Web Developer Workflow

draft 0.1

This document describes possible features in NetBeans, which can improve the workflow of a web developer. This feature was originally being evaluated for development in NetBeans 6.9 but it was decided that the resources should be spent elsewhere.

What is exactly the web developer workflow? Basically there can be all the activities, which a developer needs to go through to create a web application. This is very wide area. It covers end to end scenario, but not only this. From an IDE point of view it's mainly editing, debugging, testing and deploying a web application and also VCS support.

On NetBeans PHP blog there were published entries(http://blogs.sun.com/netbeansphp/entry/planing_features_for_netbeans_next , http://blogs.sun.com/netbeansphp/entry/planning_features_for_netbeans_next and http://blogs.sun.com/netbeansphp/entry/planning_features_for_netbeans_next1), where we asked our users, what can help them in the work flow. There are many comments and in the bulk of the comments people mainly complain about luck of the editor stuff that could improve their productivity. Only a few people wrote something about features like external browser integration or JavaScript and CSS compressor.

The feedback can be summarized like this:

  1. Improve web editors: This is the most wanted discussed area. Mainly integration HTML and CSS with "web lenguages" (jsp, php, rhtml ...). This includes also refactoring of CSS and renaming html files. Many improvements were mention about CSS code completion like suggest already used colors in the editor, color chooser in code competion, displaying CSS classes and ids in html etc. Improving editor support of the languages like xhtml, php, rhtml, jsp.
  2. Improve general editor:. Web developers needs a little different behavior of editor than Java developers. There are things that were mentioned more than others:
    1. Word wrapping
    2. The web applications contains many files with the same name in different folders. Like index.html. When there are open in the editor more files with the same name, it's hard to navigate between them and recognized, which file is currently edited.
    3. The web applications contains files in more encodings. There should be a way how to say NetBeans in which encoding should be the file opened.
  3. General framework support: There is many frameworks that are used in web applications (Java and PHP). It's not possible to satisfied all people and NetBeans team can not make support for all required frameworks. It would be better to create a platform for creating support of a framework with minimal effort. The target should be that users are able to create a basic support for framework almost without Java coding. It should be based on a configuration files.
  4. Git support: The issue about git support (https://netbeans.org/bugzilla/show_bug.cgi?id=131531) is one of the most wanted issues. It has more than 120 votes. Also if you look at the comments at php blog, many users mentioned it.
  5. Improve debugger and introduce PHP profiler: These are PHP specific things. The PHP debugger based on XDebug doesn't work reliably. There has to be done some fixes on NetBeans side and some fixes on XDebug side. Also there is possible to integration with XHProf, which is a hierarchical profiler for PHP.

The list of features below contains new features that can help as well.

Priority Task Description Note
P3 Navigate from a stacktrace in a browser into NetBeans editor If an web application crash, then a stacktrace is usually displayed in browser. The functionality will convert the lines in stacktrace in a link, which will open the appropriate source in NetBeans.
P3 Open source in NetBeans from a browser The functionality allow to open source in NetBeans for current displayed page in the browser. In some cases, where is not clear which source corresponds to the displayed page, has the functionality provide UI for mapping between URLs and sources.
P4 Reload on save This functionality will allow to refresh page in the browser, when the source is saved in NetBeans. It will allow disable this for choosed sources.
P4 Integrate YSlow into NetBeans A few rules, which are used in YSlow, can be integrated to NetBeans as editor hints or an action
P3 Save changes in Firefox into NetBeans With FireBug and Web Developer plugin for Firefox you can edit and make changes in displayed page where use sees the result immediately. These changes is not possible to save them in Firefox and this functionality will provide a way how to save these changes into NetBeans sources. In case that the changes are done in a CSS files it can work. If the changes will be in the HTML source, it will be much harder to provide it.
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