I will evaluate the NetBeans IDE using Nielsen’s ten Usability Heuristics.
1. Visibility of system status
NetBeans users are always informed to what’s happening. Click on “Run” and it will tell you “Building project name”… then it will tell you “Build successful” or some other message.
2. Match between system and the real world
Menu items and screen tips use natural language and tell the user in plain English what the system suggests.
3. User control and freedom
NetBeans has unlimited undo and redo functions with easy to use buttons on the toolbar. If users enter something by mistake, the can easily go back. This allows users to be in control.
4. Consistency and standards
NetBeans excels in this. Whether building a Java application, a Web application or a mobile application, the platform is consistent, and uses standard menus, controls and conventions.
5. Error prevention
That is one of NetBeans strong points. NetBeans anticipates an error before it happens and suggests to the user alternative solutions through “tool tips” or by pressing Alt+Enter for more suggestions. It can even correct the code for you! (See video)
6. Recognition rather than recall
NetBeans interface dialogues are explicit and appear through various means, such as descriptive windows, tool tips, and even an auto-complete feature, which puts less strain on memory and allows a user to focus on actual programming rather than trying to remember bits and pieces.
NetBeans has another cool feature that lists all members of a class in a little window, so a programmer can instantly have all members available at a glance and allows for easy navigation through the code. (See my video)
7. Flexibility and efficiency of use
NetBeans is easy to use by beginners, but also rich in features and advanced tools for use by more experienced programmer. This makes it very flexible and efficient.
8. Aesthetic and minimalist design
NetBeans interface is, to me at least, a simple but powerful interface. It is very context sensitive. It gives each user the amount of information needed at the time.
9. Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors
User errors are easy to recognize through various mediums. There are the various code color conventions, which change color if a user mistypes a word. Visual hints and “tool tips” explain the error to the user, and even suggest the correct solution.
10. Help and documentation
Even though I was able to use NetBeans with no training, plenty of tutorials and documentation are available within the application and online.
Compared to traditional text editors, NetBeans IDE gives the programmer more control and more features. By having many development tools in one application, NetBeans offers the programmer the convenience and power to complete projects quickly and effectively.
See also: The NetBeans IDE: Pros and Cons