Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

IDEA, Eclipse and others

There's a number of nice Java IDEs available: Eclipse, IDEA, SlickEdit, etc.

So far, I'm very satisfied with IBM Eclipse. However, I hear a lot about the IDEA recently (some people even consider it to be a killer app for Java).

Well, the IDEA is commercial and Eclipse is free. So, the question to the developers who used both:

What are the IDEA advantages over Eclipse?


Saturday, May 10, 2003

I haven't  used IDEA so I can't give you a direct answer. But you can try and give a look to this page:

Giovanni Corriga
Saturday, May 10, 2003

Eclipse is nice and (once armed with some necessary plugins) does most things IDEA does. However IDEA just works better than Eclipse. For example, there is a keyboard shortcut for practically anything. Its a huge productivity boost once you work it out. Something else that springs to mind is that the JSP and XML editor does code completion based on the TLDs and DTDs, which is rather helpful.

Rhys Keepence
Sunday, May 11, 2003

While I believe that every tool deserves a little bit of lee way into letting it tell the user how to work it, one of the best things I like about IDEA is how flexible it is to change to how you want to work, rather than just force it on you.

For example, you can define code style, key mappings and everything else, and set them to the project, so that each project can have different versions of each.

There's a heap of little things that IDEA does that eclipse doesn't. Another cool thing is the highlighting of various things in a tiny side bar. You'd have to use it to see what I mean, but the app is simply full of the "little things" that make my life a ton easier. And those things not built in, are made by other developers as plug-ins (like column selection amongst others (like tetris!)).

One thing I have to say about IDEA is that although other IDE's have the same features, IDEA has implemented them better. All of them has a code formatter, but IDEA's is much more complete and flexible. All of them can have the highlighting changed, but IDEA has more syntax colouring options.

To pick the best feature in IDEA...  built in local VCS. OK, everyone will say they have CVS and they're funky with it, which is fine, but not the same thing. You can use whatever VCS for the team, but the built in one means you can set versions and labels and whatever else against the code on your own box, outside of CVS. IDEA also sets versions of files against common things, like saving files, running project etc, so it's simply happening in the background.

For example, I had a pile of code not quite ready, but had to get working on a quick task for something else on code someone else just updated in CVS. I simply set a local label in IDEA, pull out the current version from CVS, did the deed, then got back to what I was doing by getting local lablel and keept on going. There's so many uses for it, it's simply awesome. Let alone the snafu's it can get you out of if you do something wrong with stuff local. You've done a pile of work, something bad happens, that chunk of work is gone. Simply jump into IDEA's local VCS, get a version from the last time you know it was working (which is set automatically by IDEA) and keep going. It's that simple.

I've used Eclipse, NetBeans, and JBuilder on the day-to-day basis, but IDEA rocked my world so much I bought my own copy even though the others are free (and I don't really have that much cash floating around). That is to say that it fits 100% to the way I like to work and use apps.

As a dynamic, I'm in a team who uses Eclipse and I use IDEA. The Eclipse guys have many more issues than I get just in dealing with the daily grind. I'm a happy customer.

Arron Bates
Sunday, May 11, 2003

One nitpick with IDEA is the speed of the UI. I run it on a Gentoo Linux box, AMD 1.5 XP, 256mb ram and the UI still chugs big time.

Andrew Murray
Sunday, May 11, 2003

While IDEA has a lot of features that make it competitve with other Java IDEs, I think that the thing that pulls it ahead is the use and integration of those features.  The user interface is very keyboard driven, very unobtrusive, and vey customizable.  The Intellij team has done a great job at making an enormous number of features and functions accessible and comprehensible in a consistent interface.

Colin Evans
Sunday, May 11, 2003

Take 1x PC with less than 256MB of RAM.

1. Attempt to do something in Eclipse (this takes forever... give up)
2. Attempt to do something in NetBeans (this takes forever... give up)
3. Attempt to do something in JDeveloper (this takes forever... give up)
4. Do it in IDEA (in fact you can also run a J2EE server, browsers, text editors, Putty windows, etc on the same machine at the same time and achieve greater response times than running Eclipse, NetBeans or JDeveloper by itself).

I've heard about IDEA being slow on Linux, but then again the person who turned me onto IDEA uses it on Linux and reports no such problems, so I'm not sure what is the cause of these performance issues. On Windows however IDEA is the best proof that a Swing app done right performs well - i.e. it requires significantly fewer resources then Eclipse AND it is more responsive.

Other features I like:
* Little reliance on wizards - and when they are used all side effects are visible.
* IDEA projects are basically paths and not lists of files, IDEA is usually happy for you to change file names via the operating system, etc and does not throw temper tantrums like most other IDEs.

More than anything it is mind bogglingly intuitive and consistent in its UI. The product's motto is "develop with pleasure" and this seems to be the focus of the IDE - other IDEs seem to get bogged down with other aims.

Walter Rumsby
Sunday, May 11, 2003

I run IDEA on SuSE linux with my trusty, no-name lappy (1.1Ghz, 256mb), and it's just fine.

I do turn off the eye candy (IDEA's own anti-aliasing text etc) which I don't have to on a beefier desktop, but it's still great.

Truly enormous projects get bogged down with the loval VCS. If you set it so that it's only keeping a couple of days or making simply labels less frequently (like project make only or whatever), then it'll pick up its game again.

The other thing to do is to tell its JVM to run in incremental GC mode.

It's still one fine app. Colin and Walter both have it right, it's focused on making life more intuitive. They bost that every function can be custom key mapped. Which is true, except for toggling a file's read-only attribute. You have to double click an icon, and I cant find the key mapping for it, otherwise I'd bind that too!  :P

Arron Bates
Sunday, May 11, 2003

I use IDEA on XP and just downloaded the OS X version for my Yao Ming Powerbook. IDEA rocks. Those folks have built a beautiful and extremely powerful editor. Well worth whatever it was I paid for it.

David Geller
Monday, May 12, 2003

For the less IDE and more fancy editor, look at JEdit ( ); I've been a happy user of it for years

Monday, May 12, 2003

One of the more interesting threads about IDEA (and, to a lesser extent, Eclipse) is how many ex-Emacs/vi folks are using them. (Myself, I'm a convert from using XEmacs/JDEE to IDEA.)

It's difficult to explain how nice IDEA is. It's not simply comparing feature lists -- that's how managers who don't actually *use* the tools compare editors. Instead it's more of a feel: everything works just like I'd expect. And you can discover new features as you go rather than learning them all up front.  Nothing gets in the way, and, unlike other IDEs I've tried, the editor is simply fantastic.

I tried using Eclipse as well but it wanted me to think of my project and editing code in a certain way. It just didn't click with me. I had virtually no learning curve with IDEA, just pleasant surprises as I worked with it more and more.

For those having performance problems: more memory is key. I used it on a PIII-550/640MB (Linux and Win2k) without problems, but when I used it on another machine with only 256MB it was painful.

Chris Winters
Monday, May 12, 2003

The only downside I've seen with IDEA is that it's one of those tools that affects people like emacs. If you like it you really like it and will evangelise for it at the drop of a hat. I'm one of those people myself. I used to be an emacs bigot for editing everything. Now you'd have to pry IDEA out of my cold dead hand (as the gun nuts say) for working with Java. A fantastic tool

Alex Moffat
Monday, May 12, 2003


Is this a printing mistake?

"Minimum hardware requirements...96 MB of memory"

Or am I just looking at the product information for the wrong product?

Or, is this the memory required to show a "Please install more memory urgently!" splash page?

Can Websphere Studio REALLY run on a machine with 96MB of RAM?

Walter Rumsby
Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Just recently got onto IDEA and it's great.  I used emacs before that and this is the first Java IDE that is fast enough and has enough compelling features for developing in Java that I'm considering using it full time instead of emacs.  It's just very well tuned to solving the problems that a Java developer runs into.  I'm also looking forward to the rumored .NET version.  Does anyone have any concrete information about it?

Nick Brosnahan
Monday, May 19, 2003

To answer my own question - clearly this is a printing mistake.

Overheard a guy from IBM saying that 512MB RAM is the minimum for running WebSphere Studio (Eclipse + proprietary stuff), 1 GB is the recommended and "only if you have a really fast computer".

My mind is boggling.

Walter Rumsby
Monday, May 19, 2003

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home