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Review: IntelliJ IDEA 5.0 Enhancements Must Compete with 'Free' IDEs : Page 2

A satisfied IntelliJ IDEA 4.5 user reviews the new features in the IntelliJ 5.0 release. As productive as the enhancements to the new IDE are, he explains why he still probably will switch to Eclipse down the road.




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IntelliJ Version 5 Enhancements

I had been using version 5 for only about 10 days at the time of writing. I discuss only new features that I actually used (see JetBrain's complete list of new features). JetBrains made a few menu changes to the new version, most notably:
  • The Tools menu has fewer items.
  • The Analyze menu has five additional items.
  • The View menu has a new "Recent changes" item.

The following sections describe new features that I consider to be the most useful.

JavaScript Support
Code completion is not automatic for JavaScript files like it is when you edit Java code. So when editing JavaScript source files with IntelliJ 5.0, it enables you to get help with local symbol completion by using the Control-Space keystroke.

My favorite JavaScript-handling improvement is that the editor correctly handles JavaScript that is embedded in JSPs. I know that it is best to include JavaScript code from separate source files, but I often find it handy to inline simple and single-use JavaScript.

CSS Styled Editing
The IntelliJ editor is now "CSS aware". Text is color styled. Placing the cursor at the end of a block highlights the matching begin of block. A "CSS aware" editor finds syntax errors as I edit—a real time saver!

Support for JSP 2.0 Standard
Code completion seems to work better, and the editor now supports the newer JSP 2.0 standard—even referenced file paths support code completion. Version 4.x had no structure view for JSPs. Now, version 5 offers a reasonably useful structure view for them. You can also use the XML JSPX format. Personally, I am so used to the non-XML JSP format that I am unlikely to change to JSPX. The advantage of using the XML JSPX format is that you can process your page files with an XML parser, use XPATH for searching your pages, etc. In practice, I find the non-XML JSP format easier to use.

J2ME Support
I have not done any J2ME development for a few years, so I did not try the new J2ME project support. That said, the description of J2ME support on the JetBrains Web site looked interesting.

Version 5 supports the following three additional refactorings:
  • Moving a method between classes
  • Inline superclass
  • Moving fields to a local scope

Support for Subversion
I have been using CVS forever. In my work flow, I like to keep all code, design artifacts, documentation, etc. under source code control. Since I plan to move up to Subversion in the future, IntelliJ Subversion support will be useful.

Installing IntelliJ 5

The install was simple, and it preserved my 4.x settings. If you want to evaluate version 5 using the free 30-day trial, you can safely use your version JDK1.4 project files. They should still be usable later if you decide not to upgrade.

IntelliJ Still the Best—For Now

For now, IntelliJ is a more productive environment than Eclipse or NetBeans because it is less intrusive to my workflow—I don't think about using IntelliJ, I just use it. For me, it is the best Java development system. Still, in the long term, I might switch to Eclipse for most of my development and use NetBeans only for its excellent visual JFC designer. Eclipse has the advantage of being an open development platform for plugins. For example, IntelliJ has great support for JBoss development, but the JBoss Eclipse plugin looks promising. Many good user-written IntelliJ plugins are available, but I believe that a free platform like Eclipse will generate more plugin developer interest.

Mark Watson is a Java consultant and the author of 14 books on Java, artificial intelligence, C++, and intelligent agents.
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