Dec 052008

I’ve been working on a decent sized C++ project recently and since the application will be used on a Windows server, I wanted to stay close to that platform. I fired up the latest Visual Studio 2008 version hot off the presses with my MSDN subscription and boy is that thing a piece of junk. It is like working in the stone ages. I mean writing C++ is bad enough and then I have to battle with the worse IDE imaginable?

I think not.

So, I grabbed Eclipse and NetBeans and fired both up. Eclipse, is a beast and I wanted to avoid it at all costs if possible. I’ve never liked Eclipse, no matter the version, and they haven’t improved the issues enough for me to really use it for Java development. However, I found the Eclipse C++ integration decent, but still pretty rough. The Eclipse interface is so clunky that it makes it hard to be productive.

Next I grabbed the latest NetBeans (6.5) and fired it up. I have to say that it started pretty darn fast for a Java IDE. It also has a really decent layout and configuration system. The C++ support, although experimental for on the fly error highlighting, is impressive. After tweaking my colors and battling through keymappings I’m actually productive. NetBeans lacks a number of editor features that are required these days, including multiple clipboards, duplicate lines (has this but no keyboard shortcut), join lines, etc. Besides this problems, I like it.

On the flip side, IntelliJ is still great. 8.0 is just out and it adds a number of new great features and more language support. However, I think that IJ is probably getting close to needing a good chunk rewritten. The configuration system is becoming clunky, the projects difficult to manage, and most aspects of the IDE are beginning to fail.

The speed is horrible, the memory consumption off the charts and the productivity increases that we all used IntelliJ for are is slowly being integrated into the other IDEs. I think IJ is still the best, but their margin is slowing being reduced. If the folks over at JetBrains want to stay competitive they are gonna need more speed, more productivity, more simplicity and more power. These things are all hard to get at the same time, but I’m confident that they will find at way.

For now, I’m gonna give NetBeans the full shake-down, log a ton of bugs and wait for 7.0 to see how many they fix. I’d say my list is pretty short at this point and I could envision a full switch to NetBeans with 5-10 enhancements if IntelliJ continues its slow decline.

Only time will tell.