Are you looking for a no holds bared, pulse pounding, head-to-head match up between two established titans!? Then I am sorry, this is just a comparison between two code editors. I am sorry to have wasted your time. If, however, you came here looking for the type of fuel that can keep a flame war burning for way longer than it should have, then have I got a post for you. First let me frame this for anyone who isn’t in the know.
The force.com IDE was a plugin for Eclipse built on the metadata API. If you wanted to do any code editing out of the cloud, this was about your only choice. It was rough at times; tests were slow to the point of useless, there were a few missing features that people had come to expect from code editors, & it used the whole weight and heft of Eclipse to essentially act as a text editor with some fancy saving. MavensMate came along and, for some of my coworkers and myself, completely blew Force.com IDE out of the water. It was light, it was fast, there was code completion, there was an intuitive test results screen AND you could play games during a deploy. How cool is that! I suppose the only drawback is that the text editor it was a plug-in for, Sublime Text 3, is $80. That is not too bad considering how well loved Sublime is, but it is still something to keep in mind if you are going to be rolling this out to a large number of developers.
Ok, history lesson over. If you can’t tell by the fact that the above fight seems kinda lopsided and yet I am still writing, something has changed. The Force.com IDE has been released as open source and based off of the tooling API. Right off the bat this scores big with me since I am also a Java developer and can better understand what the code does. It is still an Eclipse plugin so that complaint still stands but lets see if it can wow us, shall we?
The Force.com IDE install process remains mostly unchanged and that is fine, as the Eclipse plugin manager is stable and robust enough to handle this easily. The project setup screen is also very familiar, though I did have to resize the ‘Choose initial project contents’ dialog for the components to show up . It has a pile more choices for metadata types it can pull down, but it has always had that advantage. The tests were definitely faster, which was nice to see though the coverage report is lacking some polish. Two things I could not get working were the automatic builds and the code completion. The automatic builds caught me off guard as that was a feature that used to work. The code completion was something I was looking forward to working, but no dice. At this point I uninstalled and reinstalled, but it didn’t get any better.
When I set out to write this post, I wanted to be surprised. I will remember to be more careful with how I word my wishes. I was indeed surprised by how unimpressed I was. Compared to the old version, it did not feel like a significant improvement, or or an improvement warranting a blog post, or an improvement at all. So I probably sound pretty down on the updated Force.com IDE, and I am, but I am hopeful. Releasing the source and making it much more possible to extend is a huge step forward. As it stands MavensMate still owns the Force.com IDE, but I will be happy to do another comparison in the future to see if the lead disappears.