In all respects, this is an example of a typical IDE, with which you can write software projects, debug them during test runs, and manage the collection of files they require. All the tools you expect are present, including a drag-and-drop form designer for assembling user interfaces graphically, a source code editor with syntax highlighting, a debugger that allows you to monitor variable content and set breakpoints, and an object browser that makes properties, methods, and hierarchical relationships explicitly obvious. The IDE is moderately customizable. Most of the components are fixed in place (albeit in a logical way) in a single tabbed window, but you can change the look and behavior of the code editor rather extensively.
One nice JBuilder feature is a version manager that lets you view the contents of earlier saved versions of a project and revert to previous (perhaps "known-good") versions. You can even, in this edition of JBuilder, see the differences between versions highlighted. The code editor's CodeInsight feature, which allows you to call up lists of appropriate parameters and object members with a (configurable) hot key combination, is another attractive touch. Speed of compilation is, subjectively speaking, totally adequate.
The Professional edition of JBuilder has two major advantages over the Personal edition. The first advantage is a legal one: you can take applications compiled in JBuilder 5 Professional, even if they refer to Borland JavaBeans and other prefabricated components, and make money by selling them. You're not required to pay royalties to Borland for those sales.
The other big selling point of the Professional edition has to do with features. While the Personal edition allows you to compile vanilla Java code for the Java 2 Standard Edition (J2SE) application program interface (API), the Professional edition lets you choose two additional target environments: the Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME) API for devices like mobile phones, and the Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) API for distributed applications. JBuilder 5 Professional boasts a better debugger, too, with conditional breakpoints and the ability to have multiple monitor windows open for watching several threads simultaneously.
But the real difference between JBuilder 5 Professional and its little sibling becomes evident when you start doing database work, which is at least part of what most organizations do with Java, and where a lot of software consultants make their money. This product includes a slew of Borland's DataExpress data access components (which you can incorporate into your applications royalty-free, remember). It also includes tools for examining databases, designing SQL queries, and testing the efficiency of database queries. You also get a license for Borland's JDataStore database object.
Borland JBuilder 5 Professional is a nicely designed, standards-compliant IDE for all editions of the Java language. It's ideal for database work and for J2EE development to a limited degree, though for serious work with distributed applications (or if you need better support for development work done by teams), consider the Enterprise edition. --David Wall