It has been twenty-six years since Java saw the light of the day, and it is still going strong. Sure, things have changed since Oracle Corp. took charge of Sun Microsystems. But, the hype around Java doesn’t seem to die anytime soon (much to the dismay of its opponents).

Over the years, the number of Java developers and users has grown considerably, and so has the ease of programming in Java.

In the initial days of Java, a text editor was a Java developer’s best friend. But today, one can come across scores of tools, free and paid, made to relieve the burdens of programmers that existed back in the day.

From powerful code editors, debuggers and profilers to performance assessment tools, version control tools and whatnot, the modern developer has everything at his expense to create robust, secure and powerful Java applications. And that too in a fraction of the time ancient Java developers took for the same.

Now, having so many tools to choose from is a blessing for today’s developers, but it is also a curse. It is not uncommon for a tool or technology to become obsolete and for ten new tools to arrive for its replacement in a few months.

In such scenarios, deciding which Java coding tool to learn and master can be difficult, especially for amateur developers.

To help mitigate this dilemma, we have accumulated and listed ten Java tools that every Java developer should add to their toolkits.

So march onwards, brave soldier (programmer), and see for yourself the tools you will need to get better at Java programming.

Java Tools: Some Insights

Before we proceed to the Java tools list, let us first make a quick stop and brief ourselves on what a Java tool is.

Technically, a java tool is any software tool built to create, maintain, debug, test, troubleshoot and monitor Java applications.

The primary, and in some cases the only, function of a Java tool, as you guessed, is to aid programmers in developing and shipping Java applications at scale.

These tools are complements to the Java language that supply features that it lacks out-of-the-box. For instance, SonarLint is an IDE extension that helps programmers write clean and safe code, a functionality that Java language does not possess by default.

A novelty at one point in time, Java tools have become essential components that all Java developers, regardless of experience, employ regularly.

11 Tools for Java Developers to Make the Most of Their Programming Skills

1. NetBeans IDE

Netbeans IDE, or simply Netbeans, is a Java IDE (integrated development environment), a software tool Java programmers use to develop mobile applications, desktop applications, web applications, etc. Think of it as a Java text editor but on steroids.

Starting as a student Java IDE project, Netbeans (earlier known as Xelfi) entered the commercial market in 1997. A few versions of Netbeans were produced and sold until Sun Microsystems, the patron of the Java language, acquired it in 1999.

Since then, Netbeans has undergone several overhauls and enhancements, becoming one of the most widely-used Java IDEs. It is an open-source IDE composed of modules — a collection of java classes that interact with the Netbeans APIs to add specific features to Java applications — and a GUI.

Netbeans is an extensive Java development tool, providing out-of-the-box support for all the latest versions of Java SE, JavaFX and Java EE. The support further extends to technologies such as Maven — a Java build automation tool and Git version control. It is also the official IDE for Java 8.

Netbeans is available for all major operating systems — Windows, Mac OS, Linux and Solaris. It also supports languages other than Java, including HTML5, PHP, and C++ (albeit via extensions).

If you are just starting with Java and need a beginner-friendly and capable IDE, go for NetBeans.

2. Eclipse IDE

Another uber-popular Java IDE, the Eclipse IDE sets itself apart from the competition with its extensive support for plug-ins.

This open-source integrated development environment comes with a PDE (plug-in development environment) to facilitate users to create and use a ton of plug-ins without much hassle.

The PDE comprises a set of tools to create, develop, test, build and deploy Eclipse plug-ins, plug-in fragments, application features, etc.

Another highlight of the Eclipse IDE is its Rich Client Platform (RCP). The RCP enables developers to build stand-alone, feature-rich client applications using a set of plug-ins and a complementary framework. Applications built using RCP run like native desktop applications.

Eclipse, like NetBeans, is prominently used for Java development. However, it also supports application development in several other programming languages like C, C++, C#, COBOL, D, JavaScript, Perl, PHP, Python, R, Ruby, etc., via plug-ins.

The proponents of Eclipse cite its PDE and ability to handle large projects with relative ease as some of its many plus points. But, Eclipse is not quite beginner-friendly, often described as unstable, complex and slow-performing.

Hence, if you plan to switch your current IDE to one more expansive, feature-rich and scalable, do check out Eclipse.

3. SonarQube

Now that we have our Java IDE priorities set right, it is time to move on to enhancing the quality of our Java code.

The internet is rife with tools that offer code quality assurance, but few come close to the effectiveness of SonarQube.

SonarQube is an open-source continuous code inspection platform used primarily for static code analysis. Developed by SonarSource, SonarQube can perform automated code analysis to detect bugs, code vulnerabilities, code smell, technical debts, etc.

It also integrates seamlessly with IDEs like Eclipse and IntelliJ as a plug-in (SonarLint) and build automation tools like Maven, Gradle, etc.

The reports generated by SonarQube emphasise code security, code complexities, test coverage, code style and more to help programmers write safe, clean and readable code.

An industry-accredited platform, SonarQube extends its support to a whopping 29 programming languages, Java being one of them.

4. Spring

Spring is a popular, extensive, open-source Java application framework that developers prominently use to build Java Enterprise and web applications.

A lightweight and flexible framework, Spring enables programmers to write secure, robust and scalable applications much faster.

Its strength primarily lies in its adherence to the aspect-oriented programming (AOP) and Dependency Injection (DI) programming paradigms.

Spring is a meta-framework composed of Spring Web Flow, Spring MVC, Spring ORM and more sub frameworks.

An advantage of using Spring over other application frameworks is its IoC (inversion of control) container.

IoC is a programming principle that entails objects defining their dependencies. The container then injects the defined dependencies into the respective objects, thus the name Dependency Injection.

The IoC container is responsible for configuring and managing the object lifecycle which includes creating objects, calling an object’s initialisation methods and wiring objects together.

Spring has been in existence since 2002 and sports a vast community of developers. These aspects make it a mature and well-maintained framework and a must-know for all Java developers.

5. JUnit

Unit testing is an integral part of software development that ensures that an application meets the required quality standards before release. It is a testing technique that involves running tests on code modules, called units, and verifying their integrity.

Owing to the importance of unit testing, it is pertinent to have a reliable unit testing tool at hand. And this is where JUnit comes into the picture.

JUnit is an open-source testing framework used for writing unit tests in Java. A significant component of TDD (test-driven development), JUnit is a part of xUnit, a family of unit testing frameworks.

JUnit is a widely-used unit testing framework among Java developers, almost becoming an industry standard. In fact, a 2017 paper states that about 97% of all projects on GitHub using Maven used the JUnit library at least once in their lifetime.

Source

The core strengths of JUnit lie in its fairly uncomplicated nature and ease of writing effective tests. It also provides annotations — metadata that defines the purpose of a test, thereby increasing code readability.

Test suites are another highlight of JUnit. These suites are fundamentally bundles of test cases (and even other test suites) that developers can run concurrently.

One more reason why developers prefer JUnit is its affinity for automation testing. JUnit can perform automated test execution, gather the results and offer prompt feedback.

All in all, JUnit is a solid testing tool, one that all Java developers should add to their inventories.

6. Android Studio

There are several good IDEs like NetBeans, Eclipse, IntelliJ IDEA, etc., that you can use to build applications for the Android operating system. But, if you really want to step up your android app development game, Android Studio is your best bet.

Based on the IntelliJ IDEA IDE by JetBrains, Android Studio is the official Android Development IDE. It is a faster, more efficient and stable alternative to Eclipse, the previous popular choice for developing Android applications.

Android Studio is a comprehensive software tool that allows you to create applications for virtually every Android device. It also features a full-fledged Android simulator to test applications for various configurations of Android devices.

Android Studio has a ton of features like code templates, sample apps, an intelligent code editor, a wide array of testing tools and frameworks, and easy integration for Flutter, Git version control, etc., to facilitate fast and efficient programming.

It also comes with an “apply changes” feature that allows developers to push changes to the application code without restarting a running app.

Android Studio, backed by Google and JetBrains, is packed with gimmicks and features to make Android app development faster and more seamless. And there is no reason why you should not leverage them to enhance your mobile app development efforts.

7. Apache Maven

Developed and maintained by the Apache Software Foundation, Maven is an open-source “project management tool and comprehension tool”, as proclaimed on Maven’s official website. In short, it is a build automation tool that provides developers with a full-fledged build life-cycle framework for all of their projects.

Programmers use Maven to build, publish and deploy projects written in Java, C#, Ruby, Scala, etc.

Maven centres its operations around the POM (Project Object Model). It is essentially a .xml file that contains information on the project, the dependencies, directories, plug-ins and all the external components required by the project.

The POM model simplifies a significant chunk of project management related complexities, needing developers to specify only the exceptions for a project.

Maven also has a uniform build system comprising a standard directory and modus operandi. Once familiar with the build process of one project, a user can navigate through other projects with relative ease.

Furthermore, the Apache Maven project website provides information on a host of nuanced features and development best practices for users to get used to the tool much faster.

8. Gradle

Gradle is a general-purpose, open-source, multi-language build automation tool that promises faster performance and better scalability than its counterparts.

Relatively new to the build automation landscape, Gradle directly targets Maven and Apache Ant, even using the former for performance comparisons. The stats on the website show that Gradle is at least two times faster than Maven at any given point in time.

Gradle requires a JVM to run, making it favourable for Java developers to use standard Java APIs, like custom tasks and plug-ins, in their build logic. Its dependence on JVM also allows Gradle to run on most platforms as one only needs to install the JDK on their machine(s).

Gradle is more suited for multi-project builds with a possibility of scaling. It is a competent tool that can be integrated into several IDEs — NetBeans, Eclipse, IntelliJ IDEA, Android Studio, etc.

Also, Gradle is the official build automation toolkit for Android Studio, instated by Google in 2013.

Gradle is slightly less user-friendly and tough to get used to compared to Maven. It also suffers from IDE integration problems. But, its website claims that the dev team is constantly working to improve its various aspects and make it more favourable for developers.

9. Jenkins

Jenkins is an open-source server-based DevOps automation tool that runs inside a servlet container like Apache Tomcat.

Written in the Java language, Jenkins helps streamline software development by automating parts of the development process concerning the building, testing and deployment of software products.

Jenkins is a popular choice when it comes to implementing the CI/CD (continuous integration and continuous deployment) software development paradigm. It allows developers to continuously build and test their software projects and easily integrate changes into the source code.

One of the primary advantages of using Jenkins is its support for 1000+ plug-ins. These plug-ins enable users to employ Jenkins to automate software development across multiple platforms.

Also, due to its free and open-source nature, Jenkins has a strong dev community, making it another reason for you to hop on to the Jenkins bandwagon.

10. Java VisualVM

Java VisualVM lets you know in detail what is going on with your Java applications when running on a JVM. It is a Java profiler — a performance tool that allows users to view detailed information about Java applications running on a JVM using a visual interface.

VisualVM works equally well for local and remote applications, displaying the data of multiple Java applications in an organised manner. And it does so by showing users the JVM data captured by the JDK (Java Development Kit).

Using VisualVM, developers can detect memory leaks, surveil the garbage collector, perform CPU profiling, etc.

Developers can further use the data obtained from the tool to troubleshoot Java applications and enhance their performance.

Java VisualVM comes bundled with the JDK as an optional tool. Thus, you don’t need to go the extra mile and install it separately on your system.

11. Online Java Compiler

Apart from the above-mentioned tools, if you need a quick fix for compiling your Java codes, you can also use Interviewbit online java compiler offered by Interview Bit. This compiler is available for free for all developers. If you are a beginner, who wants to test, debug or run Java codes without the hassle of installations, you can start using this platform instantly.

All you need to do is sign in and its ready to use. The compiler is quite powerful and you can save, fork or even share your snippets in just a click of a button.

Conclusion

Here you go, ten crucial Java tools that will help you write Java code better and faster.

This list is not exhaustive, and there are high chances that even now while writing this blog post, the development of new, superior tools is in progress.

And why not? The scope and applicability of Java are increasing with each passing day. And new tools that can decrease the complexity of Java programming while enhancing the overall performance of Java applications are always welcome.

So refer to this list, master the Java tools mentioned here, and be on the lookout to leverage any upcoming ones. Cheers!

11 Essential Tools for Java Developers was originally published in InfoSec Write-ups on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.