$500 Barrier to IntelliJ Entry

Listening to JavaCast, a new podcast, I got to hear a bit of a rant by one of the hosts on he hated 30 day licenses like IntelliJ’s and that $500 was way too much of a barrier to entry. Based on my experiences I’d say there’s a bit of truth in the statement even if I think it’s way off base.

I’ve used at least 4 Java IDEs in addition to some text editors during my java programming career. I played around with JBuilder quite a few years ago, but never did much with it because the commercial versions were pretty expensive. After that I worked for a professional services shop that was an Oracle partner, so I used JDeveloper since we were trying to sell customers on the Oracle stack. As Eclipse began to build momentum, I picked it up along with a book since I found the interface pretty horrible to understand without it. When I started my current job the developers mentioned they used IntelliJ IDEA.

I’d of course heard of IntelliJ through it’s many raving fans at JavaRanch, the ServerSide and other sites. They all claimed that it was completely worth the cost, but I had never even tried it out because I didn’t need a new IDE and I couldn’t afford to pay for it.

Given the chance to actually use it, I downloaded it and ordered a license. The first thing I noticed was I was productive right away. I didn’t need to figure out perspectives or the plugin architecture. There was no weird forced directory setup for new projects and the CVS integration worked by turning on a single project setting, no need to even type in a password. The keyboard shortcuts were easy and straightforward. The refactoring features were very nice.

Now I’m not willing to give it up even though we’re in the process of adopting IBM’s toolset. Very much like the Mac OS itself it just works, and better yet it functions intuitively. I admit freely that Eclipse has pretty much the same feature set and certainly more options with all of the plugins available. Still, I won’t go back to it as my full time IDE after being exposed to the productiveness of IntelliJ.

The grain of truth is that a $500 price point did stop me from initially even evaluating it years ago. The difference was as a manager the 30 day trial and $500 price point made no difference, given how productive it was. All of my developers use IntelliJ now, and it has helped many of them as they worked through their first java projects. Many developers on another team use Eclipse and they find it fairly hard to use, since adjusting to things like perspectives can be painful.

So in closing I think IntelliJ is still solid Java IDE choice despite the price.