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5 Hints for NetBeans Newbies (Part 1)

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The major improvements to the last few releases of NetBeans IDE have attracted lots of renewed interest, both from traditional Java users and from new areas as NetBeans IDE has added support for PHP and Web technologies. So it is worth thinking back to what it was like trying to get to grasp with NetBeans IDE for new users. 

So here are my personal 5 suggestions.

1. Use the Example Projects

When I learnt to code in the dark past, many people learnt code from typing in code listings and taking them apart (3.5K might be a bit tight but who would every need 64K?).

NetBeans IDE includes a huge number of documented and working examples which can be created, modified tinkered with and broken. I have found these really useful for getting a grip on not just NetBeans IDE but also new technologies, for example, check out the example HTML5 project complete with cute animals!

2. Start Using Version Control

One of NetBeans IDE's real strengths is its out of the box support for Version Control. Version control is not just something for hard-core guys with beards hacking a kernel. It makes you much more productive as a programmer, makes you much more effective as a programmer, a better team player, and means you will never lose work again. Once you are using Version Control, you will wonder how you managed before.



You can also switch off the other Version Control options which you do not use to declutter your setup.

3. Customize Your Toolbar

I save so much time by having my commonly-used features on the toolbar where they are a click away. NetBeans IDE makes it very easy to do this and I have added all the Mercurial commands I use so that they are instantly available with a single click. 

4. Invest Time in Learning & Read the Documentation

NetBeans IDE has a lot of online documentation explaining all the features (and it has a lot of features). Did you know (as just one example) that NetBeans IDE will track who has edited each line of code?



Any time you invest in initial learning will be rewarded many times over in improved productivity (that is how I hope you learnt Java/php/HTML5 etc!).

Some good starting points are as follows:

5. Use Java Hints

NetBeans IDE has lots of helpful functionality built in (press Ctrl + Space when writing code or click on the little yellow light bulbs that appear in the margin). This will not only make you a faster coder but allow you to learn quickly.

Bonus Tip: Remember NinEoI

NetBeans IDE is NOT Eclipse or IDEA. There is a lot of similarity between IDE's (you can set the keyboard shortcuts to be the same if you have already learnt one set) and NetBeans IDE makes it easy to move across with similar shortcuts, import wizards and even themes.

But all IDEs have a subtly different design ethos and work differently. If they were identical, it would be rather silly (and pointless). So do not expect them to work like the others or you will be constantly frustrated. Embrace the way NetBeans works and discover that there may be better ways to solve the problem. If you want a tool which works exactly like Eclipse (or IDEA or Vi or Emacs), use that tool. 

Finally, have a look at how IDE users as they see themselves and each other in this brilliant (and very witty) chart...

So those are my suggestions to get started. What would you recommend?

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