Getting Groovy (and Grails)

Explorations in Groovy and Grails Development

Picking an IDE for Grails Development

with 3 comments

I’ve been using Eclipse for a while now for most of my development (with Textmate as a backup when I don’t want to fire up an entire IDE). However, coming to the Grails world recently it was pretty clear that the Groovy Eclipse plugin wasn’t really ready for prime time. There are some notes on using it for Grails development, but it didn’t seem to me to be a viable option for Grails development.

I looked for a while at using Netbeans for Grails development. When I first started looking, it appeared to be a non starter, but with the fairly recent announcements of version 6.5+ support for Grails it has become a much more credible contender. It doesn’t have debugging, support for GSPs and there can be performance issues, but if you’re in the market for an IDE, the price is right (free!) and I’d definitely recommend giving it a shot.

In the end, I decided to go with IntelliJ. I bought a license for 8.1. As a personal developer it’s $250 for a license, but if I do even one project in Grails and it saves me a morning it’ll have paid for itself. It’s the IDE that most of the core team seem to use, and while there have been some complaints about IntelliJ choking on Grails 1.1 projects (especially with global plugins) I think they’re going to continue to invest in keeping this as the premier IDE for Groovy/Grails development.

If I change my mind, I’ll certainly let you know! What do you think? What IDE did you choose (if any) and why? I’d also be interested to hear from anyone using Textmate or vi (I don’t speak to emacs people 🙂 – kidding!). Have you ever used an IDE? Were you already a long time text editor afficianado or did you choose to move because you felt (for instance) that the benefits of an IDE were less in a dynamic language (limitations on code completion, etc.)?


Written by peterbell

March 26, 2009 at 2:26 pm

Posted in Grails, IDEs

3 Responses

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  1. Hi, Peter,

    I started getting into Groovy and Grails late last year and went through a tough time with the whole ‘IDE thing’. I tried a few Groovy/Grails tutorials in NetBeans 6.5, TextMate), Eclipse, and IntelliJ. NetBeans and TextMate got ruled out pretty much straightaway.

    IntelliJ seems the best of the bunch but, in the end, I decided to stick with the Eclipse variant. It was mostly because of money. Couldn’t yet justify the expense since I’m still learning.

    While the Eclipse plugin leaves a bit to be desired, I do like Eclipse for Java and have used it for 4 years now. For Groovy/Grails, I have been able to work around the limitations of the respective plugins. Again, that might all change as I get into (hopefully) paid work for Groovy/Grails. If so, I’ll take another look at IntelliJ.

    Good luck delving into the world of Groovy!

    Craig Kaminsky

    March 26, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    • Hi Craig,

      Makes sense. Also, given that G2One was acquired by SpringSource last November there’s been a lot of speculation about them investing more in the Eclipse plugin so I’m sure it’ll get better this year. Thanks for the best wishes – I’ve been keeping an eye on Groovy and Grails for a while and I’m familiar with most of the language features in Groovy from blog postings, conference presentations and other dynamic languages, so I’m really looking forwards to writing some production code!


      March 26, 2009 at 5:32 pm

  2. Just a quick ping – I’m using Netbeans and still liking it. Downgraded to 6.5.1 from 6.7 beta because there’s a git plugin problem with the 6.7 right now. May upgrade in future.

    Not sure if other IDEs have this, but netbeans keeps a local change history for every file you edit. Even if you’re not using svn/cvs/whatever, you can diff any revision of a file back two weeks or so (by default). Very handy.

    The introspection isn’t perfect, especially for Grails/Groovy stuff, but it’s better than I expected, and hopefully will get better. I’m used to doing ‘def’ for all declarations. However, if I do the java-esque way of saying “User u = …” instead of “def u = …”, I get more code completion anyway. It’s there if I need it.

    Also, I like that Netbeans has good PHP support. It’s something I can use on multiple projects across languages if I need to.

    Michael Kimsal

    May 6, 2009 at 11:41 pm

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