A bright IDEA

Talking Android Studio with JetBrains’ Dmitry Jemerov

Chris Mayer

With Google’s new Android IDE based on IntelliJ IDEA, we caught up with the JetBrains CTO to get his thoughts on the selection fo their IDE

One of the biggest
announcements at this year’s Google I/O was the first glimpse at
Android Studio, a new development environment specifically for the
mobile platform. JetBrains’ IntelliJ IDEA is the base for the IDE,
so our sister publication Java
caught up with the IntelliJ IDEA co-lead Dmitry Jemerov
for the project to get the latest for Google’s own

Java Magazin: Google
recently announced Android Studio in cooperation with you. It will
provide an IDE for Android developers based on IntelliJ IDEA. First
of all, please tell us about how this idea originated!

Dmitry Jemerov: Actually this idea
originated within Google; they have approached us with a suggestion
to discuss how they can leverage IntelliJ to provide a better
development experience for Android developers, and we suggested to
build a partnership around the open-source version of IntelliJ
IDEA. After some back and forth, they decided to go ahead with this
approach, and so far we’re both very happy with how it’s

JM: Android Studio is a
product by Google, how much are you involved in its

DJ: Essentially, Google has taken
over the maintenance of the Android plugin from us. We’re still
investing a certain amount of development effort into it, to make
sure that the needs of our current users are covered, but most of
the new functionality will be developed by the team at Google.
We’re also providing Google with the platform enhancements needed
to implement their desired feature set for the Android

JM: What is the difference
between the new IDE and the Android features in IntelliJ

DJ: The biggest difference is that
Android Studio will be entirely centered on Android and the Gradle
build system, and will require the users to use Gradle to build
their projects. Android Studio also provides a number of features
to simplify environment setup, such as a bundled and automatically
configured Android SDK. IntelliJ IDEA, on the other hand, continues
to fully support a broader range of project types and multiple
build systems, including Gradle, Maven, Ant and the built-in
IntelliJ IDEA build system.

JM: What, in your opinion,
are the top five features of Android Studio?

DJ: I’m not sufficiently familiar
with Eclipse to provide a fair comparison, but I can say that
Android Studio provides a full set of tools to build a complete
Android application. To start your project, you have access to an
intuitive new project wizard that provides detailed descriptions
for all the choices you need to make. For developing the
application, you can use a great visual designer and a powerful set
of coding assistance tools to help you write the Java code. A large
number of bundled Lint checks (static code analysis tools) ensure
that your application meets the quality standards expected of
Android apps nowadays. Finally, the Gradle build system takes care
of building the final .apk file for your application, including
support for debug/release, free/paid and other flavors that an app
might need. 

JM: IntelliJ IDEA was open
sourced four years ago. That seem to have been the cornerstone for
companies like Google to build their own products on top of it,
which on the other hand benefits the IntelliJ IDEA code base. Can
you tell us a bit about your experiences over the last four years,
about the benefits of going open source?

DJ: The biggest benefit of the
Community Edition release was that it made it much easier to
develop plugins. Plugin developers can now fully understand how the
platform code works, and can debug their plugins in conjunction
with the underlying platform. I would say that the level of
community participation in actual product development is relatively
low, because people know that JetBrains is a commercial company,
and expect that the work improving the product is done by people
who are paid to work on it full-time. Still, the number of
contributors has been growing recently, and a few of them have even
contributed substantial new features for the product.

JM: How will Android
Studio distinguish itself from IntelliJ IDEA 13 Pro?

DJ: Android Studio or IntelliJ
IDEA Community Edition is a great choice for developing mobile-only
Android applications. For developing applications that have a
server-side component, IntelliJ IDEA Ultimate is a better choice,
because it fully supports server-side development in many languages
(Java, Python, Ruby PHP) and with many different Web frameworks. It
also includes support for Web development (JavaScript/CSS), as well
as SQL and database support.

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