InteliJ IDEA is now open source!

Steve Neal Development, Tool support Leave a Comment

IntelliJ announced today that version 9 of their Java IDE “IDEA” will be open sourced.

Now I’ve got to admit to being a big fan of IDEA. I’ve been using it for years now, and as the IntelliJ people have been saying all along: “it’s the best Java IDE that money can buy“. Well now it looks like it may well be the best free Java IDE too!

If you’ve not tried it, then now might be the perfect time to download it and give it a go. I can guarantee that after you’ve invested a little effort in figuring out what it can do for you, your productivity will increase dramatically. And that’s what’s always been key for me: if the time I save using the tool costs me less than the license fee, then it’s a no-brainer: pay up and work more efficiently. It’s  a simple value-for-money decision.

So what can it do? Well, for example, can your IDE attach to your database, load the schema and then give you code completion in the SQL strings that you write when programming JDBC? Work with Hibernate instead? Then maybe you’d appreciate the code completion for your HQL queries and also in  your mapping files. Want a UML diagram generated from your source code? No problem. If you’re a fan of Spring, then you might like the graphical view of the dependencies in a Spring application context? Need to see if your Spring pointcut syntax is right? Then a keyboard shortcut to view the advised methods on your beans will help with that. I could go on and on, but you probably get the idea.

Now this is where things get a little complicated. The JavaEE and framework features I’ve listed above won’t be available in the open-source, or “community”, edition. The JavaEE support is reserved for those that are still prepared to pay for it. Fair enough you might say; if you want better JavaEE support in Eclipse you’ll likely choose to use MyEclipse which currently costs over $150 and offers some of the best support available for Web development in that IDE. And I’d have to agree with  you: you pays your money, you takes your choice.

Regardless of this, the features available in the community edition of IDEA still far exceed those available in most other free Java IDEs and, in my opinion, are more reliable and robust oot. IDEA not only provides Java coding support but also XML, Groovy and regular expression syntax too. Add to this Live Templates (a build in macro language for automating common code generation, like iteration over collections/arrays for example)  and you’ve got a feature set that will keep most Java developers very happy. For a complete comparison matrix of the features that are available in the community and the ultimate editions, take a look at this link.

This seems to me to be a very clever marketing decision by IntelliJ. They are clearly aware that their greatest barrier to mass adoption is not the quality of the IDE, but the price of a license, and that by releasing this edition of their application they have completely eliminated this.

Good move I say, and good luck.

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