Review of JBuilder Pro from Borland
Shawn M. Gordon
Well if you haven’t at least heard of Java from Sun Microsystems by now, then you probably shouldn’t bother reading this review. However if you are interested in finding out more about Java, or start programming in Java, read on, because JBuilder is the hot new tool from Borland that makes Java available to the rest of us. The two main attractions to JBuilder is that it generates 100% pure Java code, unlike the J++ tool from Microsoft, and it makes use of an IDE very similar to that of Delphi and C++ Builder.
I tested JBuilder on my 133Mhz Pentium system with just 16 Meg of RAM, running Windows 95.
The JBuilder IDE is very similar to that found in Borlands popular Delphi and C++ Builder tools. Take a look at figure 1 to see the basic layout of the IDE. I found it to be kind of wild in the fact that HTML is also available as part of the project and presented in a correct format. So you can have this mixed project that has many different HTML files along with JAVA files that make up your application. The window pane on the right of our example allows you to switch between the source view and the design view rapidly so you can see how your changes reflect in either code or design.
The code editor has a number of of time saving features such as keystroke based bookmarking so you can easily switch back and forth between points in your code, as well as allowing you to plug in a different editor if you have a favorite like Visual Slick Edit.
JBuilder generates 100% pure Java and fully supports version 1.1 of the Java Development Kit. The newly released client/server version will offer version control, CORBA and more SQL tools.
The Component Palette includes several dozen prebuilt JavaBeans with source code. You can add customized or third-party beans. Some of the JavaBeans that are included are, BeanInfo, OK/Cancel, and a Database Bean that helps with visual database layout.
One of the nifty things that is coming about with Java is the whole JavaBeans concept. Beans are reusable object components that you can theoretically use to build applications with, or containers for specific encapsulated functions. The Beans Express feature of JBuilder speeds the development of pure JavaBean components. Once you create a new Bean you can then add it to your Component Palette, this makes for a pretty extensible environment allowing you to infinitly expand and customize what is available to you.
This is really a huge tool with a lot of features that I can’t hope to cover in a single review, but hopefully you get the flavor here. Check it out, but make sure you have a loaded up PC, otherwise you might get frustrated with some of the delays.
Usability (also installation)
Pretty much any product that installs under Windows 95 nowadays is a no-brainer, and JBuilder is no exception. Just make sure you have about 60meg of free disk space, pop in the CD, answer a few questions, and wait for it to finish copying the files. This process will vary depending on the speed of your CD-ROM drive.
The IDE for JBuilder is very easy to get around in, even if you don’t have experience with it in any other Borland products such as Delphi and C++Builder. I really like the unified IDE that Borland has come up with, since I use Delphi as well, it made JBuilder very comfortable to get started in.
All of the little wizards and experts that help you start projects and Beans also serve to make JBuilder an easy to use tool.
For as much as I could test it, JBuilder is very reliable. The IDE never crashed or locked up, although at times it got so slow I thought it had locked up. The applications that I built, and the demo’s all worked, but I was no where near close to running the product into the ground. I haven’t heard of any bugs floating around on the different news sources, so I felt pretty good about what I was producing.
Well if you’ve been following any of the press on Java, I’m sure you’ve heard how slow it is. You don’t really realize how slow until you start trying to do things in it. Granted it’s starting to get better, and taking advantage of a native JIT (Just In Time) compiler can make a huge difference, but basically JBuilder is slow, and it’s slow because it’s Java. Even the IDE is slow compared to Delphi and C++ Builder from Borland. There aren’t any Java tools out there that aren’t slow at this point, but hopefully over the next year or so that will get better.
Supportability (including Doc)
You can’t really count on direct support from most of these companies anymore, but with tools like Compuserve and the Internet, there tends to be more than enough resources available to answer your questions. It’s rare to go more than an hour without having at least someone chime in with a response.
The documentation is actually pretty good. I’ve got to give Borland credit for continuing to include actual hard copy manuals with their products that are well organized and pretty easy to read. They even tend to give you some tutorial stuff as well. I know I recently bought VB5 developer edition from Microsoft, and there wasn’t one page of documentation included.
I am by no means an expert on Java, but I have used a number of the available tools out there and done some muddling about, and I must say, Borland has done an excellent job here. It’s hard to say what the computing landscape will be like in a few years, but with Borlands 100% Pure Java approach, you are at least guaranteed a robust Windows based tool for developing platform and architecture independent code. The Beans Express section of the IDE is a wonderful tool for building Java Bean components, it takes a lot of the headache out of the process, and gives you a nice head start with all the templates.
Java isn’t for everyone, or everything, despite what you might have read, however if you are wondering what all the fuss is about, then you should probably get on the Borland web site and download a demo copy, or buy yourself the Standard Edition to check it out. You might find that the more you think about it, the more use you might have for it. A great example of a well pulled off Java system is the new eSuite from Lotus. This is office suite software written entirely in Java, and show’s how and what can be done potentially.
JBuilder version 1
Borland International, Inc.
Scotts Valley, CA
Price for JBuilder standard is $99, Pro is $299 upgrade, $799 otherwise, and JBuilder Client/Server is $2,495. Support is available easily on the Internet, check out www.borland.com/jbuilder, and www.borland.com/feedback/listserv.html Product includes a number of manuals depending on which version you get.