This interesting JavaWorld article compares Eclipse 3.3.1 and Netbeans 6.01 with a surprising result. The following summary, really amazed me:
Table 2. NetBeans 6.0 vs. Eclipse 3.3: Rated
|Ease of use/editing features
[the table was copied from the fourth page]
It really surprised me, that Netbeans's editor was higher rated than Eclipse's. I prefer the Netbeans editing experience, but my opinion isn't really objective :-). I just like Netbeans's editor more, without knowing the reason. The small built-in wizards like alt+insert make the coding experience more fluent - but this is really my subjective view. Most of the developers prefer Eclipse, because of the editing experience (they often miss in Netbeans e.g. the "Link With Editor" button). On the other hand, Eclipse was higher rated in the Enterprise support, what I really cannot see. Netbeans comes already with really good built-in Java EE 5 support. Applications servers like BEA WLS, JBoss, Glassfish in 6.1 WebSphere are supported as well out-of-the-box. Netbeans comes with SQL-Explorer, Visual JSF designer, HTML-Editor, XML-Support, profiling support for application servers. All this functionality is only partially available on the Eclipse Side - sometimes only with additional commercial plugins like MyEclipse. The Enterprise Support is one of the reasons, why I prefer Netbeans over Eclipse in my Java EE 5 projects.
Eclipse also do not have a visual UML support. The excerpt from the article below simply isn't true:
"...For example, when it comes to UML modeling, NetBeans has a built-in modeling tool that supports UML (including use case, class, collaboration, sequence, and activity diagrams). Code can be abstracted into a UML diagram, and UMLs converted to code. Eclipse, by comparison, offers the Enterprise Modeling Framework (EMF), which is a platform for building tools, and the graphical editor framework (GEF). If you install both of these packages, then configure them, you'll be ready to start modeling your enterprise architecture in UML. You'll have more features than you would in NetBeans, but you'll work harder to get them installed, configured, and running..."
The EMF is only a subset of MOF (Meta Object Facility), GEF is used to build Editors from metamodels. The author of the article meant perhaps GMF (Graphical Modelling Framework) - however no of this frameworks is able to generate UML-Diagrams from source code. This is Netbeans unique feature. However the availability of EMF and GMF and it's metamodelling capabilities is a huge advantage of Eclipse, especially if you would like to build code generators, ...but it wasn't mentioned in this article. Eclipse comes only with the UML metamodel - but I do not know any visual designer (did I miss something?).
I also do not see, that the amount of available plugins, indicates the quality of the IDE. You just need less plugins for Netbeans to complete your work. Actually I only use the UML-plugin - and this one only for the documentation of high level concepts.
I explained my view of Eclipse and Netbeans in the post "Thinking loud about Eclipse and Netbeans"