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IntelliJ IDEA vs Eclipse

IntelliJ IDEA vs Eclipse

These days it is pretty safe to say that Java developers are generally divided into two main camps when talking about their IDEs. There’s IntelliJ IDEA which is a commercial product from Jetbrains and there’s Eclipse which is a free open source product.

Personally, I think both products are good for the Java community. They both offer amazing features that improve developer productivity, are easy to work with and provide plugins to extend the base product offering. What other programming language can even say they have a comparable IDE? If interested, check out this link about the recent Visual Studio 2005 concerns.

I generally agree with what Tim says, that because IntelliJ IDEA relies on sales to make money, that “quality, ease of use and completeness of the product” are key considerations. Yeah, the latest 5.x releases have had their share of issues but if you look at the product as a whole, it rocks! Develop with pleasure!


  1. Tony said,

    November 16, 2005 @ 8:59 am

    Only trouble is if you’re not a member of a major market the guys that rely on revenue for their business model tend not to care about you.

    I logged a bug report when IntelliJ4.x was updating text upon scrolling/paging so slow you could watch it draw over a 30second period and got some condescending remark and a terse request for hardware info (I had already given the relevant software info - OS etc) and then nothing. Never got a further response out of them. Why? Cos Im a Mac user. I represent bugger all money to them. So I get treated like crap. Luckily 5.x fixed the problem. But since other people using 4.x with my version of MacOS didnt experience the problem I dont know if they actually fixed anythign on purpose to make it work in my case.

    If it is open source then most likely the people working on it either are in it for the love of the product or there are companies behind it who just want users (from any demographic, just as many users as possible) to use the thing and gain them noteriety and broad marketshare.

    Having said that, I still use IntelliJ. When it works it is just a superior tool even though eclipse is quite good.

  2. Mike Lehmann said,

    November 16, 2005 @ 7:36 pm

    I’ve checked Visual C# 2005 Express Edition last week-end and I only could shake the head. Compared to ANY half-decent Java IDE (even Netbeans) it is a bad joke. Maybe MS give it for free, because they can’t sell it to anybody (except to some MS-enthusiastic Indians). BTW, IDEA was much better than VC#2005EE, when it started 4 or 5 years ago.

  3. David Stennett said,

    November 16, 2005 @ 11:51 pm


    I must disagree. The developers who work on IntelliJ IDEA hardly consider not working on something because of any business model … economics is the last thing generally on their mind. Obviously, there are a lot of happy Mac users who use IntelliJ IDEA — your particular problem *may* have been unique, and if that was the case, it may have been overlooked — however, it’s not becaue of economics, it’s simply because if we cannot produce the problem in our lab, then it’ll probably be ignored. Also considered is if one problem that nobody else is reporting takes too much time, it may get put on the back-burner, so we don’t hold up any release. And lastly, many problems just come from Mac/Java playing together …

    As for the argument of open source — this is a religious topic. To say that they’re putting in “more” effort into their product because they do it for free (some of the people) kinda counters the entire theory of the economics of motivation. “Capitalism” is supposed to be better than “Communism” from a quality stand-point because people can be rewarded by their effort. I don’t think this theory, in regards to IDEs is really correct nor do I think yours is. I think it depends on the developers working on the products — both we (Jetbrains) and Eclipse have some very talented folks working on the products … so, it’s a moot point really.

    My final question to the masses would be — if Eclipse cost 499 USD like IDEA, would it still be as popular? I would say no — so, the main reason people use Eclipse, still, is price. However, the price for IDEA isn’t steep, and for a professional developer (not hobbyist), it’s well worth the money. Even as you noted, “when it works” (which it seems to do for the great majority of its users), it’s a superior tool.

  4. Tony said,

    November 19, 2005 @ 6:23 am


    a) the problem was not unique to me, I got more responses on the bug post from other developers experiencing the problem than I did from Intellij personnel (by about 4 to 1). And it wasnt overlooked because I did get a very sarcastic request for more information.

    b) if it was unreproducable that would have been fine but at least respond on the post and let us know that you cant reproduce it and aren’t going to do anything about it. But what happened was a very sarcastic request for more info on the system experiencing the issue followed by total radio silence. Unacceptable customer service.

    c) As anyone who has ever been stuck in a job they dont like knows, money doesnt mean a thing if you’re not happy. I’m not saying IntelliJ developers aren’t happy, just that the idea that people are more motivated by drawing salary than by getting involved in a project purely because they are interested in it is laughable. The “economics of motivation” is about ppl being motivated to get rich, not draw salary. The rat race doesnt motivate anyone. If your developers are loaded with stock options etc and have a very real oportunity to be financially rewarded beyond their wildest dreams THEN they will be motivated in the capitalist way. If they are just drawing salary forget it. That monthly paycheque doesnt mean squat. Then you have to be jazzed about the work itself.

    d) I didnt say the IntelliJ developers were less motivated in general because they were working for money instead of interest as the open sourcers are. I said they would be less likely to address specific issues due to economic reasons. And the idea that JetBrains doesnt consider financial issues when prioritising resources to fix bugs is quite scary, if we take your word for it. If that IS the case we should be concerned for the longevity of the company, and therefore the ide.

  5. Philippe Lhoste said,

    November 23, 2005 @ 9:05 pm

    I have not used IDEA yet, so I won’t comment on it.

    Eclipse is a good tool, althought the first time I tried it, the Linux support was lagging behind the Windows one (no HTML preview, bad management of small system font in buttons, could not drag’n'drop text/lines, etc.). It was better in the next version (3.1), but I still used my favorite editor (SciTE) for some fast operations (d’n'd, search/replace, etc.).

    You wrote: “What other programming language can even say they have a comparable IDE?” Several, since Eclipse supports several languages… I don’t know if IDEA can do the same. If not, Eclipse can be then an IDE of choice, if you use to do PHP and Java together (or alternatively), etc.

    Of course, Java support is probably the best, while support of other languages may be lagging behind (for refactoring, cross-reference, debugging, etc.).

  6. PVS Naidu Yera said,

    November 23, 2005 @ 11:35 pm

    Yes, IntelliJ IDEA rocks. It really has a lot of shortcuts like the comic strip above depicts and is a real pleasure to work with. Most Companies will be willing to spend the 499 price tag for IDEA as it’s a good investment (and lemme tell you, I don’t work for JetBrains :D ).

    Eclipse is a great tool too and since it’s free it appeals to a wider range of people and because of the countless people who code plugins for fun and money.

  7. Michael Bushe said,

    November 25, 2005 @ 3:11 am

    The two reports I submitted for IDEA were responded to very quickly. One was my mistake and was answered without calling me an idiot, which I appreciated. These guys are top-notch and seem quite happy creating a product that their users love.

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