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JBuilder 3 Enterprise Edition [Software Review]

By Nelson King, Intranet
Design Magazine

Although you can write Java applications with a text editor,
most software developers would rather not–especially when it comes
to big Internet or intranet applications. Typically developers
choose one of the Java application development systems with an
integrated development environment (IDE). With Inprise/Borland
Corporation JBuilder 3 you can see why: so much of the application
organizing and fundamental coding has already been done, and done
well.

Of course, JBuilder can be used to create applets and beans, but
its strength is its integration of numerous tools for developing
full-scale applications. JBuilder covers the development cycle from
a Data Modeler for designing databases, to the AppBrowser that
assembles the Java classes and code, to the multi-platform
debugger, to the Deployment Wizard for distributing applications,
and to the JavaDoc Wizard for program documentation.

Inprise/Borland is known for including additional software for
added value and JBuilder 3 continues that tradition, which
(depending on edition) also includes the InterBase database server,
PVCS Version Control, and VisiBroker 3.2 CORBA server. Considering
JBuilder’s relatively low price, it is the current best bang for
the buck among the major Java development systems.

The maturation of Java is an important ingredient in the steady
improvement of Java products, but the intense competition and
eagerness to make Java succeed have also led to innovations and
polish that make Java tools the leaders in the software development
industry. A good example is JBuilder’s embrace of Java 2. This is
not a me-too exercise; considerable thought and effort has gone
into updating the entire system, including more complex components
such as data-enabled objects (dbSwing) and a Java 2 debugger.
Altogether, over 300 Java components are bundled with JBuilder, yet
the overall integration and design of JBuilder continues to improve
with the user interface becoming less cluttered even though it is
handling more complex tasks. This is thanks to the AppBrowser,
which uses panes, tabs, and tree displays to deftly manage the
chaos of typical application elements.

JBuilder has a very comfortable mix of visual programming (in
the UI Designer), code structures and snippets to start program
elements (from the Object Gallery), and an excellent code editor.
The editor uses CodeInsight, a set of inline editing support
features that include code completion, parameter filling,
expression tool tips, and some error checking. All of these
features can be configured (or turned off), making JBuilder coding
as supportive or “on your own” as you wish.

For complex tasks JBuilder offers a coven of Wizards: Project,
Application, CORBA Server, applet, JavaBean, Panel, DataModule,
Class, Servlet, Desktop, Internal frame, Override methods,
Implement Interface, Resource Strings, Deployment, JavaDoc, Package
Migration, Data Migration, Bean Insight, and Enterprise JavaBean.
This impressive list is not a substitute for understanding the
programming, but Wizards can save time and help when your memory
fails.

Another area of strength for JBuilder is database application
development. With this version, JBuilder has taken an all Java
stance that is backed-up by the right components. Not only has
everything been updated to Java 2, several important new all-Java
features have been added. These include a Data Modeler to create
tables and SQL statements that are stored in a reusable Data
Module. The new Application Generator uses Data Modules to create
the basics of an application, which can be a major time saver. The
new JDBC Explorer turns out to be an exceptionally useful tool for
analyzing a wide variety of databases.

The JBuilder system for managing data, which usually begins with
JDBC connections, goes through a StorageDataSet object and ends
with either dbSwing or JBCL components, takes some getting
used-to.But it does provide a great deal of flexibility. For
testing database applications JBuilder includes a one-machine
version of the InterBase server (a full server version for the
Enterprise Edition). Also included is JDataStore, a top-flight pure
Java transactional database for small and embedded systems. For
more elaborate tiered architecture applications Inprise/Borland
offers the Inprise Application Server-it’s about the only major
software piece that isn’t bundled with JBuilder.

On the business end of programming, JBuilder’s compiler has been
updated and enhanced for Java 2, and the JIT compiler has been
incorporated into the system. It’s taken a few years, but at last
we have a complete Java debugger! JBuilder distinguishes itself in
this crucial department with arguably one of the best debuggers
available for Java-and especially Java 2. It’s ability to follow
code into multiple platforms, older Java versions, and provide
real-time debugging for distributed applications is
exceptional.

For those brave souls venturing into two and three-tiered
distributed applications, JBuilder is a confirmed devotee of CORBA.
(It should be, Inprise/Borland owns VisiBroker.) A full copy of
VisiBroker 3.2 Object Request Broker is included with the
enterprise edition and there are Wizards and components that help
simplify this daunting form of application development.

It is easy to endorse JBuilder as a fine product, which it is,
but it’s important to understand that using it is typically a
long-term commitment. You’re buying into the way JBuilder does
things. Yes the Java it produces is Sun specification compliant and
portable at run time, but you can’t easily move code to another
development system. Though all the big IDE products have this
characteristic, JBuilder has it more than some.

Some people will be attracted to the spirit (anti-Microsoft PC)
with which Inprise/Borland is supporting pure Java, adopting Linux
(which certainly won’t diminish with the merger of Inprise/Borland
with Corel), and it’s choice of CORBA for distributed applications.
JBuilder isn’t the best IDE for pure Java bean building (Symantec
Visual Café gets the nod), nor is it the most advanced IDE
design (IBM Visual Age for Java has that honor). However, the Java
IDE feature competition is a leapfrog affair and Inprise/Borland
JBuilder 3 Enterprise Edition is a champion frog with the best
value-a high quality application development system loaded with
major extras. You can even get your feet wet with a free,
downloadable, open source version-JBuilder Foundation.