Interview with JetBrains (and free IntelliJ licenses)

May 29, 2009

I got in touch with JetBrains last week with a few of questions about IntelliJ. Dmitry Jemerov was kind enough to take the time to answer them. JetBrains also offered up 3 IntelliJ licenses to raffle off! To enter the raffle, email me by 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009 (that’s the official kick-off of JavaOne 2009) with the subject IntelliJ Raffle. I’ll announce the winners at some point on Wednesday, June 3rd.

Bold text = me (Ken)
Plain text = Dmitry

Tell us a little bit about yourself Dmitry.

dmitry_jemerov I’m one of the people leading the development
of IntelliJ IDEA and other products based on the IntelliJ IDEA platform. Most of my development efforts at this time are related to RubyMine, our new IDE for Ruby and Rails, and the platform components of IntelliJ IDEA. I also spend a lot of my time on “external communication” (processing incoming bug reports for IntelliJ IDEA, talking to users on the forums and so on).

I’m a UI guy, so I have to start off with my most pressing question — are there any plans for a major overhaul of IntelliJ’s user interface?

If you would like to see some specific areas overhauled, you’re welcome to send your suggestions. :) As for our own plans, we’re mostly working on small local cleanups rather than big overhauls. Some of the things we’ve recently added are a slimmer Project View toolbar and non-modal notifications for different operations where previously modal message boxes were used.

I may take you up on that and send in a few thoughts! By the way, I really like the reduction in non-modal notifications (e.g. when you perform a search that has no results, a green balloon pops up up indicating that nothing was found — very nice!).

Staying on the user interface topic, are there plans to support JavaFX in IntelliJ 9 (Maia)?

At the moment our general thinking is that Flex is a much more mature and robust platform for developing Rich Internet Applications, and that’s where we are investing a significant development effort. We’ll see how JavaFX adoption evolves later (particularly in the light of the Oracle acquisition), but at the moment we don’t have any plans to provide anything beyond the basic JavaFX support that’s currently available in IntelliJ IDEA 8.1.x.

When is IntelliJ 9 (the next major IntelliJ release) slated to ship?

IntelliJ IDEA generally follows a yearly release cycle, so the next major version will ship sometime in autumn 2009.

What would you say the biggest features or changes or that will make the upgrade worth it for developers?

The biggest new feature is support for Java EE 6 and Spring 3, followed by the support for several other new technologies like Tapestry, OSGi and Android. In terms of core functionality, the biggest user-visible change is IDEA’s new capability to perform indexing in background during initial project opening.

Indexing in the background sounds good — it’s agonizing watching that modal indexing dialog.

There were a couple of features I saw on the IntelliJ 9 preliminary roadmap that sounded interesting. Specifically, what are “Floating editor tabs” ? You also mentioned a more “tasked-based UI” — what do you mean ?

Floating editor tabs mean the possibility to detach some tabs and move them outside of the main IntelliJ IDEA window. This is very important when working with multiple monitors, as this will allow to put code editors on several monitors at the same time.

Task-based UI means the possibility to associate certain context (files, breakpoints, run configurations etc.) with a task that you’re working on. If you’re working on several things in parallel, switching between tasks will automatically switch the active change-list, deactivate the breakpoints from the old task and activate those from the new one, load the new run configurations (sets of unit tests), and so on.

I like the idea of being able to break out editor windows. I many times want to see files side by side, but I just can’t get into the current splitting functionality — sounds like floating editor tabs will solve my problem.

As a cross platform IDE, how hard is it to satisfy the different communities — in other words, how hard is it make Mac users happy?! Do developers complain that you don’t offer a native file chooser or print dialog?

First of all, I have to say that we love Macs, and several people on the team (including our UI guys) use Macs as their main development machines.

The users’ impression is actually more of a problem with RubyMine than with IntelliJ IDEA. Java developers are generally OK with the UI we have (I guess), but users switching from TextMate to RubyMine very often complain about our non-native-looking UI. The file chooser is often one of the first things they complain about, but actually I haven’t seen any complaints about the print dialog. :) I’d guess not so many users need to print their source code these days.

We definitely plan to address those complaints – for example, we plan to look into switching to Quaqua as the default L&F under MacOS X.

I’m glad to hear that you guys love Mac users, and even more glad to hear that your UI guys are developing on Macs!

IntelliJ IDEA has been around for a long time now . What do you think the differentiators are that help JetBrains keep such a loyal customer base when there are free IDEs like NetBeans and Eclipse?

IntelliJ IDEA has been in development since 2000. I’d say that what keeps our users loyal is our focus on productivity and attention to detail in the area of the core coding experience. We try to use every chance of helping the user accomplish his or her tasks without being annoying or intrusive.

When developing IntelliJ, does your team talk about or refer to NetBeans and Eclipse?

Not very often in fact. We look at the new features in the major releases of NetBeans and/or Eclipse, and once in a while we look at the UI for some specific tasks when designing our own user interface. The feedback we receive from our users and our own experience using the product matters much more to us.

Where and when can we see you at JavaOne 2009?

JetBrains will have a booth at JavaOne (booth #728), and we’re also giving a talk on MPS, our new Language Workbench technology (Tuesday, June 02, 3:20 PM – 4:20 PM)

If your going to be at JavaOne, go say hi to the JetBrains crew and tell them what you want to see in IntelliJ!


4 Responses to “Interview with JetBrains (and free IntelliJ licenses)”

  1. geekycoder Says:

    Thank for the interview.

    Will love to see true incremental compilation for Intellij. Eclipse and Netbeans’s incremental compilation are impressive.

  2. Ken Says:

    Yeah, that was one of the biggest things I missed when I switched from Eclipse to IntelliJ — my first thought was, “you mean I have to tell this thing to compile?!”

  3. ranjith Says:

    There is a plug-in that enables compile on every save.
    It is called “Eclipse Mode” for some reason.


  4. Ken Says:

    Cool…I wonder how that works with the default auto-save behavior of IntelliJ. I never press save in IntelliJ (which is the way it should be!), but I assume that plugin works in that mode?


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