Netbeans so happens not only to be a free open source IDE, but it is also a platform framework for developing applications using several programming languages. Netbeans was originally developed by Sun Microsystems which is currently owned by Oracle Corporation. The IDE itself is developed using Java and that makes it a cross platform IDE capable of running on Windows, Mac, Linux and Solaris operating Systems.
Features (4 out of 5)
Netbeans comes with an intelligent IDE that lets the user manage their projects and facilitates rapid application development it also includes code completion, code refactoring, syntax highlighting, context sensitive menus and version control integration to services like SVN, Mercurial, Git and CVS. There is support for reading PHPDoc documentation for custom class information, a project navigator, built-in file explorer and a database explorer. It has support for web services to popular websites and serves such as Facebook, Google and Amazon and can generate code to integrate to functions on these popular web services.
Through the project setting you can easily compile and package your applications without having to write complicated scripts as Netbeans comes with a bunch of wizards to aid in that task. There is also extensive documentation and training resources available with Netbeans and if that is still not enough there is support for extending its functionality using third party plugins.
Extensibility (3 out of 5)
Netbeans can easily be extended via the use of third party pluggins built by the Netbeans community. There is virtually no limit to what Netbeans can be made to do as it is designed to be modular. This power of extensibility is evident in the growth Netbeans has experienced from being just a Java IDE to now supporting several languages and platforms which include, JavaFX, PHP Zend framework, and Ruby on Rails, mobile platforms, server and Desktop applications.
Performance (3 out of 5)
When it comes to the stability and performance of Netbeans, you then realize that you are dealing with a mature product that does not crush very often. Netbeans takes up quite a sizable amount of memory as is the custom with several Java based applications. The other thing is that this is by no means a bad thing as the capabilities of Netbeans allows you to run this single IDE and get most of you development needs taken care of in a single application. Netbeans is capable of handling little applications such as widgets or simple web pages to extremely large Enterprise applications with ease.
Ease of Use (3 out of 5)
Features that makes N easy to use include a visual GUI designers for Swing and for JavaFX. These aid in rapid development and design of applications. The entire IDE is built on dockable windows and panels. This allows you to show or hide any portion of the IDE as you see fit. If you program using more than one monitor, you can undock some of these windows and move them over to other monitors to make the most of your development space. Other internal features that make Netbeans easy to use are the programming helpers such as syntax highlighting, code completion and context menus. There is also smart integration with development kits and reading of formatted documentation.
Verdict (4 out of 5)
Netbeans is a mature and versatile IDE, a must have for any serious developer with high productivity in mind. The Netbeans IDE is free to download from netbeans.org. It is easy to use, easy to install and works well with any users preferences as it is highly customizable. One draw back is the high consumption of RAM so my best advice is make sure you have a modern computer with at least 2GB RAM installed. This will allow you to comfortably run other programs simultaneously.