JBuilder X or IntelliJ IDEA?

Until a couple years ago, I was an avid JBuilder fan. I fell in love with it when they first released their all-Java version (version 3.5 it was, I believe) and used it extensively until 6.0. This is when I was introduced to IntelliJ IDEA and discovered all that I had been missing until then. IDEA was similar enough to JBuilder to come natural to me, but added so many goodies that I haven't looked back since. Until now.

My new employer has standardized on JBuilder and will soon upgrade from the hopelessly outdated JBuilder 6 to JBuilder X. Looking at the feature matrix, JBuilder X has a lot of improvements over JB6, including many IDEA features like refactoring, templates, code formatting, underlining of errors and more. But is it as good as IDEA? is it even close? I don't know...

So now I need to decide whether to go with the company standard and return to a product I gladly left behind years ago, or shell out $249 and get myself a personal license for IDEA. The personal license deal expires soon though so I don't have much time to make up my mind...

If anybody reading this has used both products, please leave a comment about your experiences with them. Any help would be most appreciated.

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Sorry, this is a bit off-topic. As you also make C# GUI applications, how do you find yourself dealing with Java GUIs (if you do at all)? I'm trying to go from C# and VS.NET to Java and Eclipse, and I just can't get my head around Swing's layout managers.

Any insight from your experience? And I'm sorry I can't help with your JBuilder question.

Posted by Rob at January 9, 2004 2:13 AM

Have you considered Eclipse? Having worked with both IDEA and Eclipse, I've found them largely comparable in terms of the features you mention, e.g. refactoring--except Eclipse is free...

Posted by Robert Lowe at January 9, 2004 3:35 AM

Hi Luke,

Some time ago I was working with IntelliJ IDEA 3.0 and JBuilder 8&9.
I can't say that I was impresssed by JBuilder. Major factor for me was it's performance.
It worked really slower, than IDEA. Unfortunately I had no chance to look at JBuilder X,
so I recommend you to get evaluation version and play with it yourself.

Posted by Stepan Samarine at January 9, 2004 4:43 AM

JBuilderX is a great product except for one thing .... performance. Compared to JBuilder 9 it's an absolute dog! It really needs a minimum of 1GB of ram and a fast processor to get the best from it (my p4 1.8ghz 512mb laptop is really struggling).

Posted by Yazybones at January 9, 2004 5:36 AM

im not 100% sure on this topic, but does jbuilder not have a free personal edition for testing and the like? i just checked the site and theres a foundation edition of the software. i havent used jbuilder in years, but only got into java programming in a real way a while back. going to download this soon and try it out. try it out. i know its not got some of the features of the enterprise eddition or what ever, but there is also a demo of this available. it could be worth the 90 - 300+mb download (foundation is 90mb or so, enterprise trial 300+!)

Posted by Lotas at January 9, 2004 7:32 AM

For the swing layout manager issue, try hand made design with TableLayout. i find it much better than visual design tools.

Posted by ahmet at January 9, 2004 7:50 AM

If you need to write code only (no GUI development), the choice is obvious: IDEA.
I'm using it for 2.5 years now and still say "WOW!" sometimes.

Posted by Alex Givant at January 9, 2004 9:12 AM

Rob: Being a server-side developer, I haven't done much Java Swing. I did play around with it a bit but no production systems or anything. From my limited experience, I prefer Java/Swing because it's MVC-based, but prefer .NET because it doesn't force you to deal with Layout managers and stuff.

Robert: I tried Eclipse before but found it much less intuitive than IDEA. In IDEA, everything I look for is typically right where I would expect it to be, whereas Eclipse oftentimes left me confused and searching for features. This was over a year ago though - I'm sure they've improved a lot since then...

Lotas: yes there is a free foundation edition of JBuilder and I've already downloaded it - the problem is that I do not have a production system to work on in JBuilder right now as we're currently in more of a product-evaluation / design phase. I've found that it's not until you use a tool in a production environment that you truly start to appreciate or dislike it though. It certainly was that way for me with IDEA, which just looked ok when I saw others use it, but impressed the hell out of me once I truly started using it myself.

Posted by Luke Hutteman at January 9, 2004 9:36 AM

Well, Luke....as you know I moved from Intellij to eclipse. We both have a personal history with Borland which was more recently horid. So, I would recomend anything else. :) Seriously, I like eclipse. Though it took me a while to get used to the repository concept. I tried to go with Netbeans first, but I just never felt comfortable there. Frankly I find eclipse to be nearly as good as intellij and a bit snappier. Anyway, given your two options...show me da money.

On the swing question, it is important to understand that the layout managers were designed for hand coding, not using visual tools. It's not that there are not some out there. However, it is much easier to understand if you write the code by hand. There are now some layout managers that have come out that make visual design easier (I think someone mentioned TableLayout and Karsten at JGoodies.com has a really nice one in FormLayout). Also, keep in mind that if you set the layout manager to null then you can absolutely position the elements. This is a little more similar to the VB way of doing it and you don't have to worry about relative sizings and such. I don't recomend it (I recomend learning the layout managers, but it is an option for an easy transition).


Posted by Les at January 9, 2004 11:28 AM


I know how much you fancy IDEA (after VS.Net of course ;-), so the bottom line is money. If you don't mind shelling out the 249, then do it. As you know, I bought the 3.0 personal license last year for 200, and just bought the 149 upgrade to 4.0, despite the fact that my employer has a boatload of JBuilder X licenses. Best professional investment I've ever made. Regardless, there really is no such thing as a truly heinous IDE these days. They all offer better productivity in one form or another. JBuilder is ok, and I like Eclipse too, but IDEA is like the ring in LOTR. Once it takes hold of you, it never lets go. And you don't want it to either. Hehe.

Btw (offtopic), this post from Miguel the other day made me nearly giddy. http://primates.ximian.com/~miguel/archive/2004/Jan-04.html. I'm sure you can appreciate.

Btw 2, do they not allow AIM at your new gig? ;-)


Posted by Jason at January 9, 2004 11:58 AM

"IDEA is like the ring in LOTR" - I hope that means it's the "one IDE to rule them all" and not that it will be destroyed in the end...

and regarding AIM - they have a very strict firewall here with no IM allowed. You'll have to follow Les's example and start blogging again to have your voice heard - That blank page's got to go! ;-)

Posted by Luke Hutteman at January 9, 2004 12:37 PM

>> I hope that means it's the "one IDE to rule them all" and not that it will be destroyed in the end...

Not unless MS gets ahold of it after that plugin comes out.


Posted by Jason at January 9, 2004 1:45 PM

I am a long time JBuilder user. I tried out IDEA 3.0 and I hated it. Compared to JBuilder, the GUI is slow and buggy. It is in Swing like JBuilder but it actually feels like Swing (sluggish) where JBuilder feels like a native app. I didn't really see all of the great things about the IDE. One of my favorite things about JBuilder is their project paradigm, I can keep virtual workspaces open and switch between them. IDEA couldn't do that when I tried it.

Posted by Ryan Ackley at January 9, 2004 2:29 PM

I use both, in fact IDEA 3.0 and JBuilder 8 (not X) IDEA is in my opinion a better tool. It is mainly a matter of feeling. I find IDEA very intuitive. But the last releases of eclipse has impressed me a lot and I'm using eclipse now. I'm not working on GUI stuff for the moment. Maybe the price can be a good criterion :) You can go eclipse !!! Usually when a company standardize on a tool, the free can be also used without so much trouble.

Posted by Patrick Rahmoune at January 9, 2004 4:20 PM

Just to throw my 2 cents in here...

I was a long time JBuilder fan. But in August I switched over to Eclipse and I certainly won't go back. However, one of my coworkers is a huge IntellJ fan, so he convinced me to go with the 30 day eval. I gave it a shot (not the full 30 days) and then went back to Eclipse. From my limited IntellJ experience, I'd say that generally it is on par with Eclipse - better in some spots, worse in others. My coworker and I would continuely have questions to each other along the lines of "Can your IDE do this?". The answer more times than not was "Yes". They are close. I would say that IntellJ is a bit more streamlined and intuitive, but in the end I decided that I wasn't going to spend the money (didn't know about the individual license at the time) so I didn't keep playing with it.

So, I'd have to agree with an earlier poster that you really can't go wrong with either of them.

Posted by Charlie Morss at January 9, 2004 5:41 PM

In regards to JBuilder or IDEA, I would strongly give Eclipse a run for its money! Not only is it free, but the 3.0 version will surpass Jbuilder and IDEA in terms of dynamic plugin capabilities, and has FAR more support than both combined. There are GUI builder tools right around the corner, and a whole ton of plugins to do just about everything you can think of, from debuggers, profilers, GUI builders, management, games, code analysis and a whole lot more.

Posted by Kevin at January 9, 2004 11:14 PM

i just downloaded jbuilder x at home, but havent done anything major with it. quite impressed at the speed of it though. im running a dual athlon 2gz with 1gb ram and its faster feeling then idea. weird. anyway, downloading it in work on monday. only thing is they have a 1.6Gz P4 with 256mb ram so im guessing its going to be slow...

Posted by Lotas at January 10, 2004 12:27 PM

You want to wait for IDEA 4.0, I think it's coming out this month. I think the personal license is upgradable for $100 or $200, but it's silly not to wait, and you could use the EAP (intellij.net/eap) builds until it's released.

Posted by Keith Lea at January 11, 2004 12:45 PM

Keith: the personal license offer includes a free upgrade to 4.0.

Posted by Luke Hutteman at January 11, 2004 3:54 PM

I worked (with a trial) of Idea 3.0.4 and 3.05, it has very nice features and works with 256 MB of ram.
The features i don't want are they strong colors and the automatic coloring (i think it will be faster
if you can disable that). I would prefer to use IDE instead of Jbuilder X
Ok, my question is where is the oficial page of IDEA, i can't find it anymore since 4 months ago
the link intellij.com does'nt work for me

Posted by Aldo Gutiérrez Gutiérrez at February 12, 2004 2:01 PM

The URL is http://www.intellij.com
And if you are more likely to be a hardcoder you're gonna love idea

Posted by JDav at February 24, 2004 2:05 AM

I've been using Eclipse with a really nice plugin for doing GUIs (either Swing or SWT) called Jigloo. It helps alot when dealing with layouts, and also has a custom layout that's more like VS and Delphi.

Posted by Thomas at March 3, 2004 12:30 AM

If you concider yourself a real programmer, IDEA is the only choice. It seems like a stupid IDE until you discover all the hidden goodies for code completion, code navigation, etc, etc.

It boosted my productivity beyond belief.

Posted by JMan at March 12, 2004 3:52 AM
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