IntelliJ vs Eclipse vs NetBeans: Selecting the Right Java IDE

Java is one of the most used programming language of all times, and for that reason, there are many sophisticated editors, ides and other tools available out there in the wild that help speed up java development.

The selection of right set of tools including a good and full featured Java IDE is critical for effectively and efficiently developing web apps, mobile apps, embedded apps, enterprise apps, and for that matter, anything else Java.

Talking more about java ides, there are three names to reckon with and those are Eclipse IDE, IntelliJ IDEA and NetBeans. Java developers often get caught up doing comparisons between IntelliJ vs Eclipse vs NetBeans.

Our team and partners have been using one or more of these IDEs for years and this article presents a brief analysis of their feedback on the usability, features and capabilities of these IDEs.

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Let us look at what exactly these three java development tools are up to -

IntelliJ Vs Eclipse Vs NetBeans

Before we get into further details, Eclipse and NetBeans are free of cost and available as open source Java Ides for personal as well as commercial use. Other notable free Ides include names like JDeveloper and Android Studio, Android studio is the official ide for Android apps development.   

IntelliJ IDEA on the other hand is a commercial product, developed and marketed by the company named JetBrains. While IntelliJ is commercial, it also has a free community version available and hence qualifies for IntelliJ vs eclipse comparison as well as IntelliJ vs NetBeans comparison.

The other commercial Ides that are good but not as popular as IntelliJ include names like myEclipse, Orion and RAD. Let us dive a bit deep into further details -

NetBeans – Free and Open Source

NetBeans is backed by Oracle as official IDE for Java 8 and beyond, it is used by professional developers for enterprise, web, mobile, embedded systems as well as desktop applications development. NetBeans features an award-winning GUI builder for building Swing based desktop applications with drag and drop tools.

While Eclipse has ruled the world of java development for decades, off late, with a strong push from Oracle and with many performance enhancements, NetBeans is giving a strong competition to Eclipse.

NetBeans itself is written in java and is supported on multiple platforms including Mac, Windows, Oracle Solaris as well as Linux. The power of NetBeans lies in the features it offers for end to end software development life cycle, starting from requirements analysis, app design, development, debugging, profiling, testing, and of course for compiling, running and deploying applications.

Talking about key features, NetBeans offers seamless support for WebLogic and GlassFish servers that makes it a powerful platform for everything J2EE. The support for dependency injection, Java server faces or Facelets, IceFaces and contexts too is an absolute breeze. Maven is tightly integrated and doesn’t need any plugin to be installed nor any setup needed, the same goes for git, mercurial, subversion and other popular version control systems.

Talking about IOT, you can develop apps end to end that can run on set top boxes, embedded systems, Raspberry Pi and smart phones.

Historically, NetBeans was first released (pre-release) in 1997 as a student project in Czech Republic. You can download NetBeans here at - Download NetBeans.

Read more about NetBeans at - NetBeans.org.

IntelliJ IDEA

IntelliJ is the undisputed king in the world of Java development environments. The unparalleled focus on developer productivity and efficiency is what makes it a top choice among large enterprises, many of which are fortune 100 companies.

Some of the key productivity features include intelligent source code indexing, reliable refactoring, clever code completion and dynamic code analysis, these features ensure relevant suggestions which aid fast development.

IntelliJ IDEA comes in two flavors – Free community Edition and a much advanced “Ultimate” edition that targets enterprise developers with great support and customization options.

Free edition is a feature rich IDE and used by many developers and students. In fact, Android studio, the official android development platform too is built on top of free community edition of IntelliJ IDEA.

Some of the features that you get in free edition include support for SVN, SBT, Gt, SBT, Mercurial, CVS, Android, Groovy, Scala, Kotlin and Java of course.

The ultimate edition (licensed version) brings in more features like seamless integration with Spring, support for spring boot, spring security and the MVC framework of spring. It also offers out of the box support for best JavaScript frameworks including names like Angular, react and Node.js as well as languages that compile to JavaScript, like Typescript and Coffee script etc.

You can download community Edition (free of cost) of IntelliJ IDEA Java IDE here at – Download IntelliJ IDEA community edition.

Read more about IntelliJ IDEA here at – jetbrains.com/idea.

IntelliJ vs Eclipse & NetBeans

IntelliJ being a commercial product, comes packed with almost all features required for enterprise grade development, out of the box. IntelliJ is quick to start with, has a great customer support, is tailored specifically for Java development and boosts developer productivity to the max.

Eclipse on the other hand is developed by the community of developers and hence gets most of its powers from third party plugins. It is a huge ecosystem that goes beyond just being an IDE and supports development for many other languages apart from Java. The same is mostly true for NetBeans as well when compared to IntelliJ.

Evaluating purely based on the ease and user productivity for java development, IntelliJ wins by margins over Eclipse and NetBeans both.

Eclipse

Eclipse was first released back in 2001 and is the java ide for masses. Like NetBeans, Eclipse too is written in Java, available as free open source tool, and can be installed on Linux, Mac OS X as well as on Windows.

Eclipse is powered by a great community and has a huge ecosystem of plugins and extension. The power of Eclipse lies in the shear count of Eclipse plugins available out there in the wild, including plugins like Junit, testing, JBoss, Maven, Spring Framework, Subversion and many more.

You think of a feature and the chances are high that you would get ready to use plugin for that on Eclipse market place, if not, you can develop or request the community for development.

Another thing that I personally like about Eclipse is the availability of many themes including the infamous Eclipse Dark Theme. You can play around with colors and themes to give Eclipse a new look whenever you get bored with standard scheme of things.

Many enterprises have developed commercial IDEs on top of Eclipse free version, some of the popular Ides built using Eclipse included names like MyEclipse, RAD and Orion.

You can download Eclipse here at - eclipse.org/downloads. Read more about Eclipse - eclipse.org/ide.

NetBeans vs Eclipse

Eclipse and NetBeans are both open source and free and for that reason compared more often. While both these Ides are solid, there are many differences that makes you like one over the other.

NetBeans offers an easy development workflow with tight integration among various tools, its GUI builder too is unparalleled and hence it wins clearly in desktop based apps development.

In Summary

The debate around IntelliJ vs Eclipse or netbeans vs eclipse is not conclusive and calling one IDE superior out of these three doesn't sound like a great idea, given the fact that each of these have a huge following of developers and used by enterprises across the globe.

The selection of right IDE completely depends on what you need, your liking, development workflow and budget at hand. For an individual developer, student or a learner, the answer is very easy in my opinion – NetBeans. Why because? it is free, open source and official Java IDE.

For an enterprise with large team of developers, it would make great sense to try out all three, take feedback from the team and then go with the one that suits the best.

About The Author: noeticsunil

Sunil is the founder and contributing editor at noeticforce.com. He writes about anything and everything that makes modern mobile apps, web apps and websites possible. Passionate about coding in any language including Python, Swift, JavaScript, PHP, Java, Android & iOS dev, not excluding CSS/HTML. 

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