Thanks to the great guys at Jetbrains, Apache committers are entitled to a free IntelliJ IDEA license for their Open Source development. Today I found my license in the inbox, and I rushed to an install: I remember trying out Idea a few years ago and being more than impressed at how cool the product was.
Mind you, I’m not an IDE guy: possibly the most used software on my powerbook is Terminal.app and Vim. Vi is just faster than everything else (Emacs lovers don’t need to comment, I really did try to use it, but it just gets way too mych on my way): since most of my time is spent fixing problems and finding issues on other’s code, I’m much more productive with ten fingers and a shell rather than with a mouse and a (bloated?) IDE. However, IDEs are unvaluable when I’m starting from a clean slate and I have to actually code some stuff: whenever I start missing code completion, TDD tools, remote debuggers and the like, I understand it’s time to go grab a coffee while Eclipse starts up.
With my fresh Idea license, I started playing around with the IDE. After a few hours (and an overly annoying amount of “force quit”), my first impression is that Idea is definitely cool stuff, but in the past few years Eclipse has played the catch-up game pretty well: I would say that Idea is still ahead of the pack (refactoring is sweet, code folding works well, the UI is snappy despite being Swing), but they basically don’t have the killer features monopoly anymore. So far I tend to say that Idea outperforms Eclipse more or less on everything, but only of a slight bit. Whether that bit is worth the price tag is still something to consider: for now, I’m stuck in trying to make Subversion work, then I plan to give Idea a serious try trying to accomplish some of my geeky objectives for 2005.