Getting started with Java
On this and the following pages, we'll look at how to get started with
Java from scratch. Nowadays, part of learning to program involves learning the
language itself, and a part of learning to program effectively also
involves learning to use the programming tools, notably what is
sometimes called the IDE (Integrated Development Environment). The following
tutorial is thus split into:
What do you need to learn/program in Java?
To program in Java using the standard programming tools that
we'll look at here, it's much easier if you have a fairly "mainstream"
computer: typically running Linux, Windows, Mac OS or Solaris.
can be run easily on many more platforms than this, but
in practice it's easier if you develop on one of the common
platforms as there are more tools available.)
Other than a computer with a supported operating system and
processor architecture, you will need to download the following:
- a Java Development Kit (JDK): this contains the
Java compiler, libraries, source code to the libraries, plus some other tools;
- an Integrated Development Environment (IDE): this isn't
strictly necessary, but provides a nice user interface for editing, compiling
and managing your Java projects.
Although the IDE isn't strictly necessary (you can compile and run Java from
the command line), most people will find working with Java much easier if they use one.
In the rest of this tutorial, we'll assume you're using an IDE, and part of the
tutorial will be to explain the basics of using the IDE.
Java Development Kit (JDK)
Windows, Linux, Solaris
For Windows, Linux and Solaris, the JDK is downloaded from the
Java web site. At the time of
writing, the JDK can be found as follows:
- Select the Top Downloads tab;
- Select Java SE Development Kit.
You'll have to select your particular platform and agree to
the licence agreement. You may also wish to consider the option of
Java SE Development Kit with NetBeans if it is available
for your platform (see below). This gives you a JDK and an IDE all
in one bundle.
On Mac OS X, the JDK is actually provided as part
of Mac OS and there is no install required. However, it is recommended
that you use the Mac OS system upate tool to update to the latest version
(if a later version is available than the one you have).
Integrated Development Environment (IDE)
As mentioned on previous pages, the IDE provides you with a text
editor specially designed for editing program code, plus a windowed
environment to help you manage your projects, search through your
code, remind you of parameters to methods etc. The NetBeans and
Eclipse IDEs that we mention below are widely used and freely downloadable.
Another option is JBuilder, a commercial IDE whose entry-level
version is free of chrage.
A generally easy option is NetBeans, developed by Sun.
If you are using Windows, Linux or Solaris, then
NetBeans is available as an all-in-one package to install the JDK with NetBeans.
To download NetBeans
with the JDK, follow the instructions above, but select the option
Java SE Development Kit with NetBeans.
On Mac OS, where the JDK is provided
pre-installed, you need to download NetBeans from the
NetBeans web site.
Another good opction is the open source project
To use eclipse, first download and install the JDK for your platform
(on Mac OS, just use the system update tool to make sure you have the
latest version). Eclipse is then a separate standard install.
Which Java IDE should I use?
The truth is that for normal programming, there isn't a huge amount
to choose between the main IDEs. Some programmers prefer specific IDEs because
of specific options that they provide, or because of particular tasks that
their favourite IDE allows them to do easily. If your friends/colleagues/workplace
use a particular IDE (and it's free), then you may as well use that same IDE. Otherwise,
I would suggest starting with NetBeans (I believe its default setup is ever so
slightly easier for the beginner), and then down the line when you
have a feel for the language, try one of the other options such as Eclipse and
see if you prefer it. For most users, there is probably no benefit in
paying for a commercial IDE unless you are absolutely convinced that you
are paying for a feature that you need and that isn't available in one of the
Some of the IDE-related examples and illustrations in this tutorial
are based on NetBeans. But many of the principles are transferrable to other
IDEs: they generally operate similarly.
Getting started with the IDE
On the next page, we'll look at the first steps with NetBeans:
getting started with your first Java project.