An IDE feast!

An overview of the top Java IDEs

Natali Vlatko
Programmer image via Shutterstock

If you’re a Java developer, then the first and biggest decision you’ll make is for an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) to aid the development process. We take a look at the top Java IDEs and what makes them great.

What makes an IDE good? As in, really good? We’ve rounded up an overview of the top IDEs out there and show the world what it is they do best. As always in the IT world, there will be a difference of opinion, so let us know what you think in the comments below.

The all rounders



© Eclipse Foundation

Some would say that Eclipse isn’t just an IDE, but an entire technology platform, and they’re right. With its base workspace and extensible plugin system, the development potential of applications in a whole range of languages is almost endless in Eclipse.

A lot of Java developers like using this as their main IDE as it’s so customisable, with its cross platform functionality a big plus (not to mention its dark theme). It’s also accessible from wherever you are via web-browser, with its code autocompletion feature noted as a pretty big deal.

SEE ALSO: An overview of new Eclipse Luna features 

Of course, some users might have been a little miffed with their struggle to introduce Java 8 support, but the latest update has evolved to include an impressive 76 individual projects – from software modelling to IoT tools and even runtime projects, and recently a new cloud initiative.

Is it written in Java? Yes. Does it include a GUI builder? Yes. Is it Open Source? Yes.


Eclipse 4.4 Luna in the Java EE perspective (via Wikipedia)



© Oracle

Another popular choice and part of the ‘Big 3’ IDEs is Netbeans, which also supports Java, PHP, C/C++ and HTML5. Cross platform functionality? Check. Development for desktop, mobile and web applications? You bet. It boasts the best support for updated Java technologies and is the official IDE for Java 8, on top of accepted integration with the widely used FindBugs tool.

SEE ALSO: The top 10 NetBeans features according to its users

Applications developed using NetBeans are based on modules, and they can also be extended by independent developers. Netbeans also plugs its developer community quite a bit, who provide assistance with the development of desktop applications, reviews of new features in the nightly builds, and even distributes teaching resources in an effort to introduce students to programming with the Netbeans software.

Is it written in Java? Yes. Does it include a GUI builder? Yes. Is it Open Source? Yes.


NetBeans 6.9 IDE on OS X (via Wikipedia)

IntelliJ IDEA

intellij idea logo

© JetBrais

IntelliJ is known for being really smart and is the final addition to the ‘Big 3’ IDEs out there. The intelligence of IntelliJ means that it indexes the whole of your project, analyses everything in it, and even builds the syntax tree. Thanks to this capability, wherever you decide to place your cursor, IntelliJ knows where you are and what can be done in that spot, which is pretty cool. It catches developer errors during the editing process, too.

Now in version 14, IntelliJ IDEA has gotten the seal of approval from Google so to speak, with the IDE providing the basis for Android Studio, its development environment for Android. However, IntelliJ’s inclusion under the ‘all-rounder’ category does come with a cost – to get access to their further supported languages, you need to upgrade from the free edition to the Ultimate Edition, which introduces support for Python, Ruby and JavaScript, with Node.js and PHP available via separate plugins in the commercial version.

Is it written in Java? Yes. Does it include a GUI builder? Yes. Is it Open Source? Yes/No – two versions exist, with the Ultimate Edition requiring cash money.


IntelliJ IDEA 12.0.4 on OS X (via Wikipedia)


jGRASP is considered a lightweight development environment that can be configured to work with most free and commercial compilers for any programming language as a source code editor. The great thing about jGRASP is its focus on the visualization of the application being created in order to make the source code more readable.

Is it written in Java? Yes. Does it include a GUI builder? No. Is it Open Source? Yes.


Another lightweight platform, Geany is a text editor using Scintilla and the GTK2 toolkit, on top of including basic IDE features. It’s meant to be small and fast, meaning it depends relatively little on other packages. Due to support from the GTK libraries, it should run on every platform, however the Windows port of Geany is still missing some features.

Is it written in Java? No (written in C). Does it include a GUI builder? No. Is it Open Source? Yes.

For Java only


Property of Oracle, jDeveloper is an IDE that simplifies the process of development of Java-based SOA and EE applications. The platform offers end-to-end development to Oracle Fusion Middleware and Oracle Fusion Applications, naturally. By focusing on providing a visual and declarative approach to application development, jDeveloper can cover the full development lifecycle from design through coding, debugging, optimization and profiling to deploying.

Is it written in Java? Yes. Does it include a GUI builder? Yes. Is it Open Source? Yes.


JCreator’s makers Xinox Software stand by a very big claim concerning their IDE, naming it the fastest, most efficient and most reliable IDE available due to its programming being entirely in C++. JCreator allows you to directly compile or run your Java program without activating the main document first, as well as offering debugging with an intuitive interface that doesn’t require command line prompts.

However, a couple of disadvantages do exist, namely it’s Windows-only functionality and no option for the temporary highlighting of files.

Is it written in Java? No (written in C++). Does it include a GUI builder? No. Is it Open Source? Yes.


Last but not least, BlueJ is a relatively new old IDE that has its own set of libraries as well as the capabilities to add your own. It’s mostly suitable for small-scale development and focuses on objects for applications that are under development, making it a straightforward interface and a user-friendly IDE for beginners.

Because BlueJ was developed to support the learning and teaching of object-oriented programming, its design differs from other development environments as a result of this.

Is it written in Java? Yes. Does it include a GUI builder? No. Is it Open Source? Yes.

Natali Vlatko
An Australian who calls Berlin home, via a two year love affair with Singapore. Natali was an Editorial Assistant for (S&S Media Group).

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