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BlueJ and Greenfoot: The best IDEs to learn Java

You say you want to learn Java. It can be a daunting language. It might even seem impenetrable if you’re a new programmer. But, you take a deep breath and resolve to give it a go. Ok, first things first: You need one of those integrated development environments (IDEs) you’ve read about. A single application in which you can edit, build, run, debug, and deploy your soon-to-be-written Java application.

Several popular, free Java IDEs are available: Eclipse, NetBeans, and the community edition of IntelliJ, for example. You choose one, download and install it, and in a very short time you realize that you now have two things to learn: Java and the IDE. Your chosen development tool is as impenetrable as the language it’s supposed to help you with.

Enter BlueJ and Greenfoot, two IDEs very specifically designed for beginners. They are the product of a team based at King’s College in London (though team members have, at times, been affiliated with universities in Australia and Denmark). The creators of BlueJ and Greenfoot selected the feature set and interface design to not overwhelm beginners.

In fact, as Neil Brown, the lead developer explains, BlueJ’s and Greenfoot’s features are “…revealed as users come to them.” You are not thrown into the deep end of the pool. Consequently, both provide an easy introduction not only to the Java language, but to the tools and techniques needed to build applications in that language.

Learn Java with BlueJ

BlueJ first appeared in 1999, named simply Blue. At that time, it was both a development environment and a language. When Java appeared, the tool was rebuilt using Java as the language and the name was changed to BlueJ.

Editions of BlueJ exist for Linux, MacOS, and Windows. BlueJ also comes in a generic form: packaged as a JAR file so that BlueJ can be installed on any system that supports Java. The current version of BlueJ (4.2.2 at the time of this writing) requires JDK 11 or later, and as such must be run on a 64-bit operating system. Earlier, 32-bit versions exist, but they are no longer being developed.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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