Where to Find the Best Free Java IDEs

An illustration of Java and a computer.

 ©Lifewire

Java remains one of the most popular programming languages in the world, a position fostered by the language's simplicity as well as the robust ecosystem of integrated development environments on the market that support both general and specific coding objectives.

While many IDEs are part of a paid enterprise development stack, Java programmers enjoy access to several powerful and well-designed IDEs that are free, open source, or both. We highlight five of the most popular.

01
of 05

Eclipse

Eclipse software logo
Eclipse

What We Like

  • Open source with large community.

  • Large selection of plugins available.

  • Easy to use.

What We Don't Like

  • Management of plugins and add-ons is not as easy as others.

  • Interface is dated.

Eclipse, which has been around since 2001, has been immensely popular with Java developers. It is open source software that is often used in the development of commercial projects.

Featuring a variety of useful plugins, the best aspect of this platform is its ability to arrange projects into workspaces called Perspectives, which are visual containers that offer sets of views and editors.

Eclipse is robust and can handle large development projects that include analysis and design, management, implementation, development, testing, and documentation.

Eclipse offers a wide choice of options to developers, the most recent of which is Eclipse Oxygen, which debuted in 2017.

02
of 05

IntelliJ IDEA

IntelliJ software logo
IntelliJ

What We Like

  • Great for Android development.

  • Autosaves work.

  • Easy to automate repetitive tasks.

What We Don't Like

  • Less useful with languages other than Java.

  • Costs to access some helpful features.

  • Memory resource intensive.

Yet another popular IDE for Java developers is JetBrains’ IntelliJ IDEA, available as both a commercial Ultimate version and as a free Community download version.

Offering support for several build systems, this platform features intuitive code completion, code analysis, integration with unit testing frameworks, a full-featured database editor, and a UML Designer.

Hundreds of plugins are available for IntelliJ IDEA. Additionally, this platform features tools for Android app development. 

03
of 05

NetBeans

netbeans logo
NetBeans

What We Like

  • Very customizable to individual work style.

  • Easy to learn and to use.

What We Don't Like

  • Can be taxing to system resources, especially with plugins.

  • User interface could use an update.

The NetBeans IDE offers advanced features and support for Java, PHP, C/C++, and HTML5, which helps the developer build desktop, web, and mobile applications

This platform, which boasts a worldwide community of developers, is open source. Use NetBeans with all versions of Java from Java ME to the Enterprise Edition.

NetBeans offers database support, which the other free IDEs don't. Using its Database Explorer, you can create, modify, and delete databases and tables in the IDE.

NetBeans is in the process of moving to Apache.

04
of 05

JDeveloper

Oracle Jdeveloper screen
Oracle

What We Like

  • Good at simplifying tasks and improving efficiency.

  • Advanced code editing, completion, refactoring, and other features.

What We Don't Like

  • Bulky program that uses a lot of resources.

  • Not as flexible with plugins and other languages as other IDEs.

Developed by Oracle, JDeveloper is a powerful IDE that simplifies the process of development of Java-based SOA and EE applications.

This platform offers end-to-end development for Oracle Fusion middleware and Oracle Fusion applications. It allows for development in Java, SQL, XML, HTML, JavaScript, PHP, and other languages.

Covering the entire development ​lifecycle from design, code development, debugging, optimization, profiling, and deploying, the platform focuses on simplifying app development to the maximum possible extent. 

05
of 05

BlueJ

example of the java IDE available through bluej
BlueJ

What We Like

  • Very simple interface.

  • Easy to use.

  • Barebones IDE, and lighter than others.

What We Don't Like

  • Lacks support of plugins to add functionality.

  • May be too simple for larger, complex projects.

If you're a beginner, the BlueJ Java IDE might be right up your alley. It works on Windows, macOS, Ubuntu, and other operating systems.

Because this IDE is best for beginning developers, it has a robust Blueroom community to help users understand the software and find support.

You can install a handful of extensions to BlueJ — such as a remote file manager and multiproject workspace handler — to add or modify capabilities not offered in the base program.

The open source BlueJ project is supported by Oracle.