Author: Karsten Silz
Nov 28, 2023   |  updated Dec 1, 2023 9 min read

Permalink: https://betterprojectsfaster.com/guide/java-tech-popularity-index-2023-q4/ide/

Java Tech Popularity Index Q4/2023: IDEs

Summary for Q4/2023

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

VS Code (left) And Eclipse (right) vs. IntelliJ (100%)
VS Code (left) And Eclipse (right) vs. IntelliJ (100%)

VS Code pulls away from IntelliJ in all categories but Udemy courses, where IntelliJ catches up ever so slightly. Eclipse loses ground to IntelliJ in all 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 Q3 Q2 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. 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. There are now job numbers for May 2023 because of changes on the Indeed websites.


Eclipse wins, VS Code is second, IntelliJ is third, and NetBeans last. The overall number of developer ads is down in 2023. After peaking in March this year, Eclipse lost a bit but still beats IntelliJ more than 2.4:1. VS Code’s small lead on IntelliJ shrinks again. NetBeans still hovers around 20% of the IntelliJ ad numbers.

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 nearly 3.3:1 and steadily pulls away. Since January 2023, IntelliJ has gained steadily on Eclipse and will soon be at 60%. NetBeans does not have 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. The percentage behind the current value is the drop-off from the peak value, marked with a circle.

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 and has been neck-to-neck with Eclipse for 1.5 years. 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, IntelliJ is second, Eclipse is third, and NetBeans is fourth. After a dip, VS Code has risen again for the last six months. Eclipse has spikes around its quarterly releases but is slightly down compared to three years ago. IntelliJ has been the #2 for six maonths and has grown 50% in the last three years. Netbeans is flat overall at a third of Eclipse’s numbers.

Monthly Questions at Stack Overflow

We can run database queries against the questions, answers, and comments at Stack Overflow with the StackExchange Data Explorer. The number of monthly questions is a proxy for using a technology during evaluation and productive use. “More questions = better” to me. The percentage behind the current value is the drop-off from the peak value, marked with a circle.

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

VS Code wins, IntelliJ is second, Eclipse is third, and NetBeans is fourth. VS Code’s seven-year-rise stopped 18 months ago. The IDE lost 43% and only leads IntelliJ 2.2:1. IntelliJ has declined for nearly eight years to just 27% of its peak value. Eclipse and NetBeans have declined for over nine years, now at 5% (Eclipse) and 4% (Netbeans) of their peak value. Still, Eclipse has 81% of IntelliJ’s questions, while Netbeans has only 15%.

Please note that overall monthly number of Stack Overflow questions is down 42% since ChatGPT appeared (November 2022 vs. October 2023):

Monthly Questions at Stack Overflow
Monthly Questions at Stack Overflow

You can run the query below at the StackExchange Data Explorer to get this :

(Click to expand) Query 1: Eclipse, IntelliJ, NetBeans, and VS Code
DECLARE @StartDate DATE = '2009-01-01';
DECLARE @EndDate DATE = '2023-09-30';

WITH Tagged AS (
  SELECT
    Id,
    CreationDate,
    CASE WHEN CHARINDEX('<intellij-idea>', 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;
(Click to expand) Query 2: All Questions
DECLARE @StartDate DATE = '2009-01-01';
DECLARE @EndDate DATE = '2023-10-31';

WITH Questions AS (
  SELECT
    Id,
    CreationDate,
    1 AS AQuestion
  FROM Posts
  WHERE
    PostTypeId = 1 AND -- 1 for questions
    CreationDate >= @StartDate AND
    CreationDate <= @EndDate
),
MonthlyCounts AS (
  SELECT
    DATEADD(month, DATEDIFF(month, 0, CreationDate), 0) AS Month,
    SUM(AQuestion) AS Questions
  FROM Questions
  GROUP BY DATEADD(month, DATEDIFF(month, 0, CreationDate), 0)
)
SELECT
  Month,
  Questions
FROM MonthlyCounts
ORDER BY Month;

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 still show: In Stack Overflow’s “2023 Developer Survey”, only 28% of its users want to continue using it (“admire”). And only 3% want to start using it (“desire”). 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 Stack Overflow’s “2023 Developer Survey”, 66% of its users want to continue using it. And 203% want to start using it. That makes it the most-liked commercial IDE and the #2 most-liked IDE behind VS Code. 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. In Stack Overflow’s “2023 Developer Survey”, only 24% of its users want to continue using it. That’s the third-lowest score. Only 1% want to start using it. That’s the worst Java IDE 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 “2023 Developer Survey”, 77% of its users want to continue using it – the third-highest score. And a whopping 59% want to start using it – three times as much as the #2 (IntelliJ).

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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