5 Features Eclipse Should Copy From IntelliJ IDEA

Eclipse Photon has been released a few days ago, and I decided to do yet another comparison with IntelliJ IDEA. Last time I explained why I still prefer Eclipse, but because my current project had problems with Java 9 in Eclipse initially, I’ve been using IntelliJ IDEA in the past half a year. (Still using Eclipse for everything else; partly because of the lack of “multiple projects in one workspace” in IDEA).

This time, though, the comparison will be the other way around – what IDEA features I’d really like to have in Eclipse; features that make work much easier and way more efficient. (Btw, what’s the proper short version to use – IntelliJ? IDEA?)

Isn’t that a departure from my stance “Eclipse is better”? No – I don’t believe there’s a perfect IDE (or perfect anything, for that matter), so any product can try to get the best aspects of the competition. Here I’ll focus on five features of IDEA where Eclipse lags behind.

First, the “Find in path” dialog. The interactivity of the dialog, the fact that you see all the results while typing and being able to navigate the results with the arrows is huge. Compare that to Eclipse’s clunky Search dialog, which (while pretty powerful), has a million tabs (rarely focused on the one you need) and then you actually click “Search” to get a list of results in a search panel, where you double-click in order to see the context…it’s just bad compared to IDEA.

Second is suggesting static imports. Static imports are not used too often, except in tests. Mockito, Hamcrest, test utility methods – in every class you need dozens of static imports. And Eclipse feels miserable with those – you manually go and import the methods you need, then organize imports and suddenly you need another one, and the .* you naively added has been changed to particular imports, so once again, you have to go and manually import. In contrast, IDEA just suggest the most relevant static import in the autocomplete pop-up and handles that for you.

Third is autocomplete. IDEA autocomplete triggers automatically when you start typing; in Eclipse it only triggers after a dot – otherwise you have to CTRL+space. And yes, I know there’s auto-activation setting where you can configure symbols that trigger the auto-complete, but as I’ve previously complained about IDEA’s defaults, it’s Eclipse’s turn. And it’s not even a checkbox – you have to actively type the entire alphabet, lower and upper case, in order to get it working – that’s just bad design. In what scenario would I need autocomplete on a,b,c but not on d,e,f??

Fourth is lambda simplification. You sometimes end up with pretty long chain of calls on a stream and they may not be the best way to express what you want. IDEA can suggest improvements so that it is more readable and easier to understand while achieving the same result. As a bonus, you eventually start doing this simplifications yourself.

Fifth – parameter labels. When you call a method foo.bar("Some string", 0, true) it’s not exactly obvious what the parameters are. And while you can rightly argue that this is a bad method signature, primitive (+String) parameters where you just pass a value happen every now and then, and it’s useful to see the name of the parameter at the point of method invocation. IDEA nicely shows that.

There are certainly more things that each of the IDEs can copy from the other one. Hopefully this competition will continue and result in improving both.

8 thoughts on “5 Features Eclipse Should Copy From IntelliJ IDEA”

  1. I too am unsatisfied with the “find in path” and Eclipse’s poor suggestions around lambdas.

    Static imports is configurable: https://stackoverflow.com/a/19435654

    It took me too long to find this.

    Personally, I find the method parameter names annoying as they make the lines longer.

    A funny and probably irrelevant aside: there is now a fledgling third choice: Visual Studio Code. Red Hat has created a plug-in which is backed by Eclipse’s engine.

    It’s very inadequate at this point, but if you have a project with a lot of JavaScript and a little Java, it could be with the try.

  2. You CAN have multiple projects in a single workspace in IDEA. I do it all the time with an SBT build.

  3. Use “quick search for eclipse” for superfast text search across all open projects in Workspace.

    Ctrl+shift+o organizes all imports.

    I havent used IDEA so I’m not sure exactly how these features work there, but from your description, it seems above tools might help.

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