Book: Netbeans Platform 6.9 Developer's Guide

image Intro

"Netbeans Platform 6.9 Developer's Guide" is a book by Jurgen Petri, who is Sun Certified Enterprise Architect, with more than 12 years of experience in developing Java enterprise applications.
He tells you how to build with the Netbeans Platform, the Java modular Swing application framework that speeds up your coding work to build professional applications that are cross-platform. Jurgen already wrote a book about the Netbeans Platform in 2008, but this book focuses on the latest build of the platform.

Netbeans IDE and Java is all that you need. Because both are free, your only invest to become a pro Netbeans Platform programmer is this book.

There are already other books on the Netbeans Platform, but the approach this one has is different. Those other books usually try to be a complete reference for most of the features of the Platform, usually focusing to experienced programmers that just want to have some reminder of what they already know, and without a specific purpose.

This book, as I said, is different. It is a step by step guide through the programming of an application that uses the Netbeans Platform: a task manager. This way, it helps you to get started since the very beginning of your project, and assumes little or no knowledge at all of the platform. Of course, you must be a Java programmer and know some rudiments of the platform. But if you just began to program some module or followed the simplest tutorials at the Netbeans site, you can get started on the Platform with this book and learn to code big applications with ease.

If you have a look to its pages they will remember the tutorials at Netbeans site, because they're much like tutorials of the different steps to build an application, and include screenshots for most of the steps, code, and easy explanations.



One of the main advantages of the Netbeans Platform is its modular nature, so the book starts explaining how to create modules and add them to your application. These modules will communicate with each other, so you will be able to make them work together. This modular approach, which is essential for the Netbeans Platform, makes possible to maintain the code of these modules updated without having to update the whole application. Even more, the integrated updating system in Netbeans Platform allows your users to update your application, or some of its modules, without having to download it all.

Chapter 2 teaches how to build forms, to get modern and neat controls for your applications, buttons, labels, input boxes, and all that. Netbeans IDE integrates a visual designer for this, and this chapter tells how to use it and code the event handling. Once you're familiar to this, you are ready for the following chapter, that is about the windows system in Netbeans.

Chapter 4 is about what is called Lookup in the Platform, that is all those mechanisms that allow your modules to communicate with each other and with the main application. This is essential for any project, without that your application will just be a collection of modules. In addition, most of the tutorials out there and books usually don't give understandable recipes for this, and this book does, so this chapter alone may be an argument to get this book.

Chapter 5 covers the creation of global Actions, that perform some tasks inside the application. You will learn to invoke them through all possible means: menus, keyboard, toolbars... This is an effective way to provide users to make something in multiple ways and increase the usability of your programs.

After that it comes the time to learn about "Nodes and Explorer Views". To summarize, this is a chapter in which you'll learn by example how to separate your application's logic from different possible visual implementations, so if you change your app's GUI later, adapting becomes easy. A fast and neat way to maintain your code in the future, and make drastic changes without too much work.

Working with files and folders, saving and retrieving data to them, is covered in chapter 7. Once you learnt this, the next step is to know how to recognize and manipulate the content of those files, and chapter 8 introduces you to the Data System for that, and for everything else you see in Netbeans applications: add new file types, provide interfaces for those files, change their icon depending on things like their saved state, and so on.

Chapter 9 teaches how to build dialog windows, that go from simple notifications to complex "wizards". Wizards are found in every decent modern application, and increase the usability of software.

Every piece of software today tries to make emphasis on usability. Although the computer skills of most people today are much higher than in the past, computer users today are not the minority of power users and hackers like in the past,  and skilled people want to make more in less time. Your applications should not be hard to use, they need to be easy for the newcomer, and ultra-easy and fast to use by the expert, who doesn't want to spend their neurons in understanding your interface.

Chapter 10 focuses on an often forgotten step in application building that is the options and settings, that should be available for the user to customize how the app looks or behaves, usually making a strong use of dialogs learnt in the previous chapter. Again, the focus is in increasing the possibilities of your users to be comfortable with the piece of software you built.

The next chapter is about the Help system for your app. Each of your modules can have its help system, that can be integrated together in a single help system. This makes maintenance simpler, at the same time that the user simply gets the help he needs without caring about where it comes from. Context sensitive help systems are also covered, that is what every user wants nowadays, and not having to search along a list of topics.

After you have built most of the features you need, it comes the time to cut off what you don't need and modify everything so it becomes unique, identified with your software company and project. This is branding, which is covered on chapter 12. Everything, from modules of the platform that you don't use and don't want to be loaded, to the splash screen or the application launcher for the different OSes, or the app's icon...

Your application is mostly finished at this point, so the last chapter comes to explain how to package and distribute your application, create installers for the different OSes, and how to make online updates. Online updates are the way to go, and the Netbeans Platform provides an easy way to implement this, just with some clicks, something that otherwise would suppose lots of coding.



"Netbeans Platform 6.9 Developer's Guide" is the best introductory book I've seen 'till this date about the Netbeans Platform. There are two reason for this: it's practical, and it has a modern approach.

It is practical because the book teaches by example, assumes zero or little knowledge, avoids abstract explanations when it's possible, tells you about real life needs that you may have, and provides the basics of every aspect of the most common features you may want to implement. Reading other books about Netbeans without reading this first may be like trying to go to the University without having gone to school first.

In addition, it has an approach that is realist with what a modern computer user wants: usability. The book tells you about how to build applications that include the features every user expects: context sensitive help, online updates, different ways to do the same actions through the graphical interface, customizable settings and options... And for the programmer (you): how to build code that is easy to maintain, reuse, modify, and update.

This is a book that is NOT for people who want to spend their lives with theory and reading. This is a book for people who want to get things done, start making real projects with the Netbeans Platform. So go and get it, you won't repent.

Netbeans Platform 6.9 Developer's Guide

-Jordi R. Cardona-

© 2008 by Jordi R. Cardona. Link to this post without copying the text.

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