Friends Don't Let Friends Use Eclipse

IntelliJ Idea Improves Quality Of Life For Java Programmers

Paul HouleCreator of database animals and bayesian brains
November 12, 2013

The problem

Although it's still rare for management to get it, programmers know that programmers should get the latest and greatest hardware. The case is clear: at a lowball price of $70,000 a year, even a %1 speedup is worth $700 a year.

Developers, however, have a way of sticking with substandard software out of inertia -- afraid of the breakage that might result from switching to new tools, we suffer with tools that never work quite right.

The Eclipse IDE is the poster child for a "dull tool"; visual debugging support, autocompletion, and automated refactoring make something like it indispensable for Java projects, yet, it's rare for an Eclipse installation to work 100% correctly. And even if you do have it working correctly, you're just one plugin away from disaster.

We've all got our pet peeves, but let's name a few of mine:

  • Eclipse comes in many editions, some of which will work with your build and others which won't
  • Eclipse has plugins which can (sometimes and almost) do useful things, but the one certain thing is it will become increasingly unstable as you install more plugins.
  • Eclipse always seems to hide the tab I'm looking for (could they please patent that algorithm?)
  • Under linux and gtk, graphical screwups that hurt usability are the norm. Autocompletion labels, for instance, frequently appear white-on-white. (Don't get me started on the difficult-to-grab "scrollbars" that appear on Ubuntu)
  • Eclipse is slow

The last one is something you might not notice without comparing Eclipse to another IDE.

The Solution

About a year ago, a fellow programmer told me that I was wasting my time using Eclipse. I wasn't ready to switch then, because I didn't want to deal with the breakage that comes with changing my dev tools, but when I had a chance to catch my breath, I tried out IntelliJ Idea and found that, finally, my laptop feels like a 4 core machine with 32GB of RAM and an SSD.

If you use Eclipse, you owe it to yourself to try another IDE

Paul Houle

Creator of database animals and bayesian brains

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