Sun developing IDE tools for Drupal

I've immediately jumped on the new 6.5 release of the Netbeans IDE when it was released with much fanfare about its PHP support. Netbeans is a free to use IDE sponsored by Sun. I've used it years ago to edit XML documents, but did not look back on it ever since. Now it does indeed have nice PHP syntax highlighting, context sensitive code suggestions and debugger support as you'd expect from a PHP IDE. It does not look great on a Macintosh and it has some little annoyances which might not help you to use it, it is getting to be a nice tool for PHP developers.

Many of us are however not "PHP developers" or at least code mainly against frameworks, so support for our favorite frameworks in an IDE is even more compelling. Help in quickly starting development of Drupal modules and themes in an IDE could be very helpful for example.

Here comes Sujit Nair from Sun, who recently (last days of October and December 2008 respectively) published two plugins for Netbeans. The first provides a wizard for creating Drupal modules quickly, while the second helps starting out a Drupal theme fast. These plugins are still at their early stages, they do not allow you for example to pick base .tpl.php files to copy to your generated theme to start to work with, but I bet if these are picked up, the wizards will become more intelligent.

All-in-all I think Netbeans shapes up to be a compelling offering for Drupal developers, especially considering its price (free). I did switch back to Komodo, in part because Netbeans cannot soft-wrap lines for display and editing and the developers consider this a complex issue to solve, so we might not see it fixed soon. I strongly suggest however that you take Netbeans for a test-drive, especially if you currently only use a text editor to write code.


Andrew Berry's picture

I gave NetBeans a try as I was hoping to find something a little faster than Eclipse + PDT. The biggest issue I found was that NetBeans couldn't import files via drag and drop from the Finder, or do anything like Eclipse's "Import" wizards. AFAIK, the only way to import external files into a NetBeans PHP project is to do it outside of the IDE, and then refresh it so it picks up the changes.

The Drupal plugin is really cool though. The "Drupal hooks" palette is very useful. I just wish you could auto-complete Drupal hooks with CTRL-Space, but perhaps in the future :)

Kyle Mathews's picture

I develop on Linux. I tried Netbeans 6.5 for awhile but there are two things I really didn't like. One, the interface is slow. There's that slight delay when you click on a menu link that drives me batty after awhile. Two, the font's are ugly. Sun insists on using non-native widgets and Java's fonts and widgets are ugly on Linux.

Eclipse is much better. Its interface is all native and very pretty/fast on Linux. The PHP support is excellent.

Drupal Theme Garden's picture

... and new version of Eclipse PDT (2.0) is out:

Garrett Albright's picture

It does not look great on a Macintosh

It doesn't act like a Mac app either. And this is a significant problem. The lack of "Mac-ness" of any of these cross-platform IDEs is a major obstacle which has caused me to stick with Smultron, a relatively simple text editor, thus far. I blogged about my dissatisfaction with the landscape of Mac code editors a while back.

Add new comment