IntelliJ IDEA: Saying Goodbye to Eclipse

I received a recommendation from Ted Young recently to try a switch to IntelliJ IDEA as an alternative to Eclipse IDE. I’ve been using Eclipse for years, but figured I’d give this tool a try, as it’s brought to you by the clever folks that make Resharper. Uncle Bob uses it in his series of Clean Code videos as well. I’ve been watching these lately, and his fluency with that IDE is making me long for something a little more… polished than Eclipse. I guess I’m spoiled by Visual Studio.

Anyway, I’ve installed the Community version of IntelliJ. Over the weekend, I spent a few hours porting my home automation project, Daedalus, to be usable by IntelliJ. Mostly, this involved turning it into a Maven project, and then ironing out a handful of miscellaneous details and quirks. I’m already much happier with this IDE than I was with Eclipse.

For starters, the Intelli-Sense (or whatever it’s called) is vastly superior to Eclipse. The static analysis for things like non-compiling code is also much snappier and prettier. And, beyond that, little things do what I’m used to from Visual Studio (e.g. ctrl-tab between code files). It’s weird, but a few things like that here and there really add up to being happier with the user experience. Using IntelliJ feels like coming home, which is impressive, since I’ve never used it (and I don’t even use ReSharper). Color me impressed.

Here is a handful of other miscellaneous observations so far:

  • Ctrl-W and Ctrl-Shift-W widen and narrow selected scope, respectively (equivalent of the numpad + and – in CodeRush).
  • Getting my black background seemed pretty tedious. I didn’t discover until the end that if I set some high level setting with black background, that mostly became default.
  • On the flip side, the color scheme in there is awesome – I can vary RGB ratios and darkness independently, meaning I can keep the default color scheme, but make all the foreground colors a lot lighter so they show up on black.
  • If you download the Community (read: free) version, bear in mind that you get no server integration. It took me a long time to figure out that I couldn’t integrate Tomcat as that’s only for the pay-to-play version
  • The last bullet isn’t a major hindrance. I just set up an Ant build to deploy a WAR file and set the Ant build up to run after successful compile when I want to deploy. The only thing I lose is the ability to start Tomcat in the IDE and browse in the IDE but both of those were pretty flaky in Eclipse anyway. Keeping a browser window open isn’t the end of the world.
  • When I go to commit to SVN, a window pops up with code analysis messages, giving me what I assume is the Java equivalent of StyleCop or FX Cop. This is pretty awesome since my idiomatic Java is pretty rusty. I imagine this will help shake off some of that rust.
  • Still haven’t worked out all of the shortcuts for running tests in TDD. Options seem better than Eclipse, but I still have to tame them.
  • The project/module definition in place of Eclipse’s workspace/project definition is a little odd, but whatever.

That’s about it, so far. I’ll probably have more posts to add as I go. I wish I had documented and blogged about the conversion from Eclipse, as that was relatively straightforward, but with a few gotchas, since I didn’t have Maven set up for Eclipse and I did have the Spring/Tomcat/Jstl dependencies. Thing is, I kind of started off not thinking I was actually going to switch and just doing some exploratory puttering, so I didn’t get into the documentation mindset until it was too late. Oh well, c’est la vie. If anyone’s curious about anything I did, please feel free to comment or shoot me an email.

At any rate, I think I’m probably going to close the books on Eclipse. I suspect that my only future debate here is whether or not to upgrade to the paid Ultimate version of IntelliJ. Given that I alternate between .NET and Java, the relative synergy between IntelliJ and Visual Studio is simply too huge an advantage to pass up. I realize that Eclipse probably has a richer plugin library, but to be honest, my opinion of Eclipse has always more or less been “meh, it works, I guess”, rather than “ooh, this is nice!” After even just a few days with IntelliJ, it’s hard to see myself going back.