Oracle Corporation released the much awaited update of the Java SE (Java Platform, Standard Edition), version 7 on July 2011 (Oracle recently acquired Sun Microsystems, the creator of Java).
Code named Dolphin, the latest version of Java SE incorporates a number of additions and changes; from simple language enhancements to the more advanced technology features, including Security, Networking, IO, Concurrency, Java XML, JDK and well, the list goes on. For a full list of the new features and other related information, you can refer to the official Oracle's Java website.
For starters, Java is released in two forms, Java Runtime Environment (JRE) and Java Development Kit (JDK). JDK and JRE are natively available almost on all platforms/operating systems, including Windows, Unix, Linux, Solaris and Mac OS X. Other forms include Java EE (Java Platform, Enterprise Edition), Java FX (Rich Client Platform) and Java ME (Java Platform, Micro Edition). Oracle also offers Oracle Java SE Advanced and Oracle Java SE Suite. Refer to the Oracle’s Java website for more details.
Enterprise Edition is a more advanced platform for the Enterprise/Server side and Web application development. FX version provides "Rich Client Platform" to develop Front-End/User Interface for Server side applications. Micro Edition is intended for developing applications for the Embedded Systems, including Mobile phones and Set-top boxes.
The Standard Edition includes both JDK and JRE. Java Development Kit, as the name suggests, is a set of tools (compiler, loader, debugger, document generator etc.) to develop programs and applications. Java compiles the program (source code) files into “class” files that contain “bytecodes”, a form of instructions.
JRE provides a "runtime" environment where you can "execute" compiled programs in a “JVM” (Java Virtual Machine), which translates Java bytecode into native code or machine language. A program compiled on Windows runs on any other platform, such as Linux (and vice versa), provided you have installed the JRE. So there we are, no need to make any platform specific changes or to "re-compile" the program and Java lives up to its slogan: Write Once, Run Anywhere.
Note that both the JDK and JRE are "command line" based (need to be run from command prompt). Even though you can develop programs with the JDK, for any serious application development, it will be more appropriate and convenient to work with Graphic User Interface (GUI) based Integrated Development Environment (IDE). A typical IDE, apart from acting as a source code editor, “integrates” the JDK (or any programming language/platform, like C, C++, C# etc.) and other useful resources (debugging, testing, help etc.) to make application development productive and manageable.
Several IDEs are available for JAVA and the most popular are Eclipse, Oracle JDeveloper and NetBeans, IntelliJ IDEA, Borland JBuilder and IBM WebSphere Application Studio. Which one to use ? Basically it depends on the choice, level of experience, environment and application complexity.
Java is the most popular choice for developing applications in varied sectors, including Banking, Insurance, Healthcare and Telecom.