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Which IDE supports Groovy best?

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Recently I got a lot of advice about Groovy and IDE support. In the recent past, I tried other IDE plugins for Groovy and was less than impressed. Yesterday evening, I tried IDEA + the Jetgroovy at the advice of Manuel Palacio and was quite impressed. Fred Grott told me the Eclipse Groovy plug-in was the way to go (which I tried a while ago and did not like as much, but perhpas it is better now).

The feedlr.blog has a post about trying the Groovy Eclipse plug-in, IntelliJ IDEA 7's JetGroovy plugin and NetBeans early support for Groovy. It rates IntelliJ support 4/5, Eclipse support 3/5 and the NetBean's support 1/5**. The NetBeans support is not out yet.

Has anyone tried all three? And if so, what was your impression? What is the best IDE to develop Groovy code in? How important is having IDE support for Groovy's continued success?

Feedlr comparison of IDEs  (thanks to Mike Cantrell for passing that along)

Here are my initial impressions of JetGroovy 

Andres Almiray reminded of a prediction I made earlier:

Rick, if I remember correctly you ended 2006 with a piece stating that if Groovy tools did not make it into the scene then the language was doomed for mass adoption, I hope your latest exercise has shown that IDEA delivered (Eclipse is getting better). You may also want to have a look at GSQL and eventually GORM, they will simplify more your queries and still give you full control.


Opinion: Groovy will never live up to its potential until it has good tool support from Eclipse to a much lesser extent NetBeans. This is not to say that Groovy wont be useful and find a good niche.  IDEA support is really great, but without Eclipse support and to a much lesser extent NetBeans support, it is going to be harder to achieve the developer mass market. Free IDEs are pretty popular. The problem with IDEA, although wonderful, it seems it is a very small part of the IDE mass market.

I have been putting Groovy off for two things: good IDE support, and support for Java 5 features like Generics and Enums. Well JetBrains has a great plugin for Groovy and Groovy 1.5 has the Java 5 features so now I am starting to put Groovy into the mix of tools that I use. IDEA support is enough for this rank and file developer.

rick hightowercto of arcMindbloglinkedin

Published at DZone with permission of its author, Rick Hightower.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)


Guillaume Laforge replied on Wed, 2008/01/23 - 4:16am

I haven't tried the NetBeans support yet, but I play with the Eclipse plugin from times to times to track the progress made. There's still a lot of work to do to make the Eclipse plugin as advanced as the IntelliJ IDEA plugin is, but it's progressing, even if at a slow pace.

I've been a long time IDEA user, so I'm spending 99% of my time with it. And as I'm writing some Grails apps for my customers, I can tell you that it's a joy to develop with it, thanks to its support for Groovy Server Pages, tag completion, and even its support for JavaScript helps, as I'm adding some Ajaxey features into the mix. One of the aspects I also particularly like is that it's so easy to mix Groovy and Java classes together, refactor them at will, and IDEA behaves just as if it was just one single language. Awesome.

I'm looking forward to the progresses on the NetBeans and Eclipse support -- for the latter one, the guys from IBM ProjectZero also help. 

So for me, IDEA is still the winner. 

Marcel Overdijk replied on Wed, 2008/01/23 - 5:44am

I completely agree with Guillaume, however - as a dailly Eclipse user - I hope the Eclipse plugin will evolve soon...

 +1 IntelliJ

Michael Kimsal replied on Wed, 2008/01/23 - 8:03am

I can't compare to the other two too much, but the Groovy support in Netbeans 6 is, well, a bit weak.  I'm glad it's there, as Netbeans is currently my default editor.  However, there doesn't seem to be much support that works outside of syntax highlighting.  There's 'project' folder recoginition too, and the ability to create new controllers and domains and such for Grails seems to exist, but never quite works.  Currently, whenver I create a new file, I have to close it, then reopen it, otherwise no keystrokes get to the window.  There's a little red blinking dot in the lower right corner quite often, telling me of some non-fatal error, and it usually seems to involve groovy plugin stuff.

I will be trying out the Eclipse stuff in the next few weeks and hopefully it'll fare better. 

Robert Hicks replied on Wed, 2008/01/23 - 8:31am

While I have heard that the IDEA plugin is really good, I think most Java developers gravitate in the direction of eclipse or Netbeans. If the eclipse plugin stagnates that wouldn't be good for Groovy.

 Also, it is kind of sad that a language is being chosen because of its IDE support and not on the merits of the language itself.

James Williams replied on Wed, 2008/01/23 - 9:41am

Out of the three, I've used Netbeans and IDEA's plugins the most. Netbeans is adequate but nothing to write home about. The features in IDEA are expansive and polished. Eclipse's plugin, if I remember correctly, was tied to Groovy 1.0 for a while(it used it's own groovy jar) and wasn't so easily upgradable to HEAD.I found it hard to use Eclipse at that time because a lot of things in the language were getting tweaked.

Now that the dust has settled and Groovy 1.5 is out, I think Netbeans and Eclipse will come closer to IDEA. The question for me is if IDEA will constantly stay one step ahead or let the others catch up.

Rick Hightower replied on Wed, 2008/01/23 - 12:11pm in response to: Robert Hicks

Also, it is kind of sad that a language is being chosen because of its IDE support and not on the merits of the language itself.
People don't pick languages because of good IDE support. However, they do avoid languages that don't have good IDE support.

Rick Hightower replied on Thu, 2008/01/24 - 1:34am in response to: Guillaume Laforge

So for me, IDEA is still the winner.


Me too. Just wanted to make sure I didn't miss anything.


rick hightowercto of arcMindbloglinkedin

Hou Yong Rong replied on Fri, 2008/01/25 - 1:16pm

Hi folks,

When I spent the time comparing the three major IDE's and writing the blog article on feedlr.blog I was really impressed by IDEA's JetGroovy plugin. It's clearly winning.

But I may not have pointed out clear enough in that article that the cost for IDEA is a really its down side, the impact of which varies from person to person. And for me, it's just a prohibitor. While the Eclipse plugin is far from perfect, it being free and the maturity of the IDE itself kind of compensate for the lack of features. And it has a great potential for improvement. Besides, considering open source IDE's are so widely used, I think organizations especially larger ones may have problem adopting IDEA just for the sake of piloting Groovy/Grails with one of their smaller projects.

Anyway, I believe the one day when the Eclipse plugin (and/or NetBeans) is powerful enough could be the one day serious groovy/grails development gets really boosted.

Serge Bureau replied on Fri, 2008/01/25 - 2:43pm in response to: Hou Yong Rong

Sorry but you have to be kidding.


The Groovy plugin for Eclipse is on par with most of it's plugin's, not very good.


Without debug support it is pretty useless, and no Groovy 1.1 ??? Eclipse is not in the game.


That said NetBeans is even worst ! They should stop loosing time on Ruby as Groovy is a much more interesting approach. 

Micah Schehl replied on Mon, 2008/01/28 - 10:33pm


I am a long time Eclipse user, but I've been trying out IntelliJ specifically to see how good it supports Groovy.  So far, I think Groovy in IntelliJ is a tad nicer, but not terribly noticeable.   I am gravitating towards Eclipse, though, because to me, Eclipse is much easier to use as a whole.

Christoph Henrici replied on Fri, 2008/03/28 - 5:23pm

I seem to have stumbled in a IDEA Lobby meeting...... Well, following the raves concerning the JetGroovy Plugin,  i immediately downloaded the newest version of Intellij (7.0) ... and was utterly disappointed. Elementary stuff did'nt work for me out of the box, like copy and paste. And also it was really slow....... ok, I must  say that i am on Macosx (10.5.2). But i should think that any fair comparison should state at least the plattform they running on... specially for a Java based IDE.

 I immediately downloaded afterwards the newest version of Eclipse (3.3.x) .... installed the Groovy Plugin and was happy: Generics are supported, Debugging, Outline, Code Completion etc. Maybe all not as "sophisticated"..... and Ok, language analysis features are probably better on Intellij and yes they have a formatter. But in Eclipse i can open Declarations and actually see the Source Code of provided classes, in Intellij i have "only" a decompiled class.....

Well i really only i spent like half an hour, so let me get more experience..... But for now i sticking with Eclipse.

Can somebody tell on concrete examples, why Intellij is such a "rave" for Groovy guys?   

Or is it, just it that some people prefere Picasso over Matisse?

And I wonder now how the picture is on Linux, where Eclipse fairs also quite well. 



Rick Hightower replied on Thu, 2009/01/15 - 4:41am

Ok... It has been a year. I have recent experience with NetBeans + Groovy, IntelliJ + Groovy and Eclipse + Groovy... By far, IntelliJ is the hands down winner. The Eclipse plugin is still buggy and the NetBeans plugin is just plain feature poor.

Viraf Karai replied on Sat, 2009/02/21 - 3:20pm

I used to be a MyEclipse user, but IDEA 8.x beats MyEclipse hands-down - no contest there. Groovy and Grails support is very, very polished in IDEA 8. I found IDEA 7 very slow to start up and support for Groovy and Grails wasn't "first class". Things have changed substantially since IDEA 8 was released. For me, the code completion in IDEA still blows my socks out.

Kirk Remignanti replied on Wed, 2010/11/10 - 2:26pm

Is anyone else using SpringSource Tool Suite for Grails/Groovy development? I'd be interested to hear how it compares to NetBeans and/or IntelliJ.

I found the SpringSource Tool Suite nice to use because it seems to work with Grails/Groovy a bit more readily than Eclipse.

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