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IntelliJ IDEA is an integrated development environment (IDE) from JetBrains. While used primarily for Java development, IntelliJ IDEA also supports many other programming languages and has a full set of features that increase developer productivity, such as static code analysis, code completion, and more. By handling repetitive tasks and saving time, it lets developers spend more energy on the creative side of software development.
Does this mean that IntelliJ IDEA is the ideal developer tool for you? We will help answer that question by breaking down the IDE’s features, pricing, pros, and cons. And, if you find it not the right fit, we will also reveal some of the top IntelliJ IDEA alternatives so you have plenty of options when shopping around.
JetBrains first introduced IntelliJ IDEA to the market in 2000 as a programmer tool meant to boost productivity and solve issues faced by Java developers. Instead of simply offering standard coding help, IntelliJ IDEA’s creators aimed to take things one step further and offer advanced capabilities for refactoring, code analysis, and integrations with some of the most widely-used frameworks.
Thanks to a user-friendly interface, innovative features like intelligent code completion, and reliable performance, IntelliJ IDEA was able to build a solid reputation with developers. As time passed, JetBrains expanded the developer tool’s features to include enhanced support for additional programming languages like Scala, Groovy, Kotlin, etc., plus plugin and web development, database integration, and more. Currently, IntelliJ IDEA is JetBrains’ top offering and one of the most popular IDEs in the industry used by individual developers of all skill levels and software development teams looking to streamline their processes while increasing productivity.
What makes IntelliJ IDEA such a popular developer tool? Features like these:
IDE newbies can get new projects started quickly in IntelliJ IDEA with the New Project wizard. Simply select the language, build system, and JDK version, and the rest of the settings will be configured for you so you can begin working within minutes. Developers seeking a customized experience will get just that when using IntelliJ IDEA. You can customize the interface, choose from over 100 custom themes to make those long days of coding easier on your eyes, install just the plugins you need to get your desired level of functionality, and more.
Keyboard shortcuts play a significant role in saving time and providing convenience in IntelliJ IDEA. Double Shift triggers the Search Everywhere function to find items inside or outside of projects, and you will find many other shortcuts for essential functions like debugging, viewing recent files, etc.
The intelligent code completion starts as soon as you type code into the editor without the need for any additional configurations or shortcuts. Automatic refactoring efficiently simplifies your code to minimize maintenance and make it more readable. The IDE also supplies developers with diagrams for analyzing, visualizing, and navigating code with ease.
One area where IntelliJ IDEA is particularly strong is with navigation and search. The IDE has several features for finding what you are looking for fast, beginning with the aforementioned Search Everywhere tool. Hit the Shift key twice and type the name of what you are looking for, and Search Everywhere will scour your codebase to find it quickly. A similar feature is Find in Files, which can pinpoint text strings in projects. IntelliJ IDEA also gives you the Quick Definition popup to see where and how symbols are defined in projects, plus SSR (Structural search and replace) and Find Usages.
The IntelliJ IDEA features do not stop there, as it also has robust tools for setting run and build parameters, debugging code, and applying/developing Junit tests. It comes with several built-in tools (terminal, database tools, profiler, HTTP client, decompiler), plus integrates with popular build tools like Maven, Ant, and Gradle and container orchestration systems like Docker and Kubernetes. IntelliJ IDEA also supports web development, widely-used version control systems like Mercurial, Git, etc., and JVM frameworks like Spring, Spring Boot, JPA, and more. Last but not least, IntelliJ IDEA has several collaborative features to help remote developers stay on the same page, regardless of location, such as Code With Me, JetBrains Space, and more.
IntelliJ IDEA has various pricing plans for organizations and individual use. The programmer tool also has a 90-day free trial. Organizations and businesses can purchase a Commercial license, which offers access to a single person within the organization. Private individuals can purchase a Personal license for their own use. The pricing plans are as follows for yearly billing, which can save you two months by paying upfront:
IntelliJ IDEA for organizations:
The All Products Pack is JetBrains’ best offer, as it unlocks 16 programmer tools that include:
Not only do you get IntelliJ IDEA with the All Products Pack, but you also get CLion, Code With Me, DataGrip, PhpStorm, ReSharper, Rider, WebStorm, and more.
IntelliJ IDEA for individuals:
Beyond those pricing plans and the 90-day free trial, JetBrains also has special IntelliJ IDEA offers for select types of clients. Students, teachers, coding bootcamps, and open-source projects can enjoy the IDE at no cost. Startups, universities, and educational organizations can enjoy it at a 50 percent discount.
IntelliJ IDEA has the following pros for developers:
IntelliJ IDEA has several pros, beginning with its intelligent code assistance that offers code completion and other capabilities to increase developers’ coding efficiency and speed. The built-in tools (terminal, profiler, etc.) offer plenty of functionality out of the box, which can be extended even more through IntelliJ IDEA’s multiple integrations. Refactoring is another pro, as it lets developers modify code structure with ease and without worry of affecting existing code.
IntelliJ IDEA does have several cons for programmers:
IntelliJ IDEA’s wide range of tools is a plus, but it can also be a disadvantage since it can take a while to learn where everything is and how it works. Some have complained that the user interface can seem cluttered or overwhelming too. And if you want to unlock all of the developer tool’s features, you will need to get a higher-price premium plan, which may not fit all budgets.
If IntelliJ IDEA is too costly, confusing, or cluttered, you may want to try one of these development environment or code editing alternatives:
VS Code is a solid code editing option if you are seeking something robust yet lightweight and, most importantly, free. It features including:
A flexible, extensible, and customizable IntelliJ IDEA alternative is Eclipse. It supports Java development, is open-source, and free. Its features include:
NetBeans is another open-source and free IntelliJ IDEA alternative that supports Java development and comes loaded with plenty of features for code completion, debugging, and more. Other features include:
IntelliJ IDEA is a developer tool that packs an impressive feature set, integrations, and more, but at a cost. If you can afford it, IntelliJ IDEA can take your productivity as a developer to another level. But if you need something easier on the wallet, try one of the free IntelliJ IDEA alternatives listed above.