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At what point are you comfortable with a new programming language? Like all modern languages, Java needs to be approached in three distinct areas. The environment in which it runs, the lexical syntax and common practices associated with using it, and the packaged object model it comes with. The task of learning all of these at once can be daunting, particularly with Java since by its very nature the overhead of learning its environment is fairly high. The ideas of classpath, package, virtual machine, and JAR file as well as the contextual issues of applet, servlet, application, or plug-in need to be understood before you can even begin to code successfully. It helps to take each of these three main areas then, and try to understand first their boundaries, and then their distinct parts.
Over the course of the last year and half, I've gone back to Java for a few small project several times. Each time I get a little more comfortable with my understanding. Having a great IDE like Eclipse 3.x helps a great deal of course, as does working with an object model I already know -- the IBM Lotus Domino object model. Because I know what to expect from those objects, I could focus more on getting the feel of the syntax of the language itself, as well as the more esoteric sense of how the language "wants" to be used.
To my surprise, the last two week I've spent working on a Java based project in Eclipse have been some of the best in my career in terms of steady, incremental progress. I've been able to try things, refine them, then re-implement them in a structured and extensible way all with a great deal of comfort and as a result I am producing what is to me, the best code of my career. Does credit for this go to Java, to Eclipse, or to a steady gain over time on the tools of our trade that has produced practices and then the tools to implement those practices which are so far ahead of where we started?
Lets face it, I hated Java when it came down the line. I still think J2EE is a platform way too complex and granular for day to day applications. Workstation based Java applications are also still very difficult to manage and support. At least its good to see that development tools have come so far, and the language (dumb as I think some aspects of it are) has finally matured to the point of being very useful.
If you haven't tried writing Java code in Eclipse, but have a solid understanding of Object Oriented programming -- I think you're really missing out.
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