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   Java Programming Learning Toolkit for Windows

Java Programming Learning Toolkit for Windows

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Choosing a Java Development Environment

When choosing a Java development environment, you will need to make two decisions. The first decision will be which Java compiler and interpreter to use. Although there are alternatives (described below), most people choose to use the Java tools (called the Java Development Kit or JDK) provided by Sun Microsystems, which developed the Java language in the first place. The Java language has gone through a number of revisions over the years, so you will need to choose which version you will use.

Things are complicated somewhat by the version number Sun has used over the years. Java versions are identified by the version number of the JDK. Early versions were numbered 1.0, 1.1, 1.1.8., 1.2, 1.3, 1.4. Sun discourages use of any version of the JDK before version 1.4.2. With the release of what would have been JDK 1.5, Sun changed the naming convention, and the new version was named JDK 5.0. What would have been version 1.6 is actually named JDK 6.0. The newest product releases of the Java JDK are versions 5.0 and 6.0.

Java JDK 1.4 is a conservative choice. Most of the available learning resources, including online resources and printed books, are based on the version of Java supported by JDK 1.4 or earlier. Many businesses developing Java software still use JDK 1.4.

Java JDK 5.0 is a more modern choice. Additions were made to the language to make it easier to write better quality code. However, there are fewer learning resources for Java JDK 5.0.

Java JDK 6.0 is the newest release of Java. This is a cutting edge release with some significant additions to the language. However, there are the fewest learning resources for this version of Java, and, as of December 2006, Sun had not yet released a certification test for this version of Java.

It is recommended that you select from either Java JDK 1.4 or JDK 5.0. JDK 1.4 offers more in the way of learning resources and published books, but JDK 5.0 is the more modern release. If you are learning Java for the first time, you should probably not choose JDK 6.0, at least until there are more learning resources and books available, and until there is a certification test available for this version.

Choosing an Integrated Development Environment.

After selecting the version of Java to use, you will need to choose a development environment. You can develop Java code using any text editor, but there are a number of Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) that provide substantial support to your development efforts. The two main IDEs are NetBeans and Eclipse. NetBeans was developed by Sun Microsystems, and can be downloaded as a package with your selected version of the Java JDK. Eclipse was originally developed by IBM, but is now supported by the Eclipse foundation, which includes a number of other companies.

NetBeans has the advantage of being tightly integrated with the Java JDK, and there are specific versions of NetBeans available for download packaged together with a Java JDK.

Eclipse has a significant advantage with its pluggable architecture. "Pluggable architecture" means that additional development tools can be developed independently of the Eclipse software itself, and then be plugged into the platform. There are hundreds of plugins available for the Eclipse platform. Another advantage of the Eclipse IDE is that it can also support development in other languages besides Java, including C++, Python, and Ruby. The NetBeans IDE can support development in C++, but not in Python or Ruby, and NetBeans does not support plugins like Eclipse does. If you intend to develop software in other languages as well as Java, the Eclipse IDE would let you use one IDE for all your development tasks.


If you're just starting out with Java, choose JDK 1.4.2 for the wide range of learning resources. Use the NetBeans IDE for its close integration with the Java JDK and its easy installation.

If you're a more advanced programmer, choose JDK 5.0 because it has more current features. Use the Eclipse IDE for its pluggable architecture, large selection of plugins, and its ability to work with other programming languages.

If you're already an experienced Java programmer, and you want to stay on the leading edge of Java development, choose JDK 6.0 and the Eclipse IDE.

Links to download your selected development environment.

IDEJDK Selection
SDK 1.4.2JDK 5.0JDK 6.0
NetBeans NetBeans 5.0 and JDK 1.4.2 combined download/install instructions NetBeans 5.5 and JDK 5.0 combined download/install instructions NetBeans 5.5 and JDK 6.0 combined download/install instructions
Eclipse Eclipse IDE and Java 1.4.2 SDK download/install instructions Eclipse IDE and Java 5.0 JDK download/install instructions Eclipse IDE and Java 6.0 JDK download/install instructions