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DevProd Report Redux: IDEs and Preparation for 2013

Go back in time to May 2012 (before the iPhone 5). ZeroTurnaround decided to produce a report that focused a bit less on time forfeited to builds & redeploys–a process you already know to be long, unnecessary and arduous–and look deeper into which tools & technologies are being most used in the industry. We also looked into how developers spend their work week, what stresses them out and generally what makes devs tick. Behold, the Developer Productivity Report 2012, a 30-page document whose originating survey attracted over 1800 respondents and has been quoted by Oracle, Red Hat and VMWare. Now we’ll go back to revisit the content, one section at a time, adding updates, quotes and feedback from the community.

For years Eclipse has been the most used IDE among Java developers — even as much as two thirds of them use it. But IntelliJ IDEA has been gaining a lot of ground as well lately, no doubt thanks to the free Community Edition that first appeared a couple of years ago. NetBeans holds the third spot in the popularity list and in 2012 made strong gains compared to our data from 2011 – a nearly 80% increase in usage among those surveyed. MyEclipse continues to maintain a solid niche among happy customers, and RAD continues to release new versions for their core market.

Source: Developer Productivity Report 2012 © ZeroTurnaround

Every IDE has a base of ardent followers who swear by it and claim it to be superior to all the others. Is there any objectivity in such claims? We think it’s all very subjective. The IDEs are very similar in their core functionality, but each has some minor or major details that are different or that the others lack. Perhaps the best reason to prefer one over another is being used to one and knowing all the shortcuts by heart.

If you make a switch to another IDE, you might get used to it after a few months, but huge gains in productivity will likely not happen. The key to achieving high productivity with an IDE is to get to know all the ins and outs of the one you are already comfortable with, especially knowing all the keyboard shortcuts.

In any case, we wanted to give a quick look into what has happened in 2012 in the IDE space, and help you think about what features and improvements you want to see in 2013.

Wait no longer – get the full Developer Productivity Report 2012 now

Updates and Preparation for 2013

What’s happened in the IDE space since we published the original Developer Productivity Report? New versions, new features and everything was shiny…


Eclipse 4.2 was released in June, which was the first time where the 4.x branch became the default version of Eclipse offered for download. It has some performance issues, however, so many users have been either staying with 3.7 or 3.8, which was released along with 4.2.

Not everyone is happy with the look & feel changes in Eclipse 4.2. However, this is probably not something that makes people switch to other IDEs — Eclipse 3.7 works just as well as it did a year ago. A few things we found noteworthy in the new version were: CamelCase in quick outline, improved bracket matching support in Java editor, new options for detecting resource leaks, faster searching using pre-built indexes.

IntelliJ IDEA

A year ago, the new release of IntelliJ IDEA 11 came with a big improvement in performance. The project indexers performance was improved by 100% and the IDE startup got considerably faster.

In December 2012, IntelliJ IDEA 12 also came with performance improvements, but now on the compiler side. From now on, IntelliJ IDEA is also aiming to be the most popular IDE for mobile development and the new version brings improvements for Android support. We talked with Maxim Mossienko, Project Lead of IntelliJ IDEA:

“Ever since IntelliJ IDEA introduced support for Android in its free and open-source Community Edition, we’ve worked hard to make it better with each new release. Finally, with the new Android UI designer, IntelliJ IDEA 12 is set to become a top-choice Java IDE for mobile development.”

Other notable improvements include support for Java 8 syntax with lambdas and the new dark theme which seems to be very well received by the users.


NetBeans saw a big jump occur between versions 6.5 and 7.0 in April 2011 – only a few months later, they had counted 1 M active users, which had gone to 1.22 M at JavaOne 2012. NetBeans 7.2 came in July 2012 with significantly improved performance and coding experience.

As of this writing, NetBeans 7.3 Beta 2 is available for download and tells developers that they can expect “a rich web development experience with a page inspector and CSS style editor, completely revamped JavaScript editor, new JavaScript debugger, and more.”

Groovy, PHP and JavaFX support were also the primary updates in 7.2 release so it seems NetBeans is focused and dedicated to supporting these technologies.


In June 2012, MyEclipse 10.7 was released which included the usual support for the latest versions of application servers, including WebSphere Application Server V8.5, as well as all editions (including Blue) supporting the latest Oracle WebLogic 10 and 11 servers.

Framework support also been updated with new Spring 3.1 support including a new comprehensive Java-based application configuration; smart caching abstraction; environment support, including bean definition profiles and hierarchical property source management; support for Hibernate 4; Java 7 Fork/Join and JDBC 4.1 support.

Rational Application Developer (RAD)

IBM released RAD 8.5 in June 2012 and introduced a new environment called WebSphere Application Server Developer Tools for Eclipse, or WDT for short – phew. It is a new, free lightweight set of tools; essentially a subset of the tools from RAD – aimed at Java EE, Web 2.0, mobile web and OSGi application development for WAS V7.0, V8.0, V8.5 and the Liberty Profile. You can use WDT as a plugin to your Eclipse instance.

In RAD 8.5 you can build applications on the latest Web 2.0 technologies, like HTML 5, CSS3, JavaScript, Dojo and JSON. Also included is the IBM Worklight Studio V5.0 which enables native or hybrid mobile application development. RAD V8.5 also delivers support for provisioning and using virtual instances of WAS or WebSphere Portal on IBM SmartCloud Enterprise, or you can step into the brave new world of developing elastic Virtual Application Pattern workloads in RAD for IBM Workload Deployer.

Exo IDE (newcomer!)

If you’ve played around with the eXo platform before, you’ll know that a sister project called Exo IDE has also been gaining ground lately. Exo IDE offers productivity gains by bringing your IDE to the cloud, allowing better collaboration and slimming down on the time it takes for recurring dev tasks (environment activation, compilation, publishing, etc). It’s not a game that most IT companies a trying to get into, but Exo IDE is trying to bring some different thinking to the IDE space, and that’s always welcome.

Our next Developer Productivity Report redux will most likely be in 2013, so feel free to download the full report before that and you won’t have to wait to see all those other sections on Application Servers, Web Frameworks, CI tools, VCS, Code Quality Tools and more. If you want to say anything to us, tweet @jrebel.