It used to be that Microsoft could rest secure in the fact that Visual Studio lead all language development. True Cobol continues to have the innovations and strength of MicroFocus while Java has Borland and C/C++ has the cross platform polish of Trolltech. But VS-Visual Studio lead in language supported, Visual drag and drop development, and third party support tools But no more.
Not one but two Open Source and primarily Java IDEs, Eclipse and NetBeans, have now garnered developers attentions. Both of these IDEs now have all the text editing, code-completions, local and remote debugging – and yes, even visual drag and dropdesign spaces that VS dvelopers are used to.
But now the Java IDEs are taking on Visual Studio in its own territory: multiple language support, growing third party libraries and plugins, new design and IT project management surfaces for UML, project management, version control, database Explorers, mobile and embedded development, etc, etc.
But Eclipse and NetBeans have three virtues which Visual Studio cannot match. First, they are both free as are many of their plugins and extensions. Second, they are cross platform not only running on a wide range of OS+hardware but also producing code that in turn runs on an even wider set of CPUs and devices than VS can hope to touch. Third they are completely Open Source with carefully designed open APIs for adding new extensions, features and plugins.
Oh, Eclipse and NetBeans have a fourth stellar virtue. Neither IBM nor Sun, the originators of Eclipse and NetBeans respectively, are in the business of arbitrarily dictating (as market demands warrant, for sure)whose in the VS distribution and whose out. In sum, neither is in the practice of periodically cutting off the oxygen to their own third party ISVs.
So if you are a developer it simply pays (read costs a lot less)to use either NetBeans or Eclipse. But also if you want to know where all the action is in new development, check out and keep up to date with what is happening at Eclipse and NetBeans.