IDEs, or integrated development environments, are the backbone of the development environment. There is no right or wrong choice, but there are pros and cons of each.

There’s often a push-and-pull between allowing individuals the flexibility to customize their individual Java development environments in a way that works for them and enforcing continuity between developers.

Read on for a closer look at what Java IDEs are, which Java IDEs are most popular, and technical tips for various Java IDEs.


What is a Java IDE?

An IDE, or integrated development environment, streamlines a developer’s individual environment and enables a developer to write, edit, and test code in a single application. This is more efficient than switching between applications for each of these functions.  

Can I Write Java Code Without an IDE?

The short answer is yes: You can write Java code without using an IDE.  

The long answer is: Why would you want to? Most Java IDEs are free for personal use (including Microsoft VSCode and Eclipse). Using an IDE to write to write Java code can make the process more efficient and offer tools for debugging.


According to the 2024 Java Developer Productivity Report, the most popular Java IDE is IntelliJ IDEA at 41%. Behind, Eclipse is second with 23%, and Microsoft VSCode, or Visual Studio Code, is a close third at 19%.

Illustration of man sitting at desk looking at a computer. Block IDE logos float above him.

Digging into the numbers deeper, and you'll find some interesting trends in the most popular Java IDEs over the past four years. IntelliJ IDEA has firmly held the top spot over that timespan, with the Java IDE's popularity only increasing. Over that same time period, the popularity of Eclipse has dipped slightly, while adoption of VSCode has picked up steam.

Learn more about the most popular Java IDEs in 2024.


Everything You Need to Know About IntelliJ IDEA

IntelliJ IDEA Logo

IntelliJ IDEA is renowned for its polished user experience and extensive functionality. While the free version, IntelliJ IDEA Community doesn’t offer the full suite of integrations, it’s still a powerful tool for Java development. IntelliJ Ultimate is the paid version; it’s a full-featured IDE that’s fit for enterprise use.

Compared to other IDEs, IntelliJ has many advantages, including advanced UI and UX features, configurable code completion, and templates. IntelliJ IDEA also offers language support, framework support, build tool support, version control support, and more.  

Looking for more ways to save time with IntelliJ IDEA? Check out this compilation of keyboard shortcuts for IntelliJ. Get the cheat sheet.  

Making the switch to IntelliJ IDEA? This guide for Eclipse users walks through the migration and setup process.


Everything You Need to Know About Eclipse

Eclipse Logo

The Eclipse IDE is an open-source Java IDE created by the Eclipse Foundation. It’s highly extensible through plugins and is a viable enterprise solution to IntelliJ IDEA. 

Want to dive in? Check out this ebook on using Eclipse for Java development.


Everything You Need to Know About VSCode


Visual Studio Code, i.e., VSCode, is one of the newest IDEs made available in the Java ecosystem, but it is far from a new IDE in the developer ecosystem. The IDE works seamlessly across many different programming languages including Java, Javascript, Rust, and PHP. Learn more about VSCode.

The VSCode marketplace offers hundreds of extensions, or plugins, that can do everything from change the color of your code to promoting productivity. Learn more about the JRebel extension for VSCode.

Looking for even more ways to save time with VSCode? The JRebel team put together a handy cheat sheet of keyboard shortcuts for VSCode. 

Check out the VSCode cheat sheet.


Other Java IDEs

While the so-called “Big Three” of IntelliJ IDEA, Eclipse, and VSCode comprise the vast majority of IDE usage, those are not the only IDEs available. Read on to learn more about secondary IDEs including NetBeans, Rational Application Developer, Oracle JDeveloper, MyEclipse, and web-based IDE options.


NetBeans is a good choice for developers on a budget, or those who need a lightweight IDE. Because it's a free and open-source Java IDE, it can be a viable alternative to a paid IDE like IntelliJ IDEA Ultimate. 

Learn more about NetBeans.


MyEclipse is a commercially available Java IDE that’s built upon the Eclipse platform. MyEclipse integrates both proprietary and open-source code into the development environment.


AI Integration in Java IDEs

Generative AI writes Java code based on user input and Natural Language Learning models. The user completes a prompt about what they want the code to do in plain language, and the generative AI tool will return Java code that addresses the requirements set forth in the prompt.

Multi color JRebel logo

Many IDEs are now adding AI extensions or plugins. Instead of copy/pasting AI-generated code from GitHub Copilot or ChatGPT, AI code generators integrated with IDEs, including VSCode and IntelliJ IDEA, are directly integrated and offer a seamless user experience. 

Learn more about AI in Java IDEs


Can You Use More Than One Java IDE?

Many Java developers have strongly-held IDE preferences, but that doesn’t mean that one is better than another. And it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, either. Increasingly, Java developers are using more than one Java IDE.  

According to the 2024 Java Developer Productivity Report, 84% of respondents using IntelliJ IDEA said they use more than one IDE in their Java development practice, with VSCode being the most popular secondary IDE.

Why Use More Than One Java IDE?

While fully-featured IDEs like IntelliJ IDEA or Eclipse attempt to offer all of the tools a Java developer may need in one comprehensive package, the reality is that no single IDE excels in all facets of code development. And as shops move to more than one development language, IDEs that support a polyglot environment become crucial.


Save Time in Your Java IDE

No matter what Java IDE you’re using, you can save time with JRebel. It’s quick and easy to install the appropriate plugin or extension into your IDE and visualize code changes instantly.  


Want to See How Much Time You Could Save with JRebel?

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