NetBeans IDE 4.1

By Qusay H. Mahmoud, February 2005  

An Integrated Development Environment (IDE) is a necessity for enterprise developers who want to have all their productivity tools under one umbrella. An IDE enables the developer to move from one phase of application development to the next without having to worry about manual management of source code or tool interfaces. With so many IDEs available on the market today, it has become a time-consuming task to decide on and choose one. Ideally, you should be looking for an IDE that maximizes your productivity: easy to use, fun to work with, enables you to get the work done, and has out-of-the-box support for open standards and technologies.

The NetBeans IDE 4.1 Early Access 2 (EA2), which was released in January 2005, includes Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) and web services development capabilities. This new release allows developers to not only develop applications in the web tier but also includes Enterprise JavaBeans (EJBs) and web service development capabilities. NetBeans IDE 4.1 is a single platform with out-of-the-box development capabilities and support for enterprise (J2EE 1.4) applications and web services, mobile/wireless Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition (J2ME) applications and services and desktop Java 2 Platform, Standard Edition (J2SE) applications.

NetBeans IDE

The NetBeans IDE, which is sponsored by Sun Microsystems, is a free and open source IDE that enables you to develop J2EE 1.4 applications and web services, mobile/wireless applications and services, and J2SE desktop applications. Using the NetBeans IDE, developers get their work done in a fun development environment that enables them to concentrate on the business logic of their applications. It provides productivity tools, and supports refactoring and integrated debugging, that simplify the work of Java technology developers.

NetBeans IDE 4.1 (EA2) supports the development of J2EE 1.4 applications and web services, and their deployment on the freely available Sun Java System Application Server 8.1 Platform Edition (Application Server PE 8) and Tomcat. Application Server PE 8 is the first compatible "production grade" application server implementation of the J2EE 1.4 specification, and it is free for development and deployment. This release of NetBeans IDE 4.1 with support for J2EE 1.4 will make a big difference for enterprise applications developers as it provides them with out-of-the-box support for J2EE 1.4, which helps them increase their productivity.

In this release (4.1), J2EE EJBs and web services are first class citizens. The IDE features ease of use, and the overall design of the IDE keeps the tools you need the most immediately at your fingertips. Developers get everything they need to develop J2EE 1.4 enterprise applications and web services with a single download.

The NetBeans IDE 4.1 (EA2) allows developers to:

  • Create J2EE applications, automatically add EJB modules and web modules, and deploy the applications
  • Create EJBs from existing source, from scratch, or from an existing database
  • Automatically generate EJB business methods, database calls, and calls to EJBs
  • Create a web module for deployment to the freely available Application Server PE 8 or Tomcat
  • Add multiple source folders to an EJB module or web module, and create unit tests as part of the project
  • Edit deployment descriptors in a graphical editor that is automatically synchronized with the underlying XML
  • Create, register, and test web services
  • Import your existing J2EE projects
  • Validate your applications with the J2EE Verifier
  • Visually configure your EJBs, web Services and web components

Note that the NetBeans IDE is not only meant to be used by advanced developers, but also by beginners who wish to learn about J2EE and web services technologies. The NetBeans IDE 4.1 allows you to try out the sample applications to learn and understand the J2EE technology and web services.

The IDE increases the productivity of developers by guiding them through the development process, and automatically building the underlying J2EE infrastructure. The distribution provides several great quick starts and tutorials that enable beginners to get up to speed quickly. In addition, it comes with numerous samples of J2EE applications that can be easily accessed from within the IDE, as well as contributions from the J2EE Java BluePrints catalog.

NetBeans IDE 4.1 (EA2) Key Features

The NetBeans IDE 4.1 (EA2) features significant new development capabilities for J2EE 1.4, including EJB components and web services. It has over 15 new modules for developing J2EE 1.4 applications and services. The three key features are:

Creating EJB Modules, Session Beans, Entity Beans, and Message Driven Beans
  • The NetBeans IDE 4.1 guides the user through the process to easily learn how to write an EJB as well as deploy, package, and test applications.
  • A GUI is available to select an EJB and perform tasks such as adding business methods and editing deployment descriptors.
  • All EJB infrastructure methods are generated automatically and are hidden in a power code fold.
  • The resulting EJB module can be easily added to a J2EE application.
  • Entity beans can be created using an existing database schema.
  • The NetBeans project structure matches J2EE Java BluePrints standards and relies on the Ant open standard for the build system.
Calling EJBs
  • Using the "Call EJB" feature from within a Servlet, JSP, or web service saves the user the headache of writing the JNDI lookup code and required exception handling. It will even work with your existing ServiceLocator class.
Develop and Test Web Services
  • Developers can create, modify, package, deploy, and test web services from the IDE.
  • Web services can be created from scratch, existing code, and/or WSDL.
  • Once created, the web service can be registered with the IDE, which creates an internal client for testing the web services.
  • NetBeans also supports creating web service client code from existing WSDL.
Getting Started

The NetBeans IDE 4.1 is available for the Solaris Operating System, Microsoft Windows, and Linux. It runs on J2SE SDK 1.4.2 as well as J2SE SDK 5.0. I recommend that you download the NetBeans IDE 4.1 EA2 + AS 8.1 Bundle Installer.

Sample Projects

If you wish to experiment with some J2EE projects, chose File -> New Project then expand the Samples folder. In addition, the IDE includes samples from the Java BluePrints Solution Catalog as shown in Figure 2. You can select one of these samples and install it.

Figure 2: Java BluePrints Solution Catalog
Figure 2: Java BluePrints Solution Catalog

Once you select a sample project, press F6 to run the project. Figure 3 shows a sample run.

Figure 3: Sample Run
Figure 3: Sample Run

You can easily develop new J2EE applications and web services. To learn how to create J2EE applications, EJB modules, web modules, and to call, deploy, and test applications, please see the Quick Start Guide for J2EE Applications, and Exposing and Consuming Web Services, which provide you with a step-by-step tutorial on how to get started with J2EE and web services development. Needs You

The NetBeans IDE 4.1 (EA2) currently supports deployment on the Application Server PE 8 and Tomcat, but needs your support in order to ensure that the majority of J2EE 1.4 compliant application servers can be used as both development and deployment targets from the NetBeans IDE.

If you are interested in supporting this effort, you can download the source code that implements the support for J2EE 1.4 in the NetBeans IDE 1.4 (EA2) from the J2EE page.

You can subscribe to a mailing list by sending a blank email to, and you can send questions and feedback to

If you are a serious Java developer looking for an IDE with out-of-the-box support for J2EE and web services, that is easy to install, simple to learn and use, fun to work with, and enables you to get the job done, then try the NetBeans IDE 4.1 early access. Download it today and see for yourself. Learning about J2EE and building Java EE applications and web services has never been easier.

For More Information

Special thanks to Judith Lilienfeld of Sun Microsystems for her contributions to this article.

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