Sun Microsystems has released NetBeans 5.5, the latest version of the company\u2019s open-source Java integrated development environment (IDE), aiming to beef up the software\u2019s productivity tools and improve its look and feel.NetBeans 5.5 is generally available for download at Sun\u2019s website.Sun estimates that there have been more than 11 million downloads of NetBeans since its debut as open-source technology in June 2000. NetBeans competes against the open-source Eclipse Foundation\u2019s Eclipse IDE in providing developers with the tools to build cross-platform desktop, enterprise, Web and mobile applications.New features in NetBeans 5.5 include Java Persistence application program interface and Java API for XML Web Services (JAX-WS) 2.0 productivity tools, and support for the open-source version-control system Subversion. Also in the new release of NetBeans are enhancements to its\u00a0GUI builder, work previously carried out under the code name of Project Matisse.Sun also released five value-added packs for NetBeans 5.5, including a technology preview of NetBeans Visual Web Pack for developing applications using JavaServer Faces (JSF) as well as a beta version of NetBeans C\/C++ Pack, which enables C or C++ developers to use NetBeans alongside their own compiler and tools. The NetBeans Enterprise Pack brings together tools for creating and testing service-oriented architecture applications.The vendor additionally announced the expansion of its NetBeans strategic partner program to feature increased technical support and more opportunities for members to co-market their software with Sun. Formally established in November of last year, the program is aimed at companies that build NetBeans add-ons and evangelize the IDE to their developers. Members include CollabNet, the JBoss division of Red Hat and Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications.NetBeans 5.5 runs on operating systems including Microsoft\u2019s Windows, Linux, Apple Computer\u2019s Mac OS X and Sun\u2019s own flavor of Unix, Solaris. The software supports Sun\u2019s Java Platform Enterprise Edition 5 as well as other versions of Java\u2014Java Platform Standard Edition and Java Platform Micro Edition.Sun is midway through a plan to make all its software freely available, including its core Java technology. Last week, Jonathan Schwartz, Sun\u2019s chief executive officer and president, committed to open-source Java within the next 30 to 60 days.-China Martens, IDG News Service (Boston Bureau)Related Links:\n\nSun Microsystems Narrows Loss Significantly\n\nSun Combines Virtualization Services into a Strategy\n\nSun: OpenSparc Gaining TractionCheck out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.