At last I’ve downloaded both IDEs and installed them on the MacBook and the work PC. The first thing I discover is that scrimping on the MacBook memory was a bad move as NetBeans likes a lot of it. Eclipse also likes a lot of memory but seems to do a bit better with what is available.
First test! Auto-completion: the productivity feature I use most everyday. The basic test is to have a declaration of the type Number n = new… and then hit auto-complete. What I am kind of hoping is that I get presented with a list of sub-classes of Number; Integer, Long and so on. Eclipse kindly goes for Number as the completion, which thinking about it is probably what I want to do 80% of the time. NetBeans on the other hand goes for a Burton on the MacBook, switching to the PC tells me why. The auto-completion code is trying to build a list of every possible class it knows about including XML and CORBA classes. Neither is perfect but Eclipse is closer here.
Changing to Number n = new Int… closes the gap a lot. Both go with an alphabetical search rather than looking at the context but again NetBean falls foul of checking too many possibilities and not favouring the java package over anything else. It is also noticeably slower than Eclipse on the PC (I accepted the speed on the MacBook but on a low-end development machine I would have expected comparable performance).
So, my first impression is that Eclipse is faster to produce code in. However I need to be able to leverage that, what I probably want to do is write a body of code in Eclipse and then switch it between Eclipse and NetBeans according to what is stronger in the area of development, testing and deployment I want to do later. NetBeans does seem to import Eclipse projects; Eclipse (so far) does not seem to know what to do about NetBean projects. This is a real shame, I suspect there is a plugin that does it but I haven’t found it yet.