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Taming Netbeans

Posted on 25 February 2009 by Demian Turner

I’m really glad to see so many posts by PHP devs switching over to Netbeans – I don’t think there’s any real competition when it comes to a PHP IDE with a decent feature set that’s not painful to use.  Obviously this last requirement rules out anything based on Eclipse.

But there are a few niggling hitches remaining in Netbeans that need to be addressed.  Others have written about this already but I’ll paraphrase:

  1. fix the double-click drag select bug
  2. get a more native-looking Mac look and feel
  3. get some themes at least as good as Textmate, eg the default ‘blackboard’ theme

The first problem is in fact very painful and I haven’t been able to find any remedies for it.  Netbeans being a Java app, the GUI is implemented in Swing, which by default doesn’t seem to support the ability to double-click a string of text, then with the mouse button still depressed, drag to select additional words of text.

In any browser, for example, this works as expected: you can click the mouse in the middle of a word, double click to get the whole word, then drag left or right to get the string of words you need.  Not having this feature can be extremely painful because the alternative means you must place, with pixel precision, the cursor at exactly the beginning and end of a word, then click, then drag.

The former system lets you work a lot faster, and in a text selecting business like programming can really cut down on the agro in a day’s work.

If this problem drives anyone else crazy, or someone knows a workaround I’d love to hear about it.

For the second point the Netbeans 6.7 M2 release, out today, seems to address some of the issues.  But it has to be said the IDE is still on the ugly side of things, however slightly less bubbly now which I think is an improvement.

For the third point I dug up a theme this afternoon which is a definite improvement over the sparse selection of themes offered with the Netbeans download.  Check out Ruby Dark Pastels – Mac users beware that the .nbm file gets .jar appended to it when you download the component which makes it unusable.  Simply remove the .jar in the Finder.

The theme is not perfect however, method names are black on a dark blue background, and many code elements (constants, static methods, etc) are white and get match-highlighted in yellow making them unreadable.  Many of these elements are not configurable in the Fonts & Colours preference option.

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