Interview: Sven Spruijt, Developer of NetBeans Theme Builder

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Interview: Sven Spruijt, Developer of NetBeans Theme Builder

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Sven Spruijt is 32 and lives in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. About two and a half years ago, he started working as a developer for an international company at their office in Leiden. It is his first job as a developer, before that he was a systems and network administrator.

He is involved in web development projects, which he really enjoys doing. He likes thinking from different perspectives, from the perspective of the database to the perspective of the end-user. He likes being creative and losing himself in the projects he works on.

Aside from all these things, Sven created a very interesting NetBeans related online tool, the NetBeans theme builder:



In this interview, we find out more about Sven, as well as the usage and motivations behind the NetBeans theme builder.

Hi Sven, how and why did you get started using NetBeans IDE?

About three or four years ago, I started building a community website for organizing tournaments for an online FPS (videogame). This was the first project where I started noticing the limitations of Notepad++, which caused me to start searching for an IDE with support for PHP. I found NetBeans IDE, I think it was NetBeans IDE 6 at that stage, and I’ve been using it ever since.

Which features do you like the most in NetBeans IDE?

Because NetBeans IDE suits me well, I never really gave much attention to other IDEs. What I like a lot about NetBeans IDE is the freedom I have to configure it a lot to match my own needs and taste. For example, you can configure your coding standards and then you're able to apply them with Source | Format.

Also really great is the integration of various versioning systems. At work, for some projects we use SVN and for some others we use Git. Both work great from within NetBeans IDE. For most projects I have the code on my local development machine, with NetBeans IDE configured to store a copy on a remote development machine when it is being saved, which is also great.

Other features I use a lot are ‘Find usages’, ctrl+clicking functions, searching within a selection, code completion, and reading documentation by hovering over related code.

NetBeans IDE 7.4 has just been released, which of its features do you find most interesting?

Well, I am still working with NetBeans IDE 7.2. Perhaps noteworthy is that currently I’ve only coded web languages, so I‘ve used NetBeans IDE only for PHP, JavaScript, HTML, CSS, XML, and XSL. From the list of new NetBeans IDE 7.4 features, I find the Ext JS code completion most interesting.

Now, let's turn to the NetBeans theme builder. When and why did this project start?

When I started using NetBeans IDE I searched the web for additional NetBeans themes. They were scarce. While searching, I encountered themes for other IDEs, some of which I really liked. At some point, I tried to recreate an Eclipse theme from within NetBeans IDE, but I found that to be tedious and confusing.

As I had just started coding JavaScript, I thought it would be a good idea to learn more about the language by applying it in a new hobby project: the NetBeans theme builder.

How did you create the theme builder?

With NetBeans IDE. :-)

Most of the theme builder code is JavaScript, with a lot of support of the jQuery library. When downloading a theme, JavaScript sends the theme configuration to the backend in a JSON string. PHP then converts the JSON string to XML files.

The generated XML files get archived in a ZIP file and sent  to the browser. Existing NetBeans themes and Eclipse color schemes can be imported as well, which the back-end converts to a format the front-end can use.

Can you provide some usage instructions?

  1. Go to the site: http://svenspruijt.nl/themebuilder
  2. Design your theme, click Download, and provide a name for the file.
  3. Within NetBeans IDE, click Tools | Options and the Options window opens.
  4. Click "Import" and in the "Select Options to Import" dialog, import your downloaded theme. Place a checkmark in front of 'All'
  5. Restart NetBeans IDE.
Do you have any indication of how widely it is being used, any usage statistics, any interesting feedback?

The theme builder does not really track statistics. But Google analytics tells me the theme builder is visited about 30 times a day on average. And, per month, about 525 themes are downloaded from the builder. When I had just put the theme builder online, I was very happy and excited, and posted the link in "where can I find NetBeans themes" questions on stackoverflow, but  I haven't done much else to promote it.

Is the project now complete or are you planning to add more to the theme builder?

I am not sure. I’m very busy with work and my private life, so I don’t have much time available. But I do really miss a feature that allows for theming of ‘Diffing’.

Also, I am unhappy with the usability of some parts of the theme builder, and annoyed by a bug that *sometimes* (grr) cause misalignment of element "effects" (underlines). This is caused by the theme builder using dynamic webfonts, and JavaScript being unable to indicate when a webfont is loaded and applied. So, I would like to fix that... some day!

Thanks Sven and many thanks for your great theme builder!


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