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IDEs while studying for the OCAJP?

 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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I like seeing discussions (and not just Q&A) during book promos, so I'm trying to start some.

Did you use an IDE while studying for the exam. Do you recommend others do? Why or why not?

My answer:

I did not use an IDE to study for the exam when I first took it. Partially because Eclipse didn't support that version of Java yet. And partially because I wanted to encounter the level of detail that I'd get from the command line. Much better for practice in quickly identifying code that doesn't compile. I do not recommend using an IDE when preparing for the exam.

I did use an IDE while writing the book. Then the goal was to be clear. And so tools could help me focus more on writing/explaining.
 
Scott Selikoff
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My answer:

Jeanne and I had many debates about this topic while writing the book! While many students learn more studying without the comfort of an IDE, I personally enjoy learning using an IDE. I find using an IDE encourages me to anticipate and spot problems much more quickly, as the red (error) or yellow (warning) text points out a mistake I've made mid-sentence, so to speak. The real test of whether or not the IDE is a crutch for you instead of a learning tool, is if you can immediately spot errors you make with the error/warning checking turned off.

It also comes down to what kind of learner you are. Some people can read a chapter and learn right away, others learn by example or by making mistakes. I'm definitely in the latter camp. I often sit with a book open and type up examples while reading the chapter (as well as write my own variations) so that I'm sure I don't just learn the topic, I understand it.

I try to learn in such away that I truly understand why something is the way it is, and why the designers of the language or concept did it the way they did it. Granted, there are the occasional contradictions or oddities in every framework or language (nothing's pure), but the more I disagree with a design decision, the more I learn and understand the topic.
 
Paul Anilprem
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The biggest problem with IDEs that we have seen is that beginners never get to learn about the command line switches. Most importantly the -d and -classpath switches. These switches weren't too important for the exam before (classpath is now important) but are very fundamental in understanding where to place your java and class filges. An IDE makes them all transparent, which is fine if you already know what it is doing behind the scenes but is not good otherwise.

IDEs are very helpful in showing compilation errors but I think it may be a problem if you are preparing for the certification because you get used to the red squigglies. After all, taking the exam involves partly training your brain to find those errors and not just learning how to fix them.

Overall, I think even if you use IDE while learning, it would be better if you stop using it for a couple of weeks before the exam just to get you brain to acclimatize with the lack of visual clues.

 
Roel De Nijs
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I'm a true believer and advocate of not using an IDE while studying for OCAJP (and OCPJP), certainly if you are new to Java or still a junior (and maybe even medior) programmer. Although I have to admit, I did use an IDE myself when I studied for SCJP 6 and OCAJP 7

The main reason: using a text editor and javac/java is a true simulation of your exam environment, you don't have an IDE on the exam to help you to notify you about compiler errors or classpath issues. You are completely on your own! Using a text editor will improve your code evaluation time and make compiler error spotting much quicker. Another advantage: you'll learn the method signatures of classes in the Java API much faster as well, because you don't have code completion to help you. So you'll memorize much better. Here you can read the experience of a fellow rancher following this advice.

Back in the days when I studied Java at college, I had to use Notepad, javac and java for the simple reason my old computer wasn't able to run any of the available IDEs In the beginning I struggled and I made not much progress. But once I had mastered, my Java knowledge improved faster than my classmates. I was even able to assist them to pinpoint the cause of compiler errors they encountered using an IDE. My knowledge of the Java API was also significantly better. And the reason is fairly simple: when you make a mistake using a text editor, you are punished harder than someone using an IDE. You need to adjust your code, compile it again and run it. With an IDE it's all done for you and you don't have to switch between different windows. It's almost some form of conditioning So you learn very quickly you need anArray.length and aString.length() to get the length of respectively an array and a String.
I used a text editor, javac and java for 1 year, that's why (besides being a java developer for 10 years now) I now can use an IDE for certification preparation myself and advice others not to use an IDE without feeling guilty
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Roel,
Good point about initial learning. I learned initial in Notepad and vi.
 
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