Rice News: The doctor is out!

The doctor is out!
Rice group celebrates million-download milestone for DrJava

Special to Rice News

DrJava isn’t the barista behind the counter at Starbucks. But the doc still serves a pretty potent brew — and more than a million customers can’t be wrong.

DrJava Logo

DrJava is a lightweight, integrated development environment for writing programs in Java, the popular, cross-platform programming language developed in the ’90s by Sun Microsystems. Using Java is the simplest way to write programs that run on all major computer platforms, like Windows, Linux and Mac OS. As a result, Java is now the most commonly used programming language, as measured by the Programming Language Popularity index LangPop.com. For several years, universities and high schools have also been using Java in many of their computer science classes.

Our team at Rice University started building DrJava in 2001, and it has now been downloaded more than a million times.

Mathias Ricken is a Ph.D. candidate in computer science at Rice. (Photo by JEFF FITLOW)

Mathias Ricken is a Ph.D. candidate in computer science at Rice. (Photo by JEFF FITLOW)

The JavaPLT group at Rice continues to develop DrJava as a SourceForge open-source project, primarily to give students an intuitive interface as they learn programming skills. DrJava users can easily evaluate Java code in an “interactions pane” that shows precisely how their creation is working. The environment also includes powerful features for advanced developers.

The development of DrJava began in 2001, led by Robert Cartwright, a Rice professor of computer science. From its initial release the following spring, DrJava source code emphasized the use of Java generics, a method for reducing duplication in code by factoring out certain repeating patterns. Early in the evolution of DrJava, support for Java generics was added to the interactions pane. After the addition of a project facility in 2004 and improved support for large projects beginning in 2006, DrJava experienced a sharp increase in popularity.

DrJava supports several Java compilers, including Oracle/Sun’s JDK, OpenJDK and the Eclipse Java Compiler, as well as such research compilers as NextGen and Java Mint. In 2005, DrJava introduced support for a hierarchy of Java language levels, a pedagogic framework that helps beginners learn Java by partitioning the language into levels of increasing complexity.

More than 60 Rice students have contributed to DrJava over the years through Dr. Cartwright’s class on production programming or as part of independent study projects. DrJava is now being used at institutions across the globe, including Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University, Georgia Tech, the University of California-San Diego, the University of Washington, Université de Nice Sophia-Antipolis and National University Singapore, as well as Rice.

DrJava has also been used as a teaching tool in books published by Pearson Education and Wiley Higher Education.

DrJava is freely distributed under the BSD License. Download it at http://drjava.org/.

—Mathias Ricken is a Ph.D. candidate in computer science at Rice.

(Reposted from Rice News.)


About Mathias

Software development engineer. Principal developer of DrJava. Recent Ph.D. graduate from the Department of Computer Science at Rice University.
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