IDEA 4.0 - Is It Worth The Money?

by Brian M. Coyner

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Project management in IDEA 3.0 is simple and easy. I can typically setup a project and start coding in less than five minutes. When I decided to play with Java generics I downloaded IDEA's lastest beta (through the free early access program). Immediately I was stuck trying to create a project. That bad experience led to me write a weblog discussing my frustration. Well it has been a few months and a lot of beta releases later and I have to say that IDEA 4.0 is going to rock. The current beta release is build 1120, which is the first release candidate.

For starters, project management is a lot better. I was able to setup a project and start coding in less than five minutes again. WHOOHOOO!

Here are a few reasons why you should upgrade or become an IDEA user:

  • Generics support

    The syntax highlighting and code completion work great.
    There is also a cool refactoring feature called 'Cook Raw Types'. This refactoring analyzes existing code and attempts to provide a parameterized type. Here is an example:

    Before 'Cook Raw Types' refactoring

    private Map stuff = new HashMap();

    public void addValue(String name, Integer value) {
    stuff.put(name, value);

    After 'Cook Raw Types' refactoring

    private Map<String,Integer> stuff = new HashMap<String, Integer>();

    public void addValue(String name, Integer value) {
    stuff.put(name, value);

    There is one problem I found, though. The refactoring did not work if the Integer was changed to an int.

  • Enhanced Debugger

    You can change code and reload the class without restarting the debugger.

  • It runs great on Mac OS X

    I really wish that they would add "-Dapple.laf.useScreenMenuBar=true" to IDEA's VM parameters. I am getting tired of having to change this with each beta release.

  • Split Editors

    This totally rocks! I can now view multiple files at the same time. Running at a high resolution really helps to cram all the data you can on the screen, too.

  • GUI Designer

    I personally do not like GUI designers. I actually dispise any attempt for an IDE to provide code generation (except for simple skeleton code).

  • Better CVS integration

There are a lot of new features and subtle changes that you just have to experience. I know that I plan on purchasing the upgrade (hopefully for $149 as previously advertised at

What are your favorite IDEA features? How about things you would like to see changed?


2004-01-24 15:00:34
Plugin Manager
IDEA 4.0 RC1 takes the most prominent place on my toolbar. In addition to built-in functionality I'd like to mention Plugin Manager and nearly transparent extension with plugins like RegEx, XPath, Jad, SQL, ConsoleMaven, Workspaces that make IDEA 4.0 absolutely wonderful. Happy IDEAlist since 2001.
2004-01-27 05:04:10
IntelliJ IDEA 4.0
How does IDEA compare with the MyEclipse plugin suite for Eclipse? Anyone try both? I have been waiting for IDEA 4.0 for a while now. I like MyEclipse and want to compare it to 4.0.
2004-01-28 07:53:39
Is there an IDEA vs Eclipse review/article??
I've been using IDEA for 2.5 years and love it. It does have some problems on the Mac. It definitely does not use the Mac file dialogs and that sort of thing .. maybe 4.0 will fix some of this.

But without a doubt, IDEA does make programming a pleasure. I always had found IDEs simply not worth the effort -- they simply got in the way and created a barrier between the programmer and the program.

That all said, I'm wondering if anyone has seen a good comparison of Eclipse and IDEA? I looked quite a while back and Eclipse was not very interesting, other than being free. But I suspect its getting better.