Intellij Idea versus Eclipse – part II

August 14th, 2006 by Marius Hanganu in Java, General, Tools

>> 10 reasons why Eclipse is better

Most of the following are not checked in Idea 6.0 which is anyways in beta. They refer to 4.x and 5.x Idea versions.

1. The visual editor – one feature that Idea sucks at is the visual editor. While the best at this category is still Netbeans IMO, Eclipse’s Visual Editor, although buggy and slow, is still better than the Idea’s designer based on forms, which needs some Idea internal classes for your swing class to run.

2. Synchronize perspective – excellent idea from Eclipse team to have a perspective showing all diferences between working copy and the one from repository.

3. Automatic mark classes that don’t compile – Eclipse always had the nice feature of showing you in the project tree which classes don’t compile, by coloring with red the class icon and the package icon up to the top-most package. Idea seems to have learn this lesson in 6.0 (still in beta). God knows I missed this feature when using Idea 4.x and 5.x.

4. Large variety of plugins – while this is also a major drawback, overall it’s obviously a good thing. You have plugins for almost anything. Idea doesn’t. Although it’s obviously an advantage, I have to say a few things about how it may turn into a disadvantage: you simply don’t have time to review all existing plugins and choose the best. You have tons of code editing helper plugins and you have no Idea which you should install. Now really, who has the time to try all those. I remember a few years ago searching for the best XML editing plugin. I had no clue which one I should choose. It’s still the same: I read descriptions for 5 plugins doing the same thing and I usually choose the one that’s best advertised and sounds better. For example I have to choose between DBEdit, SQLExplorer, SQLDeveloper, easySQL, DB Studio, and the list can go on (I just picked 5 from the first page on http://eclipse-plugins.2y.net/eclipse/plugins.jsp?category=Database&sort=rating).

5. Javascript – I was amazed by the JS editor from Idea when it first came out. Very powerful. JSEclipse is still the best though, offering amongst others, support for libraries such as dojo, prototype, scriptaculous and others.

6. Context assist for regular expressions – excellent feature. Robert pointed me to it. It really simplifies your life when doing searches using regular expressions. I’m usually avoiding regular expressions when searching, unless there’s no alternative. That’s because editing the right regular expressions (at least for me) takes several tries and sometimes consulting the regex documentation for the text editor I’m using. Well now, Eclipse simplifies your regular expression searches with the context assist. I guess Idea could learn from that too.

7. Automatic selection of same word occurences within the file – when selecting a variable name – Eclipse does highlight that variable in the entire java file. This is useful. Too bad Idea doesn’t do this automatically (see Alexandra’s comment on this)

8. Switching between projects during project loading/resource refreshing – when multiple projects are opened in Idea, sometimes you have to wait for one project to load or finish refreshing resources, since you can’t swith to other Idea windows. It is a reality that a developer may have multiple instances of the same IDE at the same time. This is especially true for Idea which doesn’t support multiple projects in the same window (as opposed to Eclipse which can have multiple projects in one workspace). So why doesn’t Idea support this? I wish I knew the answer.

9. SWT – Eclipse brings SWT (kind of). Don’t know how others feel, but I still see SWT as the one technology that could save Java for desktop. Try build an application like Azureus in Swing. There are examples of good apps built with swing (like Intellij Idea), but SWT is simply looking better. Add to that the entire RCP architecture, the ability to generate native apps for different platforms, build a plugin that can be deployed either as a plugin within the IDE or with relative small effort can be packaged into a new application and you’ll get a very good architecture.

10. Money for IDEA, Eclipse for free – well this would probably be the biggest feature of ’em all :-) While I would still pay money for Idea out of respect for the quality of the tool and the fact that it set higher standards for productivity, Eclipse is no longer trying to reach Idea in terms of features and options and customizations, but it even brings on new concepts and ideas. And although Eclipse has won the IDE wars for some time now, I think we need Idea for a healthy market.

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5 Responses

  1. Robert Enyedi Says:

    Another advantage of the Eclipse IDE is that it is built on top of a generic platform. Other Java visual tools will most likely integrate into the Eclipse platform (the Eclipse IDE or standalone application).

    For someone knowing already all the usage aspects of the IDE (the views mechanism, the editors, the preferences, the help, standard command line parameters) the learning curve for such tools will be considerably lower.

  2. Robert Enyedi Says:

    I was unsure if this could be added, but now I see some confirmation: http://www.javalobby.org/java/forums/t78030.html

    So here it goes:

    11. Superior Eclipse API for third party plugins – Probably that’s why there are a lot more third party plugins for Eclipse than for Intellij IDEA. Granted, there are a lot of poor quality plugins for Eclipse, but the main problem is that there isn’t a proper catalog of the plugins based on their quality. But from what I hear Eclipse.org will take care of this in the near future.

  3. brecke Says:

    hi folks,

    I think some of those points are indeed true, but some others are not and your view on them is totally biased as in someone who is clearly more familiar to eclipse than to idea, aint i right? For instance, the second point also applies to Idea.. the point is.. did you know it? Also, you took care of pointing out the good things about eclipse, but you forgot to point out the bad ones… memory footprint e.g… have you compared the two of them?

    This analisys doesnt really focus on quality of features and stuff, it focuses on how you prefer things to work. And, obviosly, that depends a lot from person to person.. Personally speaking, i had been using eclipse for a long time and i switched to idea as soon as i gave it a *real* shot.

    Next time try using *both* programs.. perhaps you’ll come out with a X – Y score analisys instead of a 10 – “who_cares”..

    brk

  4. Dharampal Says:

    well, I always wished there was a way to turn off the ‘automatic selection of same word occurences within the file’.. that tops my list of the annoying bugs in Eclipse.. I’d prefer the Ctrl+Shift+F7 way..

    but again, it all boils down to one’s own perspective, doesn’t it?

  5. fmtx Says:

    We now use IntelliJ at school, it’s a lot better than the old software. imo the shortcuts & auto-complete codes are just plain weird. ctrl+space? lol, I rather use “tab”. but it remains nice software (IntelliJ) in my eyes. I haven’t used Eclipse so, I can’t compare..

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