Intellij IDEA 9.0.2 Community Edition (May 21, 2010)

Posted: May 21, 2010 by Mike Hubbartt in Reviews, Software Reviews
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IntelliJ IDEA 9.0.2
From: JetBrains (http://www.jetbrains.com/idea/)
By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Programmers have a general tendency to like a particular IDE (Integrated Development Environment) to use when writing code. I have tried a number of free IDEs and especially like Eclipse, but that doesn’t mean I don’t use others when needed.

Six months ago I saw a discussion on a Java coding forum about IDEs and there were a number of developers that talked about IntelliJ IDEA from JetBrains. Version 8.x of IDEA was a commercial product and I didn’t want to spend the $299 to get it since I already have and like Eclipse, but shortly after that time JetBrains decided to release a Community Edition and a Ultimate Edition for version 9.x. Upon release of 9.0.0, I downloaded the Community Edition and installed it on my netbook and Macbook, and I have to admit I like it.

Using the Product

The most interesting and unique aspect of this IDE is the way it is organized. Every bit of space in the 4 borders is utilized. This is a screen shot of the IDE:

There are buttons on every border, providing shortcuts to many things typically available as menu or keyboard shortcuts. I like how Eclipse has tabs across the top of the editor that has the various classes and interfaces, but only so many show up at once. IDEA uses multiple rows, so all classes and interfaces for a project are opened and clearly visible – in the screen shot above I have 5 classes and 2 interfaces open, and I could have all 10 project files open at once if I so choose (see the next screen shot for 10 open tabs). I should add that it is easy to see that the files are classes or interfaces in both the project list to the left and the editor tabs at the top. Very convenient.

There is good version control support – CVS, Git, and Subversion, and I like how it is just too simple to generate and run Ant builds for a project:

This particular Ant build was done by selecting the menu option ‘Build/Generate Ant Build…’, and then I selected the options I wanted (kept the build in the same area as IDEA, not Eclipse, so the XML content was only visible to the IDEA IDE).

Some of my classes can get a bit long, so I like is how easy it is to show line numbers in the editor. To show them, use the menu option ‘View/Show Line Numbers’ and they are available for the current class or interface – this isn’t a global project setting and I don’t think it should be. Much easier than opening a properties screen and setting it for everything in the IDE.

IDEA also supports exporting an individual class or the entire project as HTML. This would be nice for Computer Science professors that just want to see the source code or for team code reviews. HTML files can contain hyperlinks as well as line numbers, so the code is easy to read.

I started with a fresh install of version 9.0.0 and updated to versions 9.0.1 and 9.0.2 when they were available. I did have some problems, but JetBrains support provided timely and accurate responses to address the problems. To see my issue with the 9.0.1 update, see my comments about the C/C++ plug-in below. The issue with the 9.0.2 update was platform-specific: I had no problem updating IDEA on a netbook running XP, but had to manually install the updated version on my Macbook.

I’m only going to mention two plug-ins: Eclipse Integration and C/C++. The Eclipse Integration plug-in lets you access and modify a project created in Eclipse. I was using Eclipse to write the Java code for a C compiler, and I wanted to see how well this Eclipse plug-in worked. All I had to do was Select the ‘File/New Project’ option, select ‘Import project from external model, press the ‘Next’ button, give the IDEA project a name and then enter the project files location. Simple, fast, and virtually foolproof. When I made changes in IDEA, I switched back to Eclipse and saw a pop-up saying the contents were modified and asked if I wanted to replace the editor contents with those contents. When I made and saved changes in Eclipse and switched back to IDEA, the editor contents automatically updated to show the new contents.

Now the reason I’m discussing the C/C++ plug-in was because it worked when I downloaded and installed version 9.0.0, but it caused an error with the IDE when I updated to version 9.0.1. I contacted JetBrain’s tech support on a Sunday with the symptoms and they replied the same day (pretty impressive support for a free product, don’t you think?). They told me to disable the C/C++ plug-in and I did and the IDE worked fine. When version 9.0.2 came out, I figured they would have address this but they hadn’t, which is depressing. I emailed their support (and had fast response from Serge – thanks), and the only news I had was that version 9.0.2 was not a release to fix plug-in issues, so hopefully they will address this in version 9.0.3.

Conclusion

I like this IDE. The layout of the tools and options is logical and fairly intuitive. I appreciate that JetBrains uses the top, sides and bottom of the IDE to put in things normally accessed from menus. Ant, version control and exporting are excellent, and the ease to access existing Eclipse projects is an absolute plus, since it lets a programmer use either IDE when working on team projects.

Positives

  • It is free and it is open source. Huge!
  • It is one of the faster Java IDEs I’ve used.
  • The UI is logically organized, with buttons on all 4 borders of the IDE.
  • The Eclipse Integration plug-in is ideal for environments with mixed IDEs.
  • Exporting as an Eclipse project and as HTML is fast, simple, and useful.
  • Simple to generate and run Ant builds.
  • Tech support is fast in responding to issues.
  • Good online help.

Negatives

  • The Community Edition does not support J2EE development.
  • Updating – I had issues moving to versions 9.0.1 and to 9.0.2. I checked with the JetBrains help desk and they said the same was true when moving from 9.0.2 to 9.0.3 – I have to say I don’t see why this is necessary and hope they address this before the 9.0.4 update.
  • The C/C++ plug worked in version 9.0.0 but not in versions 9.0.1 or 9.0.2. Why?

Recommendation

Get it. It is powerful, free, the UI is different than the Eclipse and Eclipse-derivative IDEs, and the performance was impressive. I enjoyed being able to link to a project I had in Eclipse, make modifications, and have those changes available when I launch Eclipse.

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