of those platforms.

I’ll also shortly be posting the app so you can examine it for yourselves 😉