It’s been a crazy week if you follow the ide-dev mailing list at Eclipse. We’ve had many posts over the years discussing our competitive relationship with IntelliJ and the depression that sets in when we try to figure out how to make Eclipse make better so people don’t hate on it so much and then how nothing changes.
This time, though, sparked by what seemed to be an innocent post by Mickael Istria about yet another claim that IntelliJ has better content assist (which from what I’ve seen, it actually does). This time it sparked a huge conversation with many Eclipse contributors chiming in with their thoughts about where we are with the Eclipse IDE and what needs to be done to make things better. A great summary of the last few days has been captured in a German-language Jaxenter article.
The difference this time is that it’s actually sparked action. Mickael, Pascal Rapicault, and others have switched some of their focus on the low hanging user experience issues and are providing fixes for them. The community has been activated and I love seeing it.
Someone asked why the Architecture Council at Eclipse doesn’t step in and help guide some of this effort and after discussing it at our monthly call, we’ve decided to do just that. Dani Megert and I will revive the UI Guidelines effort and update the current set and extend it to more general user experience guidance. We’ll use the UI Best Practices group mailing list to hold public discussions to help with that. Everyone is welcome to participate. And I’m sure the ide-dev list will continue to be busy as contributors discuss implementation details.
Eclipse became the number one Java IDE with little marketing. Back in the 2000’s developers were hungry for a good Java IDE and since Eclipse was free and easy to set up (yes, unzipping the IDE wasn’t that bad an experience) and worked well, had great static analysis and refactoring, they fell in love with it.
Other IDEs have caught up and in certain areas passed Eclipse and, yes, IntelliJ has become more popular. It’s not because of marketing. Developers decide what they like to use by downloading it and trying it out. As long as we keep our web presence in shape that developers can find the IDE, especially the Java one, and then keep working to make it functionally the best IDE we can, we’ll be able to continue to serve the needs of developers for a long time.
Our best marketing comes from our users. That’s the same with all technology these days. I’d rather hear from someone who’s tried Docker Swarm than believe what the Docker people are telling me (for example). That’s how we got Eclipse to number one, and where we need to focus to keep the ball rolling. And as a contributor community, we’re working hard to get them something good to talk about.