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Mobile Java Gets a Much-needed Boost from Sun's New Mobility Toolkit

J2ME developers are accustomed to neglect, but the new NetBeans Mobility Pack 4.1 is among the best updates to the wireless development toolbox yet this decade.

ere you a little surprised recently that Sun's J2ME Wireless Toolkit picked up several awards as product of the year in the mobile development tools area? I was. Not that the Wireless Toolkit is a poor tool. But after several years of writing applications in our favorite text editors and then using the Wireless Toolkit to compile, test, debug, etc. our J2ME applications, many J2ME developers were hoping that our J2ME IDEs would catch up to those in the J2EE arena.

Admittedly, there have been improvements. Products and IDEs such as Borland's Jbuilder/Mobile Studio, IBM's WebSphere Studio Device Developer, and EclipseME, to name a few, continually provide J2ME developers with more application development power than they have had in years past. Even the Wireless Toolkit has been improved greatly over the years. But here we are in 2005, and most of us are using the same tools used in 2001—a text editor and the J2ME Wireless Toolkit.

What more could we want? Well, to name a few things, I want an IDE that provides:

  • A visual, drag and drop, development tool that allows me to put together J2ME application user interfaces similar to the way I build Swing or Web applications.
  • An interface to quickly see, change, and experiment with application configuration, defragmentation, obfuscation, localization, and security settings.
  • The ability to develop, test, and integrate J2ME applications with server-side applications with which the J2ME applications communicate in a single IDE.
  • A means to deploy/upload the applications from the IDE via many different protocols/deployment mechanisms.
For those with a want list like mine, there is good news, or at least hope, on the horizon. Sun's recently released NetBeans IDE 4.1 and NetBeans Mobility Pack 4.1 is coming pretty close to realizing the dream of a having a full-fledged IDE that even J2EE developers would be proud of and might even use. This article examines the features found in the NetBeans 4.1 Mobility Pack and explores how they can help you produce better J2ME applications in reduced time.

Figure 1. NetBeans IDE 4.1: The NetBeans IDE 4.1 with Mobility Pack 4.1 offers a main window when it first comes up that helps you set up a new project or open an existing sample project to help guide development.

The NetBeans IDE version 4.1 and the NetBeans Mobility Pack 4.1 require separate downloads and installations. Both are available free, as open source tools from Sun. Install the NetBeans IDE first and then the Mobility Pack. NetBeans has been tested on Windows, Linux, Solaris (x86 and SPARC), and MacOS platforms, but is known to run on other platforms as well. However, J2ME MIDP development is limited to the following platforms:

  • Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional SP3
  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP2
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3.0, Fedora Core 1
  • Sun Java Desktop System 3.0
You will also need J2SE SDK v. 1.4.2_06 or later or J2SE 5.0_03 or later.

Installation of both products (the IDE and Mobility Pack) is straightforward for most platforms. For the Windows platform, a self-extracting installer is provided. Binary installers are provided for Linux and Solaris. If you have a need to develop server-side applications, you may also want to check out the NetBeans IDE and Sun Java System Application Server Bundle Installation. This will give you NetBeans IDE 4.1 and the App Server Edition 8 all in one shot.

NetBeans 4.1 does not require older versions of NetBeans to be removed. By default, on Windows platforms, the NetBeans IDE 4.1 automatically creates a new user directory when launched (<your HOMEPATH>/.netbeans/4.1) which allows past and the new versions to co-exist without issue. You can optionally import projects from Sun Java Studio Mobility as well as from the J2ME Wireless Toolkit (see this article for more information).

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