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The company has just landed its most important account to date: a big client has signed a contract for the development of a Java program. It's an extensive application, requiring database connectivity and the use of ActiveX controls. You've been chosen to head up the project, which will require a team of developers. It's now time to choose an IDE that combines ease of use, powerful development tools and a team-oriented interface. With the increasing number of IDEs on the market, it could be difficult to choose one that fits this scenario.

I've just used PARTS for Java from ObjectShare. I found it to be smooth, powerful and full of necessary features.

System Requirements

  • Intel 486 or higher processor
  • CD ROM drive
  • 260 MB free disk space (FAT 16)
  • 90 MB free disk space (FAT 32)
  • 24 MB RAM (32 MB recommended)
  • SVGA graphics card
  • Win95, NT 4.0 or higher
  • TCP/IP installed and configured
  • JDK 1.1-capable browser
Any earlier version of PARTS for Java must be completely removed before the current version can be installed. The CD-ROM has the AUTORUN feature and the Installation Wizard has a checklist of a few optional features. These can be installed later if you choose not to include them during the initial setup. The sections that must be installed are:
  • Parts Pro Program and Documentation Files
  • Swing Version 1.01
  • JDK Version 1.1.5 (if not already installed)

I installed on a Cyrix 133 with 32 MB of RAM. Installation went smoothly and took only a couple of minutes. The application ran very well and didn't hang up the machine, as some IDEs occasionally do.

PARTS for Java opens with a Project Manager window, as seen in Figure 1, that acts as the "command center" for the IDE. It's the main window where all the elements of a project are organized. Along the top is a toolbar to launch all PARTS for Java tools.

Figure 1
Figure 1:

I thought the Project Manager was nicely laid out, avoiding the confusing multiple-window fiascoes given by some IDEs. The toolbar enables the user to quickly and easily:

  • Launch any applet or application.
  • Compile whole projects or selected sections.
  • Manage versions of projects and files.
  • View the nested parts hierarchy in a JEDT file.
  • Browse through any .jar or .zip file.
  • Edit default path settings and/or descriptive comments for any project.
  • Launch the other tools and wizards.
  • Generate documentation by running JDK's javadoc program.
  • Print information pertaining to the project.
The window is divided into two panes. The left pane shows the hierarchical view of a project and subprojects. In the right pane is a report view of the project files currently selected in the left pane. When a project is opened or created, it's added to the left pane. New projects can be created as independent projects or subprojects of existing ones. Projects can be placed under version control. Different versions of a project are stored in a repository and can be retrieved or deleted at any time. A project may be "unversioned" as well.

It's also possible to change the configuration of PARTS for Java from the Project Manager window by selecting Tools-Settings Editor; a two-tab dialog box is displayed. On the System page it's possible to:

  • Change the User Name settings.
  • Change the Java Compiler, the Java Interpreter or the Applet Viewer.
  • Alter the Java invoker port number. This helps avoid conflicts with other tools.
  • Invoke the Show DOS Prompt During Launch option, which displays DOS windows containing status information about an application or tool.
  • Check the Conserve Memory option; useful in systems with less than 32 MB of RAM, this option will increase the frequency of "garbage collection" operations.
When the Visual Designer page tab is clicked, the following options may be selected:
  • Show Hints, Show Labels with Links, Show Links with Selection and Orthogonal Link Creation.
  • Change the Grid settings so component parts may be easily aligned.
  • Change Link Colors.
  • Change Background Colors.
  • Change Mouse Settings.

After installation and configuration, PARTS for Java is ready to create new applications. Selecting File-New Project will launch a dialog box. Filling in the appropriate information and clicking OK will add the new project to the Project Manager window.

The Visual Designer: A Complete and Powerful Tool That Has Drop-and-Drag Ease
Selection of a file in the Project Manager window enables you to initiate the Visual Designer. This is an object-oriented development tool that allows quick construction of applications by dropping and dragging prefabricated parts. These parts are displayed in a catalog window and include:

  • A catalog of AWT parts
  • A Swing catalog
  • An ActiveX catalog
  • A JDBC catalog
By using the Visual Designer I constructed a user interface for an application in only a few minutes.

The Class Master: When You Need More Complex Operations
The Visual Designer was excellent for rapid-fire development of a basic Java application. Some clients are going to have special needs, however, which may entail highly specialized operations that won't be found in the Visual Designer menu. When such an occasion arises, PARTS for Java has just the solution: the Class Master (see Figure 2).

Figure 2
Figure 2:

The Class Master opens as a four-pane window:

  • The Packages pane in the top left is a tree view that shows the hierarchy of packages on the selected class path.
  • The Classes pane in the top center is a tree view of the classes or an alphabetical list of .java source files.
  • The Methods pane in the top right shows methods and variables when a compiled class file is selected in the Classes pane.
  • At the bottom is the Source pane, which features a source code editor that allows the examination, editing and compilation of Java source files.
In addition to the Class Master there's a wide selection of other powerful tools. Among them are:
  • A CORBA Wizard
  • An RMI Wizard
  • A Breakpoint tool
  • A Debugging tool
As you can see, in addition to its ease of use, PARTS for Java is a powerful and professional development tool. If you're looking for the perfect tool for that big project, PARTS for Java is well worth the price.

About the Author
Edward Zebrowski is a technical writer based in the Orlando, Florida, area. Ed runs his own Web development company, ZebraWeb, and can be reached on the net at zebra@rock-n-roll.com


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