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The increasingly popular Eclipse open source tools framework has finished in last place, with Sun Microsystems' NetBeans, in a developers' vote on quality of features.

In a comment on the potential shakiness of new "community" projects and a tribute to the lingering power of centralised management, developers have given IBM's Rational Application Development suite top marks.

Coming second in Evans Data Corp's IDE Scorecard were Microsoft's Visual Studio and Borland Software's Delphi suite. Evans polled 1,200 developers worldwide, asking them to rate 11 integrated development environments (IDEs).

Also surveyed were Sun Microsystems' Java Studio, Oracle's JDeveloper, Borland's JBuilder, IBM's WebSphere Studio, Macromedia's Studio 8, and Sybase's PowerBuilder.

IBM scored highest on modeling and design tools, documentation, making and build function, and the quality of support. "Rational was a powerhouse of development tools when IBM bought the company and IBM has handled the acquisition beautifully, not letting quality of Rational products slip at all," Evans said.

Evans expects Eclipse and NetBeans to benefit from their open source nature in the long run. Eclipse has already taken a step to tackle quality through Callisto, an initiative to improve reliability and solve version compatibility problems between different Eclipse projects that have hampered individual developers and ISVs using Eclipse.

Callisto, delivered last week, saw 23 Eclipse projects jointly updated and released, with Eclipse planning to expand its number of projects by the time of the next update in June 2007.

Sun, meanwhile, is still at a rather early stage of donating code from its enterprise products to NetBeans in order to beef-up functionality. Sun in April put tools from its Java Studio Enterprise and SeeBeyond integration suite into NetBeans. These included Sun's two-way Unified Modeling Language (UML) modeler to architect and reverse engineer enterprise applications, XML infrastructure and visual editing tools, and service oriented architecture (SOA) orchestration tools from SeeBeyond.

"The community behind them will look at the weaknesses as opportunities and they will be addressed in innovative and most likely powerful ways," Evans said.

Aside from taking the shine off Eclipse and confirming NetBeans' lack of maturity, Evans' report will make unsettling reading for Borland as the highly rated Delphi is among a stable of products Borland is attempting to get shot of.

Rather than try to monetise the existing Dephi customer base, Borland has decided to chase enterprise dollars by focusing its application and project management tools on the nebulous concept of business and technology "optimisation".

More on the survey here.®

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