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NetBeans update ships with Sun aboard

Sun Microsystems to support users of NetBeans IDE 5, the open-source tool which sports a new GUI-building program.

The NetBeans open-source project on Wednesday released a major update to the NetBeans Java development tool, and its main backer, Sun Microsystems, announced a support program.

The NetBeans IDE (integrated development environment) 5.0 adds tooling, called Matisse, for building an application's front-end interface. The update also has been enhanced to simplify the process of building add-on products, or "plug-ins," which extend the tool's features.

In addition, NetBeans IDE 5.0 works better with Java application servers from JBoss and BEA Systems, according to the product's release notes. The NetBeans creators have also built in collaboration features to make it easier for developers to chat and share files.

In tandem with the release, Sun said that it has set up a free beta program to provide technical support to developers.

The NetBeans 5 update is significant for Sun, which is seeking to rally the Java developer community around Sun products. The company said that the number of active NetBeans users has tripled in the past 18 months.

Sun has based its line of development tools, such as the recently released Java Studio Creator 2, on the NetBeans software.

The server and software company had in 2003 considered joining the IBM-founded open-source Eclipse Foundation, which over the past two years has seen a jump in industry support and developer interest. Instead, Sun decided to focus its development tools strategy on NetBeans and try to recruit other software companies to support NetBeans.

In announcing a refreshed partnership with Oracle, Sun said that Oracle has endorsed NetBeans. However, Oracle has said only that it is monitoring NetBeans and focusing its development products on Jbuilder and Eclipse.