IntelliJ IDEA 5.0: can it survive the Eclipse onslaught?

Sometimes less is more

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

Review The rise and rise of Eclipse is a mixed blessing for developers. There are obvious benefits in the existence of such a high-quality tools platform, free and open source, and seemingly everyone bar Sun and Microsoft has signed up to use it. The downside is the pressure it puts on other independent tools vendors.

It is sad to see Borland’s excellent JBuilder becoming an Eclipse add-in, for example. In all this, IntelliJ IDEA from JetBrains is a notable survivor. IDEA is focused on the automation of common editing tasks. The trick here is to achieve features that improve productivity without being intrusive or annoying, and in this IDEA is remarkably successful.

Shows how IntelliJ IDEA uses modules to support different application types.


IDEA is a code-centric editor characterized by two key features. The first is refactoring. IDEA was among the first IDEs to include refactoring tools, and remains particularly strong in this area, with an extensive list of refactoring, intelligent implementation, and clear documentation. For example, Safe Delete will delete a class or class member only if there are no usages. If there are usages, they are listed for inspection. More complex refactorings include Generify, which attempts to convert code to take advantage of Generics, introduced in Java 5.0, and to remove unnecessary casts. This edition of IDEA includes several new or enhanced refactorings, such as Move Method and Change Method Signature. Careful refactoring is a potent tool for making code more maintainable, and IDEA is the leader in the field.

This screenshot shows an IntelliJ IDEA refactoring wizard.

The other key feature of IDEA is called Intention Actions. JetBrains describes this as, “When IntelliJ IDEA considers that there is something wrong with your code, it suggests an Action to fix it.” For example, you might declare a JFrame before you have imported the relevant swing package. IDEA will pop up a suggestion, and pressing Alt + Enter adds the necessary import statement.

This screenshot shows an Intention Action at work.

This feature is not unique to IDEA. Eclipse has Quick Fix and JBuilder has Error Insight, both of which will also suggest an import in the example given. On the other hand, IDEA takes the concept further, with a huge range of Intention Actions including refactorings and EJB-specific actions as well as error corrections. They really do speed up coding, and are easy to ignore or disable when they are not needed.

If you have second thoughts about any changes, IDEA makes it easy to go back in time. It maintains local history in the background, and choosing Recent Changes from the View menu lists your main actions, with an option to rollback or view the detail in a difference editor. External version control systems are also supported. IDEA works particularly well with CVS and Subversion (new in version 5.0), but also integrates with Perforce, StarTeam and even Visual SourceSafe.

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
Whoah! How many Google Play apps want to read your texts?
Google's app permissions far too lax – security firm survey
Chrome browser has been DRAINING PC batteries for YEARS
Google is only now fixing ancient, energy-sapping bug
Do YOU work at Microsoft? Um. Are you SURE about that?
Nokia and marketing types first to get the bullet, says report
Microsoft takes on Chromebook with low-cost Windows laptops
Redmond's chief salesman: We're taking 'hard' decisions
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
Big Blue Apple: IBM to sell iPads, iPhones to enterprises
iOS/2 gear loaded with apps for big biz ... uh oh BlackBerry
OpenWRT gets native IPv6 slurping in major refresh
Also faster init and a new packages system
prev story


Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Mobile application security vulnerability report
The alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, and the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.