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
Established platform. Part of Oracle.  Has commercial edition and open-source version.
Many plugins make it versatile and customizable. Develops for all Java versions ranging from Java ME to Enterprise Edition. Supports Java, Scala, Groovy, Clojure, and more.
IDE organized in Perspectives. Variety of plugins. 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 to create, modify, and delete tables and databases. 900 plugins (more in enterprise 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 much more. Eclipse, NetBeans, and IntelliJ are all well-established, powerful, and well-designed IDEs that are free, open-source, or both. Netbeans has an enterprise edition with additional features, while 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 late 1990s. In existence since 2001. 
Managed by nonprofit Eclipse foundation. Acquired by Sun in 1999 and emerged as open-source platform. Parent company is JetBrains.
Considered a major platform. Now part of Oracle. JetBrains makes Resharper plugin for Visual Studio.

Eclipse has been in existence since the year 2001, ever since IBM released Eclipse as an open-source platform. Managed by the non-profit Eclipse Foundation, this is used in both open-source and commercial projects. Starting with humble roots, Eclipse has emerged as a major platform that is also used in several 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 also features a variety of plugins.

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

Advantages: Each Has Strong Suits

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

The greatest advantage of Eclipse is that it features a whole plethora of plugins, which makes it versatile and highly customizable. This platform works for you in the background, compiling code, and showing errors as they occur. The entire IDE is organized in Perspectives, which are essentially sort of visual containers that offer a set of views and editors.

NetBeans has several bundles: 2 C/C++ and PHP editions, a Java SE edition, the Java EE edition, and one kitchen sink edition that offers everything you will ever need for your project. This IDE also offers tools and editors that can be used for HTML, PHP, XML, JavaScript, and more. There's support for HTML5 and other web technologies, as well.

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 mainly targets the ​enterprise sector, supports SQL, ActionScript, Ruby, Python, and PHP. Version 12 of this platform also comes with an Android UI designer for Android app development.

Key Features: Adding to Products' Functionality

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

Eclipse’s multitasking, filtering, and debugging are strong points. Designed to fit the needs of large development projects, it can handle various tasks such as analysis and design, product management, implementation, content development, testing, and documentation.

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

IntelliJ IDEA also features user-written plugins. It currently offers more than 900 plugins, plus an additional 50-plus in its enterprise version. Users are always welcome to submit more plugins by using the platform's built-in Swing components.

Final Verdict

Each of these three popular IDEs has strong points. While Eclipse is still the most used IDE, NetBeans is now 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 them out before making your final choice.