Why IntelliJ will always win

Besides my reasons for loving IntelliJ with respect to the keyboard support, I have found a new reason why IntelliJ will always be a better solution and well worth the money.

They actually fix bugs. You buy the product and report a bug, they take it seriously, even if it is something somewhat minor. Here are links to two bugs I’ve filed, one for Eclipse and one for IntelliJ:



As you can see if you look at the dates of these, the Eclipse bug, which in my opinion is pretty severe if you use the keyboard as your main form of interaction with the IDE, was opened 4 years ago. Yep. 4 YEARS! And it isn’t even closed yet!

Now if you look at the IntelliJ bug, it was opened 20 HOURS ago and is already closed and back ported! This is just one of many examples of this type of treatment. I’ve opened 10-12 bugs with Eclipse and the turn around is usually a year or two. The most shining example of this horrible lag is the “Default line terminator bug” located here:


This took five years to fix and this is one of the most fundamental settings that ALL text editors have! The ability to change the default line terminator for new files…. I mean come on people! On the flip side, IntelliJ bugs are normally fixed within a day or two and at the longest a few months.

Plus, it must really say something about the engineering of these two products to see how quickly bugs can be fixed. The better the system is engineered and tested, the easier is will be to update and fix. This might be a bit controversial, but I believe it.

So…. IntelliJ will always win until Eclipse figures out that usability and fixing bugs is far more important than adding new features.

23 thoughts on “Why IntelliJ will always win

  1. Interestingly, IDEA has more features than Eclipse, in terms of normal Java editing, and more stability problems.

    The turnaround is probably more a function of who looks at the bug and whether it interests them. The story is apparently quite different with Eclipse if you submit a patch.

    I seriously doubt that any code quality mismatch will account for a 20 hour compared to 2 year turnaround.

    One more; it’s easier to get your bugs acted on in Eclipse if you follow the milestone releases – in other words, if nobody’s used to the bug yet then there’s no risk in fixing it.


  2. Who says IntelliJ has more stability problems? I used Eclipse for about 4 years, and still do on occassion, and switched to IDEA and have been w/ for about 2 years now.

    I’ve never had to clear IDEA caches, uninstall, or have it just quit on me. I remember painfully having to blow away more workspace, or having to close eclipse b/c the refresh wasn’t working many a time. I still laugh when I hear someone swearing b/c the same thing is happening to them.

    The truth is that IDEA must have the turn around; else you won’t buy their product. They and we all know that Eclipse is a good tool for free; so they have to be MUCH better in order for people to handover money. Put simply, it’s just IDEA following that business model.

    I can’t wait for Jetbrains to put out their C# builder; it will be interesting to see them compete against Visual Studio…I wonder how much better VS will get once they finally get someone to push them.


  3. Interesting, but not really a fair comparison. The IntelliJ issue is a real bug whereas the Eclipse issue is really more of a feature request.

    I think, as always with IDE comparisons, its a matter of personal taste. I like the fact that if I really want a bug fixed, I can pull down the source, fix it and submit my fix to Eclipse.

    Interestingly enough there is a big IntelliJ stink going on right now with one of their bugs that they tried to kill quietly, but are now backtracking on because Motorola is holding them to it. (Something about video clipping on wide monitors)

    IDEs are like coffee, you like one brand/flavor and I like another… who wins? We both do because we are both happy with what we have.


  4. Your “severe bug” in eclipse sounds more like a feature request. I could see just as many people liking the current behavior versus not. I think you’re judgment of the eclipse dev team is unfounded, and, frankly, I would have ignored your “bug”, as well.


  5. Just judging from this article, you probably aren’t a regular Eclipse user. Both Eclipse bugs you listed were fixed a long time ago (including the first, which for some reason wasn’t closed).

    One thing to consider is the sheer number of bugs submitted to Eclipse.org I mean, we’re talking about dozens, sometimes even hundreds a day. IntelliJ may be a sizable project, but as a function of its lesser user-base, it would never be able to match the bug-report volume dealt with by Eclipse.org

    Now, I have my own beefs regarding how bug reports are handled by Eclipse.org, but the fact remains that given the circumstances, they do a pretty good job. And shouldn’t be bashed for trying.


  6. I knew this would spur the IDE debate that it always does. I want to tackle each on separately:

    Ricky: I disagree on two things. First, IntelliJ has far less stability issues than Eclipse does. I’ve had to uninstall Eclipse or delete directores more times than I care to count. Second, you can see from following the default line terminator issue that code for line terminators was so littered all over the code that they couldn’t easily fix this issue, not too mention plugins would need updating. This was a direct result of poor abstraction.

    Stephen: I’m also waiting for some JetBrains love for .Net. Even with ReSharper Visual Studio is still a piece of junk. I’ve got a great post for later today about that. You’ll love it.

    Christopher: Two things. First, the bug I listed was somewhat of a feature request, but this is such a core feature in ALL editors (even jEdit) that it SHOULD have been there all along. Just like the “default line terminators” issue. To me it is a bug since EVERY OTHER editor in the world has this feature. Second, I’ve never had to submit a feature request or a enhancement to JetBrains because it already does 99% or what I need it to do. I never think to myself, “I wish it did this just like these other 10 editors.”

    JMC: The problem isn’t my bug, but many bugs that don’t get fixed. It was an illustration of the lack of commitment to usability and customer satisfaction more than a direct comparison.

    Daniel: I’ve used Eclipse for years and consider myself well versed on it. None of the bugs I’ve ever submitted have been fixed and I would consider them all large usability issues. In terms of number of bugs, I think that is a direct correlation to the number of features missing and issues with existing features that Eclipse has. If you compare just the Java IDE part of both products you’ll see what I mean by this.

    All: Please remember that I’m a keyboard user and that Eclipse is heavily mouse oriented. Feel free to read my page on keyboard comparisons between the two IDEs. It is pretty good. I look at Eclipse and IntelliJ like the difference between Windows and Linux. Windows loves the mouse, hates the keyboard and hates developers. Linux hates the mouse, loves the keyboard and it built specifically for developers.


  7. Eclipse doesn’t have keyboard macros.

    A programmer’s editor w/o keyboard macros?


    I’m a long-time Eclipse user. For the most part, it does a decent job. I have issues with Subversion integration through Subclipse, a few MyEclipse issues, and detest the lack of programmability (Emacs user here).

    The last 2-3 weeks when I’ve been working too much has nearly convinced me to switch–a week w/ the IntelliJ demo may be the last straw–we’ll see!


  8. Hi Brian. I’ve filed hundreds of bugs/requests against the Eclipse Platform and other Eclipse projects. Results vary widely. Sometimes there’s an immediate fix, and sometimes it’s not addressed at all even after several years. A lot depends on how complex the change to the code is, how much controversy there is over whether/how it should be done, how busy the committers are, the stage in a release cycle, and how closely the request aligns with the needs and preferences of the committers.

    Submitting a patch helps some, but not as much as you might think. Mainly it helps if the committers would like to do it but either don’t know how or are totally swamped.

    Since Eclipse came out, users and developers have opened over 175,000 issues in the bugzilla database. A lot of these are duplicates or (often conflicting) enhancement requests. It’s a lot to keep track of and it’s easy for things to fall through the cracks. So mentioning a specific bug in a place like your blog is a good way to lobby for action and be heard.


  9. Ed: I’ve also filed some bugs and some enhancements, and like you said, they often slip through the cracks. 99% of mine focus on usability and productivity and I think most Eclipse users are like most Windows users, they don’t mind hitting 3 shortcuts to close a window instead of just 1 and they don’t mind dialogs with hundreds of options that can only be easily used with the mouse.

    Folks have opened great bugs and enhancements that say, add this shortcut or fix this issue and you’ll save me all this pain I go through each day. Problem is Eclipse rarely takes action.

    All: Productivity is huge for me and using the mouse is unacceptable. If I can’t do it with the keyboard I find a program that allows me to and use that one because I can get so much more done each day. I use the mouse maybe once or twice a day in IntelliJ because everything is available via shortcuts. You can see my main gripes using the “IDE Thoughts” tab at the top and see my initial comparisons between them.

    I guess what I’m saying with this post and probably more to come is that you pay for what you get. IntelliJ pays people to fix bugs and make the product the best, otherwise no one would buy it. If Eclipse did everything IntelliJ did and had as slick an interface, honestly no one would buy IntelliJ. That’s my point I guess.


  10. I have been a satisfied user of Idea for over 4 years now. It’s one of the best designed and most reliable pieces of software I’ve used. But what
    has really impressed me is the speed with which issues are dealt with. I can e-mail a problem or question to Idea’s support address and, often within an hour or two, I get a personal message back from one of the developers. This is even more impressive since I believe they are in Eastern Europe where it is usually nighttime when I write.

    As someone who writes code for a living, Idea is well worth the $.


  11. Mileage sure varies. As a long time IntelliJ user, it’s had plenty of stability problems, though it depends on the version. There are some irritating, long-standing bugs, such as the text cursor occasionally disappearing on Linux, windows popping up on the wrong monitor, or long pauses while it checks to see whether any files have changed. But I stick with it because it seems more intuitive than the others. Since they are always adding features, I don’t expect it to ever be truly stable.


  12. I have to agree with the author. I’m an 8-5 user of eclipse and I use intellij for all of my personal web development. Prior to my current job, I used JBuilder. The overall quality and support of the commerial products is far better than that of Eclipse. And its for the reasons already noted, you wouldn’t buy the commerical products if they weren’t. The intellij download size is half of that of eclipse, it has better documentation and is far more stable.

    Personally, I never have been able understand how eclipse became such a dominant player in the java ide market. I think is says alot about what we will tolerate when a product is free.


  13. I have been using IntelliJ for the last 3 years. I download eclipse once in a while to play around with it. I never experienced any exhilaration to shift from IntelliJ to Eclipse.
    Ofcourse the only incentive management may find is that Eclipse is free!
    But our company stuck to IntelliJ for the last 3 years and there is no indication that it would go back any soon. We are all on v6.0.4 of IntelliJ.



  14. Igor: If you have ever used IntelliJ for an extensive period of time you would probably know that you really do pay for what you get. There is a reason why JetBrains is not only in business but doing well. Until NetBeans and Eclipse really clean up their messes, IntelliJ will have users who are more than happy to pay for licenses.

    And just to set the record straight, you can buy a personal license to IntelliJ for $249 and they also have academic and open source licensing.


  15. Igor, don’t forget about the hidden costs of ‘free’:

    IntelliJ: $499
    Eclipse: $0 + time spent looking for plugins + time spent learning unintuitive features + time spent on extra configuration + …
    NetBeans: $0 + etc. + …

    ‘Zero price’ does not mean ‘zero cost’.

    JetBrains earns a strong revenue from IntelliJ IDEA, solely because customers recognize that $499 is something that they can recoup easily, through productivity gains. The fact that our customers keep coming back to us after over 3 years competing with 2 free competitors is all the proof that’s needed, IMHO.


  16. A personal license for IDEA is $249, upgrades are $149. In the past there have been special promotional deals as well (Christmas specials etc).

    So, all things included, I’ve been paying $100 or less each year to use the latest release: around the price of a single academic textbook.

    1.5 years ago, I’ve also bought a YourKit profiler license for around $100. Using this tool I’ve found critical leaks in (all fixed or in progress):
    -Apache Tomcat
    -Spring framework (+Spring Webflow)
    -The JDK libraries

    Some people prefer to waste days or weeks, using “free” tools. As the saying goes, only if your time is free…


  17. I find it funny that supposed professional developers won’t even consider spending money on one of their most important tools. It’s gotta be free? Really? I wonder what would happen if other professions that required tools followed the same behavior.
    Additionally, if you are writing code for a living in the US/Canada I can assume you make enough money that buying a $499 IDE is probably less than 1% of your income.

    If IDEA is the right tool for the job, buy it, don’t use the “free” excuse.


  18. I used Eclipse for few years in home … but after meeting IDEA – I would never switch back. I belive, that if you will have 2 developers which have no experience with Eclipse or IDEA and you will give to one of them Eclipse and to other IDEA, developer with IDEA will be 25% faster, and 25% faster – and the best of this is that he will be faster besouse of things which he do not have to do – things which IDEA will do for him, or help to do. As average developer is paid 2500 EUR (in country where I work) company will benefit from using IDEA in first month!


  19. There is no comparison between IntelliJ and Eclipse… IntelliJ is a serious product with real bug fixes in real time. Eclipse is what it is.. a community driven development effort. Yes, IntelliJ is totally worth paying for, and yes, I’ve used them both extensively.


  20. I am using both eclipse and intellij; both are quite usable IDEs. And that’s it. I’d never spend a cent for a IDE like intellij. Because the advantages are too small. And, I am quite annoyed by the vi-i-fication of that IDE.
    Intellij suffer featuritis and is overloaded with shortcuts. So the in my eyes the functional benefits are shredded by a vast overload of the IDE.


  21. @Marcus

    The point wasn’t which IDE has better features or works better, it was which one actually fixes important issues faster. I have very clear examples of Eclipse platform taking far too long to fix a very important issue.

    If you want to battle out features and functionality you’ll have to wait until my next IDE shoot-out, which I’ve been working on for a while, just haven’t found time to complete because it requires so much effort.


  22. Been working with eclipse from 2003 till April 2012. Made the switch. Never been more happy. With IntelliJ I can finally focus on my job as a developer and not on solving IDE issues. I do no longer have to investigate why deployed applications give ClassNotFoundExceptions because WTP is buggy. No need to have a maven plugin installed to create project files for eclipse. No more maven integration BS. No more Exceptions when I open plug ins. And no more swearing when I try to upgrade stuff which doesn’t work because somewhere some module that is used by one or more plugins is incompatible with that plug-in version I need which would force me to remove ALL my plugins and update them ALL just to use that one newer plug in….. With IntelliJ I no longer loose valuable time to get my IDE fixed. No more stress. No more missed dead-lines. Oh, and if I file an issue? I get a mail back from them within 2 to 4 hours. My issues get solved rapidly. Thanks to the IntelliJ team!


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