Alternative IDEs for Android Development?

When gearing up for some serious Android development there are likely a few things you like to do- maybe you grab some coffee, pull up the developer’s documentation, or browse some stack overflow articles. But, whatever your routine is, it usually involves firing up Eclipse.

What if this step was as variable as the rest? Could we comfortably forsake Eclipse? Are there any equally supported and efficient IDEs out there or are we stuck? In this article we will look at what options are out there and whether or not we would want to use them.

1. JetBrain’s IntelliJ IDEA

IntelliJ became a serious contender back in 2010 when JetBrain decided to open source it’s product and pre-package the Android plugin with its free download. It includes emulator support, good code completion, a decent xml editor and log cat debugging. That being said, in comparison to Eclipse’s rivaling features, IntelliJ falls short. The code completion is good, but not great; it’s xml editor is severely lacking a WYSIWYG feature, and without explicit support by Google you are prone to odd errors. Personally I see no reason to use IntelliJ over Eclipse, even if you are a seasoned general Java IntelliJ user.

2. NetBeans

Like Eclipse, NetBeans offers the ability to install a similar Android plugin. So basically they offer the same features side by side. The only downfall is the lack of support by Google. So, as seen in IntelliJ, you are prone to weird errors that aren’t necessarily your fault. I would say if you’re a seasoned NetBeans user you could probably get away with sticking to your IDE and produce some good apps, but you may run into more problems than if you picked up Eclipse.

3. MOTODEV Studio

MOTODEV is an Eclipse derivative that aims to make Android development easier. They offer you commonly used code snippets, quick and easy SQLite database management, a code generation wizard that lets you design menus and and layouts without having to program any Java code, and an App Validator that supposedly helps repair improper permissions and conditions. These key features seem useful and productive but I don’t know personally whether or not they stand up to they hype. I would say that if your goal right now is to become an Android Ninja, I would stay away from training wheels and stick to Eclipse. But sometime in the future, when you’re competing in the the world market, maybe an option like MOTODEV would be viable.

To conclude, there isn’t much competition with Eclipse. The dedicated support Google in my opinion is more than enough a reason to use Eclipse. Even if I was a seasoned NetBeans or IntelliJ user I would try to overcome the relatively low learning curve. Using an unsupported IDE is just too risky.