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What’s New in NetBeans 7.3: HTML5!

By Craig Buckler

Owing to my rapidly increasing age I’ve used many, many IDEs and text editors over the years. Visual Studio, Aptana, Eclipse, HomeSite, CoffeeCup, Bluefish, Komodo, Vim, Crimson, jEdit, TextPad, PSPad, ConTEXT, PHPEdit, ScITE — I’ve probably forgotten more than I remember. Most annoy me. They often miss features I want or add bloat I don’t need. My current editor of choice is Notepad++: it’s simple, lightweight and very configurable.

Historically, HTML editors have been fairly awful. Many IDEs forced you to create dumb projects, insisted on particular doctypes, or favored deprecated tags. JavaScript editing could be worse: the editor programmers didn’t understand the language so even basic features such as function lists could fail.

Fortunately, the situation has improved and NetBeans 7.3 has been released with full support for HTML5, CSS and JavaScript. The cross-platform IDE now includes an HTML project wizard which allows you to select popular boilerplate templates and JavaScript frameworks:

NetBeans HTML5 project

There’s a lightweight internal server, embedded WebKit browser, Chrome integration and responsive web design facilities:

NetBeans Chrome integration

CSS styles can be edited directly or changed within the Inspector-like rule editor:

NetBeans CSS editing

The JavaScript editor has been rewritten to include better code completion, jQuery support and pattern recognition:

NetBeans JavaScript editing

There’s also a new debugger which can analyze code running in the internal browser or Chrome. You can apply breakpoints on lines, when a DOM element changes, when events are raised and when Ajax requests are called. Very useful:

NetBeans JavaScript debugger

Finally, there’s a great browser log which displays exceptions, errors and warnings as they occur:

NetBeans JavaScript log

Don’t forget that NetBeans also provides first-class development facilities for PHP, Java and C/C++. If you’re into that sort of thing.

It’s great to see client side browser technologies finally receiving the tools they deserve. I’m going to give NetBeans another look … will you?

NetBeans is available for free from

Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.

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