Focus on IDE Plugins – Modules – Extensions

The power of modern Java IDEs lies in their plugin support. The
features of just the IDE are rarely good enough and you regularly need
to use third party plugins.

If you consider Eclipse as the most popular IDE today, in all
probability it’s because of the number of plugins available for
Eclipse. Eclipse does not just have plugins that add some minor
functionality to it, but even plugins that are full fledged commercial
products. Other IDEs like NetBeans, JDeveloper and Intellij IDEA do
not have that many plugins available but each of these are trying to
simplify plugin development and build more plugins that extend the IDE
capability.

IntelliJ IDEA has even announced a “Plug In and Win” contest .
Top entries will win a combined total of US$10,000 in
cash prizes and more than US$15,000 in software licenses from JetBrains
and other Java-oriented vendors.”Our IntelliJ IDEAL Plugin
contest provides an unprecedented opportunity for IntelliJ IDEA users
and other Java developers to show their skill and creativity,” said
Sergey Dmitriev, JetBrains chief executive officer. “The entire
IntelliJ IDEA community will benefit from the influx of new and useful
extensions for their IDE of choice. This competition will inspire the
best of the best to participate, share and – for top entries – win
substantial prizes.”

NetBeans also claims to have drastically simplified plugin development since version 5.0. In an interview with IndicThreads, Rich Unger, a member of the NetBeans Governance Board
said “Up until (NetBeans) 4.0, I actually preferred Eclipse for
developing NetBeans
modules. In 4.0, the NetBeans IDE finally became better for developing
NetBeans platform modules. But, even then, it was not nearly as easy as
it should have been. I packaged up a modified version of the
netbeans.org build files (which are quite complex), and called it the
‘cluster build harness’. This allowed folks to build applications on
the platform (like V-Builder), but it was not officially supported. In
5.0, Jesse Glick et. al. took the idea of the cluster build
harness, and reworked it so it could have first-class support in the
IDE. Then they just kept adding features and wizards until creating,
debugging, testing, branding, and shipping modules could all be done in
a ridiculously simple fashion.”

So what’s the current plugin situation for each IDE? Eclipse Plugin Central currently lists 694 plugins. The NetBeans Modules / Plugins Catalogue lists 67 modules. Intellij IDEA Plugin Repository repository has 295 plugins and Oracle JDeveloper Plugins / Extensions has 36 extensions.

** Note that the number of plugins is not necessarily representative of the support
the IDEs have from third parties. Because the definition of a plugin / module/
extension varies across all IDEs. So do not just go by the numbers. Do
go through the plugins page before you decide which IDE has the best
support.

Unfortunately there is no common framework or specification for plugin
development on IDEs. So you cannot develop a plugin and get it to
directly run on all IDEs. If only the IDE vendors could get together
and develop such a framework, plugin development could get
revolutionized. However for the time being if you wish to start plugin
development , check these resources:

Related
IDE Plugins For Apache Geronimo Server
Eclipse vs NetBeans
Eclipse plugins

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  • ‘Guest’

    I agree.

    >What real benefit will anyone get by open sourcing java now?

    none.

  • ‘Guest’

    Take any tool, plugins and so plugin API and developers are critical for the tool to succeed.

    Also why is there no common plugin development framework? Can’t Sun, IBM, Oracle and Intellij sit down and get this simple thing done?