Red Hat Developer Studio - Good but could have been Great

by Paul Browne

Which IDE is best for writing Java code? Leaving aside NetBeans (a big assumption given that it now has excellent Ruby and JRuby integration), the choice was between Intellij or Eclipse. IntelliJ while commercial, wasn't too expensive and 'just worked' out of the box. Eclipse, if you were willing to install multiple plugins, could be more powerful but more intimidating.

My way around this was to install JBoss IDE. Whether or not you used JBoss , it gave a good set of standard plugins on top of the standard Eclipse to get productive immediately. But it hadn't been updated in 12 months - until a couple of weeks ago when it was relaunched as Red Hat Developer Studio (RHDS). If you're interested in the detail, my notes on getting started with Red Hat Development Studio (RHDS) are here.

So, having waited for 12 months, is it Red Hat Development Studio any good? The answer is 'yes but...' . The good bits are:

  • It has excellent Seam , Ajax and JSF integration - a product of the Red Hat Partnership with Exadel.

  • It's stable (hasn't crashed on me yet) and is based on the latest Major Eclipse release (3.3 Europa). I found less conflicts when installing plugins compared to the (now 12 months old) JBoss IDE.

  • It has a good set of standard plugins - for Spring , JBoss workflow (jBPM), Web Tools - already installed.


and the bad bits

  • The size: a 524mb Download is bigger than some of the early Red Hat Distros of Linux.

  • What's missing: No Maven integration. No Subversion Integration. Although these can easily be added, their omission seems odd given that both are becoming a defacto Java Development Standard.

  • JBoss Rules is missing. Or maybe I'm stupid and can't find it (but I've looked long enough). This is a step backward from the previous version, and especially disappointing given my personal interest in Drools and Rule Engines (blog link).


Credit where credit is due; It's only in Beta. Already it's very good. Here's hoping that it can be great.

21 Comments

SDiZ
2007-09-13 09:46:15
It's build on eclipse.
Brian
2007-09-13 10:55:14
Give it time, you are reviewing Beta 1 after all.
Paul Browne
2007-09-13 12:16:08
@ Brian : Yes it's Beta (I had this in an earlier draft, sorry that this important fact got lost).


It's a very good,stable, beta. It's just strange that Drools IDE, which was in the last version , can be added quite easily and is also a JBoss / Red Hat project, is not included by default.


@SdiZ Yes , as the blogpost says


is based on the latest Major Eclipse release
Eric MacAdie
2007-09-13 15:06:34
A few comments/questions:


Not to start a flame war, but why leave NetBeans aside? It has fewer plugins, and less functionality, but no plug-in "DLL Hell". That could be both a good thing and a bad thing.


Also: How does Red Hat Studio compare to MyEclipse? (Going back to "DLL Hell" with plugins, it seems like the easiest way to avoid that is to use a pre-packed set like MyEclipse.)


Can this work with other app servers? Will it work with plain old Tomcat?

jeff
2007-09-13 17:01:20
@Eric Becuase Netbeans Sucks plain and simple. Intellij and Eclipse is the way to go for enterprise developers, Netbeans is for the hobbyist. And really I dont care the support of ruby scripting language in netbeans it is ugly and it is just a script language. I'm sick as Java developer to listen over and over again the Ruby Hype folks on Java forums and websites.
Paul Browne - Technology and People
2007-09-14 00:07:19
@Eric / Jeff


My reason for leaving Netbeans aside was my lack of experience on the latest version from Sun. I gave up on a previous version about 4 years ago, but I'm told that it has improved substantially since then. I am currently playing with it as a (J)Ruby IDE and will no doubt post about it later :-)


Even though I'm an Eclipse fan , I would *not* agree that 'NetBeans is for the hobbyist', and yet another IDE flame war is *not* the purpose of this post.


Regarding MyEclipse; I was about to pay the small amount (still $29?) for a 'distro' set of plugins; but I find that JBoss IDE / RHDS gave me most of what I wanted (stuff as simple as code colouring in JSP / HTML).


Yes RHDS works with Tomcat / App Servers using the standard set of Plugins available to Eclipse. I tend to prefer deploying using a Maven build from the command line / unit test rather than attach to a process and debug. So maybe I'm not the best person to ask about the full integrations available.

hohonuuli
2007-09-14 09:00:14
I wouldn't discount Netbeans. I use Eclispe (actually JBuilder 2007), IntelliJ, and Netbeans for different projects. Netbeans 6.0 is my current favorite. It also has the best Maven2 projects support of all 3 IDEs (although JBuilder and IntelliJ 7M2 are starting to FINALLY get some decent Maven support)
Bryan Che
2007-09-14 09:06:08
Thanks for the feedback--we appreciate the review of our beta release.


Regarding the size: much of this comes from including JBoss Enterprise Application Platform (http://www.jboss.com/products/platforms/application). We feel that the inclusion of a supported runtime platform which integrates with Eclipse tooling provides substantial benefits. It allows you to develop your application on a platform that Red Hat supports for 5 years, and it helps ensure that your entire development environment is well-matched and stable--not just the tooling. Unfortunately, this does increase the size of the download.


We weren't able to include the JBoss Rules plugin as the current Rules plugin doesn't work well with Eclipse 3.3 yet. We're busy working on that and will include it as soon as we can.


We are also always looking at additional features and plugins to support.

Mark Proctor
2007-09-14 09:53:34
JBoss Drools IDE is still only Eclipse 3.2, so it couldn't go into RHDS. We will put out Drools 4.0.2 on Monday and then we'll branch at which point we will update to Eclipse 3.3, so expect us to be apart of RHDS soon.


Mark
http://blog.athico.com The Drools Blog

Paul Browne
2007-09-14 13:02:41
@Mark - Installing the current Rules IDE (even though it's 3.2) was easy enough ; just pointed the Eclipse Updates site to http://downloads.jboss.com/drools/updatesite/ and everything came down ok. I haven't tried to hard to break it , but it appears to work ok. Look forward to the new version being included with the next RHDS release.


@Bryan - Thanks for the comment, and the reminder that it's still beta. It's a compliment to the software that I've switched from the older version and am using it as my (stable) day-to-day IDE.


However, I feel that the Maven and Subversion plugins are sorely lacking and I'm sure the respective projects would be delighted to be included. Always a bit of an art as to what gets included / missed out in a 'distro' like this.


Could emphasize a bit more the Eclipse roots of RHDS - it's not hidden , but neither is it marketed. Most of the developers I've talked to have considered this a good thing and were willing to give JBoss IDE / RHDS a try out once they found this out.

javadev
2007-09-14 18:45:46
@Jeff: "Becuase Netbeans Sucks plain and simple. Intellij and Eclipse is the way to go for enterprise developers, Netbeans is for the hobbyist."


Have you even looked at NetBeans 5.5 or 6.0? NetBeans isn't what it used to be. It's now comparable to IntelliJ. I've seen a number of IntelliJ developers who think that NetBeans is more suitable for enterprise development than Eclipse (unless you are using JBuilder, WebSphere Studio, RAD). Last year the user base went up 92%. Once NetBeans 6.0 is released it will be *serious* competition for Eclipse.

john
2007-09-14 19:09:22
The redhat tools made points with me because their plugins can drop into my existing eclipse without a mess. Redhat doesn't claim ownership of my eclipse installation, which I am very thankful for. If you want an example of what I'm talking about, try loading the ruby on rails 'plugin' from aptana. That honkin' beast wants to own your whole workbench and is better off run as a stand alone IDE, and its too bad because that IDE is fun to use too.


Since I'm only interested in the plugins, the download size is much smaller. And although many people dislike the update manager in Eclipse, I can deal with it because I use it only once in a while, not every week. I have no trouble setting up the update manager. I can understand that newbies struggle, but I remember the day of programming in ed on a unix vt terminal, and kids today just don't know how good they have it. :)



Regards.

John
2007-09-14 19:22:35
Sorry, I also meant to add:


I don't think Paul Browne can be satisfied. The first 'bad bit' is that the tool is large, the second and third 'bad bit' is that it doesn't have enough.


Readers should also know that there is an ongoing effort by an eclipse project to include subversion in eclipse, and another project, run by codehaus, to include maven. The subversion support is pretty good, but the maven plugin for eclipse does not integrate into the eclipse WST/JST at all. It would be useless to include it. Also, the excellent seam integration is supported well enough by ant. I think if you tried to use maven within the seam generated project structure and in eclipse, today in September 2007, you'll be hitting a wall not worth climbing. To reiterate, the codehaus maven plugin (m2eclipse) plugin is not operable with JST/WST projects, and seam generates its build scripts.

Paul Browne
2007-09-16 05:44:17
@John: Very well spotted :-) I'm asking for a reduced download size and more features. An earlier version of the blogpost highlighted this contradiction, thanks for pointing out that it's not in the final draft.


What would be nice to have (and it's always easy to ask when you don't have to put the effort in to develop it) is half way between the current 'download everything as 500mb chunk' and the lighter download, but have to remember which of the plugin sites you want to add ; not difficult, but you lose the convenience and the guarantee of stability.


Cygwin (also a Red Hat product - Unix command line on Windows) solves this problem quite easily. You download a small installer. It lists the available extensions (instead of you having to hunt for plugin extension sites). You choose and it downloads what you need automatically, but it also guarantees that what it downloads will work well together.


Not too far from what Eclipse does already, except for the 'list of available plugins' in a neat package within the IDE. And yes, if I really wanted it that much I should spend more time writing it and less time blogging about it(!)


I agree with you about Subversion support in Eclipse (excellent) and Maven (ok, I tend still to use the command line).

Tracy
2007-09-18 12:41:24
Re: "Could emphasize a bit more the Eclipse roots of RHDS". I found this kind of odd, am I the only developer who wants to play with new toys? RHDS being based on Eclipse really kind of kills my interest, honestly. I mean, I know what Eclipse is like, and if I was developing for JBoss I'd certainly give it a look. But there's really no inducement for me to check it out if it's just another Eclipse-based IDE. I remember being pleasantly surprised the first time I used JBuilder, it wasn't like either Eclipse or NetBeans (the only other Java IDE's I'd used at that time). I'd have been interested in giving RHDS a spin if I thought it might offer some new or different features, but I doubt it'll be that much different from the RAD I'm using.
Paul Browne - Technology and People
2007-09-19 00:43:46
@Tracy: I respect your opinion but have to disagree: there is a big difference between 'bare bones' Eclipse (which after all is built as a framework) and the extra features provided by (the latest version of) JBuilder, BEA Weblogic Studio and Red Hat Development Studio (RHDS). The entire aim of Eclipse is to provide common functionality and act as a framework for sets of plugins / extensions.


A good analogy is Linux Distro's; Both Red Hat and Ubuntu share the same Kernel, but nobody would argue that if you've seen Ubuntu running on a consumer laptop that you know everything about setting up Clustered Web Servers using Red Hat.


Emphasizing that RHDS has Eclipse DNA is a good thing. It means that you don't have to relearn the basics (e.g. how to setup projects), and you can start evaluating whether the additional features give you what you are looking for.


Tim O'Brien
2007-09-19 09:12:57
@Tracy, that JBuilder reference sounds like some blog comment marketing to me. You can't be serious that JBuilder was a pleasant surprise. Can you? :-)
Paul Browne
2007-09-19 13:51:33
@Tim - I normally tend to agree with your posts, but to be fair to Tracy I think it's a legit point of view (if I don't agree with it) - The latest version of JBuilder is built on Eclipse , so it would be a very stange comment to make if it was blog marketing!


More info from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JBuilder

J.T. Wenting
2007-09-20 01:23:53
Some people just consider anything that's positive about a commercial product to be hidden advertising...
Tracy
2007-09-20 13:33:39
@Tim: You know, I was wondering if I should have qualified that! The first (and only) time I used JBuilder was about five years ago. I was half expecting something that looked like the UCSD p-System, so when it turned out to be moderately capable I figured I was ahead of the game!


@Paul: Comparing Eclipse-based IDEs with Linux distros is probably valid, but I gave up on Linux after a couple of years of frustration with both Red Hat and Debian, so that doesn't really make it any more attractive to me. ;) Seriously, though, I have a spare box and an Ubuntu CD lying around, I may just have to try loading RHDS on Ubuntu and taking a look. My last distro was Debian Sarge, so it's been awhile...


(In the interest of full disclosure, my current (preferred) environment is NetBeans running on Solaris 10 Developer Edition, flame away!)

Paul Browne
2007-09-20 13:57:39
@Tracy


Good luck with Netbeans. Choice is good :-)