Eclipse vs. NetBeans vs. IntelliJ IDEA

Which Java IDE is best?

Eclipse, NetBeans, and IntelliJ IDEA are Java integrated development environments (IDEs). We looked at their features and advantages to help you select the right Java IDE for your mobile app development needs.

Eclipse vs Netbeans vs Intellij

Overall Findings

Eclipse NetBeans IntelliJ
An established platform. A part of Oracle.  Has a commercial edition and an open-source version.
Many plug-ins make it versatile and customizable. Develops for Java versions from Java ME to Enterprise Edition. Supports Java, Scala, Groovy, Clojure, and more.
The IDE is organized in Perspectives. A variety of plug-ins. Handles smart code completion. 
Designed for large development projects. Different bundles have various functions. Handles code analysis.
Handles analysis and design.  Tools and editors for HTML, PHP, XML, JavaScript, and more. Supports advanced refactoring.
Deals with product management. Support for HTML5 and other web technologies. Commercial version supports SQL, ActionScript, Ruby, Python, and PHP.
Handles implementation. Database support with drivers for Java DB, MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Oracle. Version 12 supports Android app development.
Handles content development, testing, and documentation. Database Explorer creates, modifies, and deletes tables and databases. 900 plug-ins (more in the commercial version).

Choosing the right Java IDE is critical to successful mobile app development. The right IDE helps developers handle classpath, create files, build command-line arguments, and more. Eclipse, NetBeans, and IntelliJ are well-established, powerful, and well-designed IDEs that are free, open-source, or both. Netbeans has an enterprise edition with additional features. IntelliJ IDEA offers a commercial version with expanded functionality.

Origins: All Are Established and Respected

Eclipse NetBeans IntelliJ
In existence since 2001. Independently developed in the late 1990s. In existence since 2001. 
Managed by the non-profit Eclipse foundation. Acquired by Sun in 1999 and emerged as an open-source platform. The parent company is JetBrains.
Considered a major platform. Now a part of Oracle. JetBrains makes the Resharper plug-in for Visual Studio.

Eclipse has been in existence since 2001 when IBM released Eclipse as an open-source platform. Managed by the non-profit Eclipse Foundation, this is used in open-source and commercial projects. Starting with humble roots, Eclipse emerged as a major platform that is also used in other programming languages.

NetBeans was independently developed in the latter half of the 1990s. It emerged as an open-source platform after it was acquired by Sun in 1999. Now part of Oracle, this IDE can be used to develop software for all versions of Java, ranging from Java ME up to the Enterprise Edition. Like Eclipse, NetBeans features a variety of plug-ins.

In existence from 2001, the JetBrains IntelliJ IDEA is available in a commercial edition and a free open-source community edition. JetBrains is an established company known for its Resharper plug-in for Visual Studio, which is especially beneficial for C# development.

Advantages: Each Has Strong Suits

Eclipse NetBeans IntelliJ
A plethora of plug-ins. Has various bundles depending on needs. Supports Java, Scala, Groovy, Clojure, and more.
Works in the background compiling code, shows errors as they occur. Tools and editors for HTML, PHP, XML, and JavaScript. Has smart code completion, code analysis, and advanced refactoring.
Perspectives offer a set of views and editors. Support for HTML5. Has an Android UI designer.

The greatest advantage of Eclipse is that it features a large collection of plug-ins, which makes it versatile and customizable. This platform works in the background, compiling code, and showing errors as they occur. The IDE is organized in Perspectives, which are visual containers that offer a set of views and editors.

NetBeans has several bundles: two C/C++ and PHP editions, a Java SE edition, the Java EE edition, and one edition that offers everything needed for a project. This IDE also offers tools and editors that can be used for HTML, PHP, XML, JavaScript, and more. There's also support for HTML5 and other web technologies.

IntelliJ IDEA supports a variety of languages, including Java, Scala, Groovy, Clojure, and more. This IDE comes with features such as smart code completion, code analysis, and advanced refactoring. The commercial Ultimate version, which targets the ​enterprise sector, supports SQL, ActionScript, Ruby, Python, and PHP. Version 12 of this platform comes with an Android UI designer for Android app development.

Key Features: Adding to Product Functionality

Eclipse NetBeans IntelliJ
Has multitasking, filtering, and debugging. Features database support. Offers 900 plug-ins.
Handles analysis and design, product management, and implementation. Drivers for Java DB, MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Oracle. Enterprise version has more plug-ins.
Supports content development, testing, and documentation. Create, modify, and delete tables and databases. Encourages user-submitted plug-ins.

The multitasking, filtering, and debugging features in Eclipse are strong points. Designed to fit the needs of large development projects, it handles tasks such as analysis and design, product management, implementation, content development, testing, and documentation.

NetBeans scores over Eclipse with its database support, and with drivers for Java DB, MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Oracle. Its Database Explorer easily creates, modifies, and deletes tables and databases within the IDE. Largely viewed in the past as a shadow of Eclipse, NetBeans has emerged as a formidable competitor.

IntelliJ IDEA features user-written plug-ins. It offers more than 900 plug-ins, plus more than 50 plug-ins in the enterprise version. Users are welcome to submit more plug-ins using the platform's built-in Swing components.

Final Verdict

Each of these popular IDEs has strong points. While Eclipse is the most used IDE, NetBeans is gaining popularity with independent developers. While the enterprise edition of IntelliJ IDEA works like a marvel, some developers may consider it an unnecessary expense.

It all depends on what you're looking for as a developer and how you plan to go ahead with your work. Install all three IDEs and try each one before making your final choice.