In my ongoing quest to find a long-term replacement for RealBasic (and preferably as many other random development tools and languages as possible) I’ve been investigating Python + wxPython (which seems to work pretty well but produces remarkably large, sluggish applications), Java + SWING (which, as you might expect of anything developed by Sun and built on top of AWT produces sluggish, ugly apps — on the Mac at any rate), and Java + SWT + JFace (which actually seems like it might not suck, but for which precious little documentation seems to be available outside of an insanely expensive — and somewhat outdated — book).
One of the big downsides of anything involving Eclipse is that there seems to be an “easy 35 step installation process”. WTF? It’s like Lotus Notes all over again. Aside from that, Eclipse is a remarkably fine piece of software, and since it’s built on top of SWT, indeed SWT’s raison d’être, this seems to me to give it front-runner status. Indeed, given Netbeans as an exemplar of SWING development, this is one more reason to avoid SWING like the plague.)
Eclipse’s features make Java’s horribleness tolerable… indeed almost not horrible at all. Hover over a classname and there’s its documentation (in useful form). Declare an object of a class you haven’t imported and it will offer to insert the appropriate line of code for you. Seriously good autocomplete. Seriously good compiler feedback (errors are flagged inline like spelling mistakes in a word-processor). You still need to look at the resulting code, but really not bad at all. For all of Python’s virtues, it cannot offer anything like that kind of programming experience right now.