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Eclipse, NetBeans or IntelliJ: Which is the best Java IDE?

Coman Hamilton
Ninja

Eclipse’s Luna release brought a range of interesting new functions –but how does the Java IDE stand up to rivals NetBeans and IntelliJ?

For quite some time now, Eclipse has had a thorn in its IDE. With NetBeans and IntelliJ ever at its heels, the Eclipse development environment has been battling to hold sway over the Java community. It’s about time we compared the big three in Java IDEs.

Over on JAXenter.de, the German Java community has voted on how Eclipse stands up against the competition. Only 21% of developers believed the Luna release has re-established Eclipse as the best Java IDE in the world. And just over a quarter of participants (26%) would say that Eclipse and its competitors are generally the same, and that each software has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Like in the Windows vs Mac vs Linux debate, it seems that most devs have picked one IDE and are sticking firmly to it. The results make it pretty clear that Eclipse’s Luna hasn’t quite won back the entire Java community.

Eclipse: More than an IDE

While IntelliJ IDEA had already long since delivered support for Java 8 (albeit slightly rudimentary), Eclipse struggled to catch up with Java 8 support for its much-awaited Luna release. On top of its new Java 8 features, Luna blinged out with a brand new ‘Dark Theme’ which lets users change the IDE’s background hue – but that’s also nothing that would impress anyone working with NetBeans and IntelliJ IDEA.

The latest update has brought Eclipse up to an impressive 76 individual projects – from software modelling to IoT tools and even runtime projects. Beating that in mind, you might say Eclipse is less of an IDE and more of a technology platform and open source community.

Being slow off the mark to adopt Java 8 functions is relatively insignificant when compared with rough times Eclipse had with the infamous Juno release and its frustrated users. In spite of these troubles, Eclipse makes up for its vices with a vibrant community of developers and a wide range of plugins.

IntelliJ IDEA and NetBeans

In contrast to Eclipse, there’s no doubt about what exactly IntelliJ IDEA does. Since it’s developed by one single company (JetBrains), there’s somewhat less community participation. But that also means that its built-in features are far more cohesive. Eclipse can easily become confusing with its endless plugins built by various community members. IntelliJ IDEA could add a further feather to its cap when Google selected it as the basis for Android Studio – the new development environment for Android.

Right in middle, between Eclipse and IntelliJ IDEA, is NetBeans. Previously part of the Sun development environment, NetBeans slipped into the hands of Oracle, but has managed to hold onto its faithful community. NetBeans features platform functions for various extensions, and yet it still provides a clearly framed functionality. The software also has a head start on other IDEs with its JavaFX and HTML5 features.

Each to their own IDE

When it comes to Java IDEs, developers are spoiled for choice. Three free services battling each other to provide the best functions and services – it’s something that other tech communities can only dream of.

Like ninjas vs pirates, deciding on the world’s best Java IDE is purely subjective – it all depends on what you need. A swashbuckling, if sometimes chaotic, collection of plugins or a stealthily integrated functionality? To make an informed decision, be sure to check out Geertjan Wielenga, Max Andersen and Anton Arhipov’s talk (below) about the various strengths of each Java IDE.

Author
Coman Hamilton
Before joining S&S Media Group as Editor of JAXenter.com, Coman completed an M.A. in Cultural Studies and wrote for numerous websites and magazines, as well as several ad agencies. Coman also manages the tech publisher developer.press. // Spotted a typo? Want to submit a story? Email coman[AT]jaxenter.com
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