Which Java visual development environment is best for you?

Read this comparative review of 5 top tools so you can quickly pick the one that best meets your needs -- and avoid wasting your precious time with the others

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Personally, we will normally use Visual Café or SuperCede for most Java projects because they are well-suited to rapid prototyping and RAD. Visual Café is more mature, but SuperCede especially impressed Chris with its ease-of-use in all areas, from visual building to on-the-fly flash compiling. Also, we both appreciate that SuperCede, like Vibe, can make executables. It's really nice to be able to make Windows (or Solaris) utilities, games, and other programs with Java.

Despite the fact that Visual J++ isn't very good for RAD, we would use it when we need to make production-quality software. This is because of the interfaces to so many tools, and the ease with which we can use C++ and ActiveX components. (Note that we're looking forward to the next releases of Java tools, because many will offer both JavaBeans and ActiveX.) We want access to the thousands of controls already available in ActiveX, and we also want to put proprietary code into ActiveX to hide it and to reuse it in other parts of the enterprise (such as on the server). We also like being able to use macro-scripting to automate a lot of tasks in code production/test. (Carl has created similar scripts in MS Office.)

We both like Vibe as an entry-level product, but suggest you turn elsewhere if you want to learn and use the pure Java API (Vibe uses Visix's own foundation classes) or develop applets.

We encourage you to send in your thoughts and experiences regarding any of these developer tools.

Carl Dichter is a senior technical marketing engineer at Intel Corp. He has been an engineer for about 16 years as an employee of Intel, Motorola, and various small companies. He's also contracted for AT&T, GE, and Honeywell. He has been writing articles for about six years and is the co-author (with Mark Pease) of the book Software Engineering with Perl. Chris Tynes is a senior technical project leader at USPA&IRA (United Services Planning Association Inc. & Independent Research Agency for Life Insurance Inc.), where he is focusing on how to apply emerging Internet technologies to financial businesses. Prior to this, he spent more than three years at Intel working with and developing strategies and solutions centered around the embedded microcontroller market and the Internet.

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