At IDR Solutions I spend the majority of my time using the NetBeans IDE to write and modify the code on our Java PDF Library and PDF to HTML5 Converter code base, and I thought it would be useful to learn more about the tool I work with everyday. Pointing and clicking can only get you so far and online articles are usually very specific. My personal opinion is that reading a book (whether online or not) is the way to go. Books have structure and contain all the information you need in one place instead of on multiple websites or links that require you to jump back and forth. So I started my search for the perfect book to learn about all (or at least the majority) of the NetBeans IDE features.
So many books, which to choose?
It can be difficult to find the right book. A big problem is trying to find one that provides the right knowledge level. You need a book that either touches upon what you already know and expands it or introduces new concepts in an easy to understand manner. Amazingly, I found a book that manages both! It is entitled ‘Beginning NetBeans IDE For Java Developers‘. Want to know the main reason I picked this book out of the hay stack? It was because of the author. Who better to explain all of the useful procedures, secretive features and helpful hints and tips than a person who has worked on and with the IDE for more than 10 years!
Anyway this is supposed to be a review so I guess I should start telling you my thoughts on the book. I have summarized my key points below.
1. Easy to read and understand
I have read a variety of programming books in the past. They have ranged from greatly written to very, very, VERY badly written. In my opinion the most detestable books incorporate extremely convoluted sentences of which the masses will find cumbersome to decipher and can customarily be communicated in an abridged manner. I want to learn wide and wonderful things regarding programming. I do not want to have a thesaurus and dictionary ready and waiting by my side.The writing featured in this book is quite elegant and focuses on the main points instead of trying to force feed you alphabet soup.
2. Logically structured
Another one of my woes is that a programming book can cover a section very early on that may have been more relevant at a later stage. This book starts you on your journey and accompanies you every step of the way. The first chapter starts with downloading and installing the IDE, the next going on to creating your first project and each subsequent chapter logically leading onto the next stage in a projects development. At no stage did I think – would you not use this feature first or how do I accomplish A in order to carry out what the author wants me to do? Pages are also nicely formatted and not jam packed to the point where the page looks grey instead of white. Simplicity is the way to go and this book got it down to a tee. It manages to make learning as effortless as possible by making it simple to read and easy to follow, so the reader can focus on taking in the content.
3. No need to read every chapter in order
Welcome to my favorite point. I mentioned before that I hate having to search through a book. Luckily the chapters in this book are independent of each other with no need to backtrack. Each section in the chapter is also written so that you can quickly read that section and be on you way if needed. There are no reasons to jump around the book trying to find how to accomplish A using B, where B is hidden in the last place where you would think to look. This makes the book handy as a quick reference guide too once you have finished reading it. The contents and index are also detailed enough that you can quickly and easily find a section/chapter you are looking for.
4. Read on the move
One of the major issues with some programming books is that you need to sit down with the book, your computer and a good cup of tea in order to work through the chapters. Beginning NetBeans IDE For Java Developers explains each section in detail and offers plenty of screenshots, allowing you to understand what is happening without having the software loaded in front of you. After buying the book, you also gain a code displayed in the back of the book so you can get the ebook version of the book for $5. Not a bad offer in my opinion.
5. The pictures
I wonder who of you reading this article has heard of James Gosling? If you have not and you are a Java developer then could I kindly ask that you go and find out. Well it turns out he has got this book too and he is featured in it! Chapters within the book are separated by quotes and cartoon renditions from some big shots in the Java world. It may not seem a major point but I enjoyed these small sections and they helped break the chapters up nicely.
6. The content
Like I mentioned at the start I am not a total newbie when it comes to NetBeans. I know how to create the different type of projects, run/deploy them and how to use the debugger. Some people may argue that is all you need to know but I promise you that there is so much more to learn. You could learn about how to use features like the Profiler or just learn a more efficient method for a tedious task. You never know but there just might be a wizard for that!
You may have noticed that I have been singing the books praises and neglected to mention anything bad about the book. Well truth be told that is because… I couldn’t find any faults. No seriously, Beginning NetBeans IDE For Java Developers is probably one of the best educational books I have read. It covered everything I wanted to learn (and even things I didn’t know I needed to learn) in a beautifully simplistic way. A must read for those of you who want to learn how to use NetBeans or for those who should be migrating over to the IDE. In any case I will be looking forward to any more books from Geertjan Wielenga in the future!