Author: Karsten Silz
May 1, 2023 8 min read

Permalink: https://betterprojectsfaster.com/guide/java-tech-popularity-index-2023-q2/ide/

Java Tech Popularity Index Q2/2023: IDEs

Summary for Q2/2023

Here is the scorecard of IntelliJ (100%), not on the card, vs. VS Code (left) and Eclipse (right). The arrows show the trend vs. IntelliJ.

Scorecard For IntelliJ (100%) vs. Eclipse (left) and VS Code (right)
Scorecard For IntelliJ (100%) vs. Eclipse (left) and VS Code (right)

VS Code pulls away from IntelliJ in all categories but Udemy courses. Eclipse pulls away slightly from IntelliJ in jobs but loses ground in all other categories.

Here are my recommendations:

  • If you don’t want to spend money, then use Eclipse.
  • If you may spend money, evaluate IntelliJ.
  • Evaluate VS Code for non-Java work, like web development (I use it for all my websites).
  • If you’re using NetBeans, consider moving off of it.

Archive

2023 Q1
2022 Q4 Q3

Table Of Contents

Choices

Here are the choices in alphabetical order:

Please note:

Popularity

Why Popularity - and How?

Picking a popular technology makes our developer life easier: Easier to learn, easier to build, debug & deploy, easier to find jobs/hire, and easier to convince teammates & bosses. Now popularity can make a difference in two situations: When multiple technologies score similarly, we could go for the most popular one. And when a technology is very unpopular, we may not use it.

I measure popularity among employers and developers as the trend between competing technologies. I count mentions in job ads at Indeed for employer popularity. For developer popularity, I use Google searches, Udemy course buyers, and Stack Overflow questions.

Employers: Job Ads

The Indeed job search is active in 62 countries. I picked 59 countries representing 69% of the worldwide GDP in 2022, excluding three countries because English word searches proved ineffective there: China, Japan, and South Korea. Job searches demonstrate the willingness of organizations to pay for a technology - the strongest indicator of popularity in my mind. IntelliJ is the baseline.

Job ad mentions at Indeed for Eclipse, IntelliJ, NetBeans, and VS Code
Job ad mentions at Indeed for Eclipse, IntelliJ, NetBeans, and VS Code

The Eclipse numbers are too high, as Eclipse also has many frameworks. Search only for “Eclipse IDE” would exclude many ads that just refer to the Eclipse IDE as “Eclipse”. I may adjust this in the future.


Eclipse wins, IntelliJ is second, VS Code is third, and NetBeans last. The number of developer ads is down in Q1/2023. After a decline in the summer, Eclipse and VS Code have rallied in the fall: Eclipse leads IntelliJ now 2.6:1, up from 2.3:1. And VS Code overtook IntelliJ with 111%. Why? Because in absolute numbers, IntelliJ lost 36% of its mentions since June 2022. NetBeans ended its surge and declined even more than IntelliJ did in the last two months.

Please see here for details, caveats, and adjustments to the job ad mentions.

You can find the detailed search results with links here. They include breakdowns by continents:

Developers

Students at Udemy

Udemy is one of the biggest online learning sites. They publish the number of people who bought a course (beyond a certain threshold, possibly around 100k). This shows how many people evaluate a technology. This time, Eclipse is the baseline.

Students at Udemy for Eclipse, IntelliJ, and VS Code
Students at Udemy for Eclipse, IntelliJ, and VS Code

VS Code wins, Eclipse is second, and IntelliJ is third. VS Code leads Eclipse 3.2:1 and steadily pulls away. Since January 2023, IntelliJ now has enough students for reporting on Udemy. It has half of Eclipse’s numbers and gains slightly on Eclipse in its first three months. NetBeans has not enough students for Udemy to reveal their number.

Here are the links that show the courses for all and the number of students for some:

Google Searches

Google Trends demonstrates the initial interest in a technology over time. “More searches = better” to me.

Google Trends for Eclipse, IntelliJ, NetBeans, and VS Code
Google Trends for Eclipse, IntelliJ, NetBeans, and VS Code

Google changed its measurement algorithms on January 1, 2016, and January 1, 2022. That caused spikes for all values, especially in 2022.


This link produces the chart above.

Eclipse and NetBeans have long declined, since 2005 and 2008, respectively. VS Code has risen significantly over the last few years, while IntelliJ rose slightly. Let’s zoom in on the previous three years:

Google Trends for Eclipse, IntelliJ, NetBeans, and VS Code Over the Last Three Years
Google Trends for Eclipse, IntelliJ, NetBeans, and VS Code Over the Last Three Years

Google changed its measurement algorithms on January 1, 2022. That caused spikes for all values.

This link produces the chart above.

VS Code wins, Eclipse is second, IntelliJ is third, and NetBeans is fourth. VS Code just hit its all-time high in March. Eclipse has spikes around its quarterly releases but is slightly down compared to three years ago. IntelliJ narrowly grabs the #2 spot and is slightly up in the same time frame. Netbeans is flat overall at a quarter of either Eclipse or IntelliJ.

Questions at Stack Overflow

We can run database queries against the question, answers, and comments at Stack Overflow with the StackExchange Data Explorer. The number of questions is a proxy for using a technology during evaluation and productive use. “More questions = better” to me.

Monthly Questions at Stack Overflow for Eclipse, IntelliJ, NetBeans, and VS Code
Monthly Questions at Stack Overflow for Eclipse, IntelliJ, NetBeans, and VS Code

You can run the query below at the StackExchange Data Explorer:

(Click to expand) Eclipse, IntelliJ, NetBeans, and VS Code
DECLARE @StartDate DATE = '2009-01-01';
DECLARE @EndDate DATE = '2023-03-31';

WITH Tagged AS (
  SELECT
    Id,
    CreationDate,
    CASE WHEN CHARINDEX('<maven>', Tags) > 0 THEN 1 ELSE 0 END AS IntelliJTag,
    CASE WHEN CHARINDEX('<eclipse>', Tags) > 0 THEN 1 ELSE 0 END AS EclipseTag,
    CASE WHEN CHARINDEX('<netbeans>', Tags) > 0 THEN 1 ELSE 0 END AS NetbeansTag,
    CASE WHEN CHARINDEX('<visual-studio-code>', Tags) > 0 THEN 1 ELSE 0 END AS VSCodeTag
  FROM Posts
  WHERE
    PostTypeId = 1 AND -- 1 for 
    CreationDate >= @StartDate AND
    CreationDate <= @EndDate
),
MonthlyCounts AS (
  SELECT
    DATEADD(month, DATEDIFF(month, 0, CreationDate), 0) AS Month,
    SUM(IntelliJTag) AS IntelliJ,
    SUM(EclipseTag) AS Eclipse,
    SUM(NetbeansTag) AS Netbeans,
    SUM(VSCodeTag) AS VSCode
  FROM Tagged
  GROUP BY DATEADD(month, DATEDIFF(month, 0, CreationDate), 0)
)
SELECT
  Month,
  IntelliJ,
  Eclipse,
  Netbeans,
  VSCode
FROM MonthlyCounts
ORDER BY Month;

VS Code wins, IntelliJ is second, Eclipse is third, and NetBeans is fourth. VS Code’s seven-year-rise stopped last August. The IDE currently sits at 15% below that peak and leads IntelliJ 2.6:1. IntelliJ has declined for nearly eight years to 40% of its top value. Eclipse and NetBeans have declined for over nine years, now at 8% (Eclipse) and 10% (Netbeans) of their peak value. Eclipse has about half of IntelliJ’s questions, while Netbeans has a tenth.

Analysis

  • Eclipse: Despite its decline, it’s still the most popular free Java IDE. The free IntelliJ Community Edition is no competition as it lacks support for back-end frameworks like Spring or Jakarta EE and web frameworks. But the cracks show: In Stack Overflow’s “2022 Developer Survey”, 72% of 8,866 respondents dread using Eclipse. And VS Code puts Eclipse on notice. So Eclipse has a VS Code competitor in the works.
  • IntelliJ: In a world where everybody and their dog offer us free development tools, IntelliJ Ultimate Edition stands out as a product people are willing to pay for. Why? Because developers are happy with it: In the Stack Overflow “2022 Developer Survey” mentioned above, 68% of 19,723 developers love IntelliJ. Still, JetBrains also works on a VS Code clone.
  • NetBeans: Moving from Sun to Oracle to Apache hasn’t done the oldest Java IDE in this list any good. It competes against the much more popular Eclipse IDE, not to mention VS Code. Feature-wise, there isn’t anything really to set NetBeans apart from Eclipse. And in Stack Overflow’s “2022 Developer Survey”, 77% of 8,866 respondents dread using NetBeans. That’s the worst score there. A low popularity also means getting fewer plugins than the other IDEs.
  • VS Code: It may not be a fully-fledged Java IDE. But it is something we developers have never had - a free, fast, cross-platform, cross-language IDE. And developers love it: In Stack Overflow’s “2021 Developer Survey”, VS Code took the top IDE spot (I don’t count Neovim as an actual IDE). 81% of 52,523 developers loved it - that’s 2% more than last year.

So here’s my recommendation:

  • If you don’t want to spend money, then use Eclipse.
  • If you may spend money, evaluate IntelliJ.
  • Evaluate VS Code for non-Java work, like web development (I use it for all my websites).
  • If you’re using NetBeans, consider moving off of it.

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