SAN MATEO (01/28/2000) - FOR COMPANIES with Java developers working on different platforms, switching projects from one OS to another can be tricky.
But with Inprise Corp.'s release of JBuilder 3 Foundation for Linux, a free Java IDE (integrated development environment) from Inprise, your developers can now use the platform they prefer and still collaborate on projects. By introducing this software you'll have the flexibility to invite Linux users into your Java development projects.
JBuilder for Linux is essentially a Linux version of Inprise's JBuilder Foundation (which is also available for free on Microsoft Windows and Sun Solaris), known as one of the top Java development tools on the market. The package looks and feels like its Windows cousin -- right down to the keyboard accelerators -- so if you're familiar with JBuilder for Windows, you won't have any difficulty using the Linux product.
You get a powerful visual tool for building GUIs, an editor that intelligently suggests alternatives as you type, and an excellent project navigator. I could easily see myself using JBuilder to quickly prototype screens, even if I were to then write the rest of the code in more traditional ways. Moreover, to make first contact as pleasant as possible, JBuilder lets you edit with EMACS (Editor MACroS) keystrokes. And the online tech support is just as helpful and comprehensive as the Windows documents.
JBuilder for Linux doesn't include any new features not present in the Windows version, and the same features missing in the Windows product -- such as integration with mainstream application servers and a shared team repository -- are still absent.
Porting projects from Windows to Linux
But does the similarity continue below the surface? To find out, I put on my developer hat and wrote some code. Relying solely on my experience with JBuilder for Windows, I created a new project, designed a simple user interface, and built and ran the result. I also loaded a project I'd developed in JBuilder for Windows and built and ran it. In both cases, JBuilder for Linux performed flawlessly.
Unfortunately, JBuilder for Linux doesn't support CORBA, JDBC (Java Database Connectivity), or Enterprise JavaBeans-critical features for Java-based e-commerce and enterprise development, and offers no IDL (Interface Definition Language) generation or editable code templates. But Inprise claims that most of these features will be present in the Professional and Enterprise editions, which the company hopes to launch later this year. (Inprise would not release pricing information at press time.)Another drawback is that, as is often the case with pure-Java client software, JBuilder for Linux weighs in with the heavyweights: Including the documentation, the package takes up 42MB of RAM. Inprise recommends at least 128MB, and sure enough, when I tried to run it on a machine with only 64MB of memory, the performance was substandard. Still, judging from the process size, you might be able to get by with as little as 98MB. But because many Linux users run desktops with only minimal RAM, the program could require hardware upgrades for your Linux-based developers.
Inprise also recommends at least a 200-MHz Pentium II. Because I did most of my testing on a 500-MHz Pentium III with 128MB of RAM and found the performance to be merely adequate, a 300-MHz system is probably a more realistic minimum. But to be fair, these system requirements aren't out of line for modern Java development software.
Luring the Linux user
Is JBuilder Foundation for Linux the right IDE for you? On the whole, it's a reliable tool that is more than adequate for writing code, which, after all, only requires an editor and a compiler. The package by itself is not a sufficient reason to abandon Windows, but it should please the Linux-at-home/NT-at-work set. And for companies that haven't yet adopted Linux, Inprise's strategy seems clear: Lure companies curious about Linux by giving away the entry-level version of JBuilder for free, while saving the best features for the Professional and Enterprise editions.
Companies that would consider using Linux if the right tools were available might want to give JBuilder for Linux a try -- even if only on a pilot basis.
But serious developers will want to upgrade to the Professional or Enterprise editions when they become available.
Todd Sundsted is a writer and Java architect at ComFrame Software, in Corpin Hoover, Ala. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE BOTTOM LINE: GOOD
JBuilder 3 Foundation
Summary: JBuilder 3 Foundation for Linux is a Linux version of a pre-existing Microsoft Windows and Sun Solaris Java IDE. The package offers the same functionality and ease of use as the Windows version, but does not include any new features.
Business Case: JBuilder for Linux lets developers work on the OS of their choice and still collaborate on projects with other users. The package is free.
+ Integrates with KDE (graphical interface) desktopCons:
- Requires high-end hardware for best performance- Lacks certain features useful for Java-based e-commerce developmentCost: Available for freePlatform(s): RedHat Linux 6.x or Mandrake Linux 6.xInprise Corp., Scotts Valley, Calif. (831) 431-1000; www.borland.com