Java 7 in Action

Bringing Java 7 Support to IntelliJ IDEA 10.5

Jessica Thornsby

We speak to IntelliJ IDEA senior software developer, Anna Kozlova, about implementing the new Java 7 language features in IntelliJ IDEA 10.5.

Back in February, JetBrains announced that the major focus of their 10.5 release, would be Java 7 support. In this interview, we speak to IntelliJ IDEA senior software developer, Anna Kozlova, to find out more about implementing the new Java 7 language features in IntelliJ IDEA 10.5.

JAXenter: IntelliJ IDEA 10.5 came with full Java 7 support. What has been the most challenging Java 7 language feature to implement in IntelliJ IDEA?

Anna Kozlova: Definitely, the ability to support String types in switch statements. We even implemented it as early as IntelliJ IDEA 10, to have more time to polish its usability. Indeed, the real challenge is to integrate new language features with the huge number of IntelliJ IDEA’s intentions, inspections, refactorings and so on. It is not rocket science to write a lexer or a parser. It is much more important and time-consuming to get all the existing features updated to match the change, so that everything still works consistently after the new features have been added.

JAXenter: For you, what key benefit will Java 7 support bring to the IntelliJ IDEA user?

Anna: IntelliJ IDEA has always been good at generating and completing complex code fragments for you. Now, with the new ‘language syntactical sugar,’ even this is not needed anymore. So, that is the benefit – even less typing, and thus faster coding.

JAXenter: How have you tried to manage the learning curve, for developers moving to Java 7 with IntelliJ IDEA 10.5?

Anna: As always, IntelliJ IDEA provides batch inspections for an easier transition. For example, it is possible to run “Explicit type can be replaced with <>” inspection over the whole project and to apply a simplification fix which will convert new expressions to use diamonds. Of course, it will convert only the usages where diamonds are applicable. We’ve also added other inspections to compactify ‘try/finally’ to ‘try’ with resources, collapse identical branches into multi-catch try, etc.

JAXenter: Java 7 support has been available in early access builds of IntelliJ IDEA since March. What were the challenges of supporting a technology that was still under development?

Anna: Apart from the fact that we had to rework some parts… One other situation that we’ve faced recently was a difference between the specification and the way the Java compiler works. We decided to follow the compiler because this is what people will use.

JAXenter: And, looking forward, what are the plans for Java 8 support in future releases of IntelliJ IDEA?

Anna: It doesn’t take much planning to decide that all of the features will be fully supported and that we will provide inspections and refactorings to help introduce the new features into the codebase, just the same as we did with Java 7 in IntelliJ IDEA 10.5. As for the specific features and timeframes, it all depends on how the development of Java 8 itself proceeds.

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