Some Thoughts On Netbeans

Posted by Stuart Herbert on March 26th, 2009 in Opinion, Toolbox.

When it comes to IDEs for working on PHP projects, I’ve been a relatively happy user of phpEclipse for several years. (Tried Zend Studio, but never managed to convince Zeev about how much it sucks). But when the guys in the office started switching over to Netbeans, I thought it would be interesting to take a look for myself.

I’ve been using several of the nightly builds on both Linux and OS X for about a month now, after reading on Planet PHP about the UI improvements vs Netbeans 6.5. Apart from one bizarre problem, in general the nightly builds have performed well; I haven’t come across any major bugs in the builds. I don’t care about integrated source control, deployment or Apache management. What I care about is a solid IDE that saves me time, and helps me quickly work with larger PHP projects where I’m not yet intimately familiar with the code.


  • Performs well enough … keeps up with my typing.
  • Code completion works more often than not.
  • Doesn’t have the annoying lockups that Eclipse-based editors suffer when they decide to rebuild the project.
  • Code refactoring (BIG time saver) worked every time I tried it.


  • A real memory hog – my copy is using half a gig of RAM with just 4 editor tabs open. Ignore the memory usage that displayed inside Netbeans itself (which currently claims 99MB being used); it’s either selective in what it monitors or is just plain fubar.
  • Doesn’t use any native controls on OS X; looks fugly and doesn’t mimic standard OS X dialog boxes or behaviour.
  • Too many dialog boxes; UI could be simplified with in-place editing or just skipping the dialog box completely (a la phpEclipse).
  • No shortage of time-wasting UI design, such as not auto-populating the Find in Projects search field.
  • No context-sensitive help on F1.
  • No bundled documentation for PHP itself.
  • xdebug support no use to me. I was unable to debug a CLI script, and I was unable to debug a website unless I went through the website’s homepage first.
  • phpUnit support no use to me either. To use phpUnit from inside Netbeans, it requires all the tests to be in a separate folder tree. I choose to keep my tests in the same folder as the code under test.

I did find one bizarre problem with it. I was editing code stored on a networked drive whilst on the train, and I went through a blackspot which caused the networked drive to become disconnected. Netbeans did the sensible thing of marking all the open files as read-only, but once I had re-attached the networked drive, I couldn’t then save these files at all. Fair enough, I thought – I’ll just open the file again in another tab and copy and paste my changes across. Sadly, Netbeans wouldn’t actually copy the content of the read-only files into the clipboard at all.

Overall, I feel that Netbeans is a good editor, and I’m still using it every day on Linux (but not on OS X). The IDE features that relate directly to code all appear solid enough. The issues with phpUnit aren’t a big deal for me, but it would be nice to see the xdebug support overhauled and made useful one day.

Just a shame they can’t do anything about the fact it uses Java … 🙂

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Finding Ada

Posted by Stuart Herbert on March 24th, 2009 in Opinion, PHP In Business.

If you’re a regular reader of Planet PHP (and if you’re not, you should be), you’ll know by now that today (March 24th) is Ada Lovelace day. The idea is to throw a spotlight on female role models in tech, in order to encourage more women to get involved in technology work and roles in the future.

The need to do this was made very clear when I sat down to put this post together. I’m sad to say that I simply don’t work with any women in technology atm, and I’m struggling to think of any female programmers that I’ve worked with over the last 18 years. (I’ve sent Sara a patch or two for runkit, but I don’t think that counts as having worked with someone). I’ve worked with female product managers, project managers, and marketing consultants, but with only one notable exception I wouldn’t say they worked in technology, but around the male-dominated teams who did.

The research that has inspired Ada Lovelace day talks about women having a stronger need for suitable role models than men do. But the question that’s been praying on my mind today is this: what else do we need to do to make working in technology more appealing to women? Leaving aside the behavioural problems in male-dominated environments for a moment, are there changes to technical tools and practices we could make that would play more to the psychological strengths of women?

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Thank you to everyone who came to my talk about Gradwell’s experience of Living With Frameworks at the PHP UK conference last Friday. It was very humbling to have such a large audience, especially as I was one of the least-known folks on such a strong list of speakers, and I really enjoyed meeting everyone who came up to me afterwards to share their own experiences.

If you were one of the 40 or so folks who had to be turned away from the talk, the slides are now available, and I’m sure the video of the talk will be online soon. We’re also trying to sort something out so that I can come and present a shorter version of the talk at one of the monthly PHP London meetings later in the year.

A big thank you to everyone involved in organising and sponsoring such a great conference. I’ve run a couple of small conferences in the past, so I know what it’s like and just how stressful it can be. I thought you did a great job, and I’m already looking forward to an even better conference in 2010 🙂

Oh, and if you ever get the chance to see Aral Balkan talk, do so. His opening keynote at the conference was hugely entertaining and (imho) spot on too, and he gave everyone such a lift for the rest of the day.

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