Thursday, October 09, 2014

Eclipse Xtext goes IntelliJ IDEA

The Xtext framework has been in development for six years now. With a team size between five and nine people (we are now at nine) plus many contributors working on it, it has become a successful framework for development of domain specific languages and programming languages in general. From parsers, linkers and compilers to interpreters, type-checkers and full IDE-support, the framework covers everything a grown up language infrastructure needs. So far however, the IDE part has been Eclipse-only. This will change now.

The Eclipse based IDE support of Xtext is very mature. We will further improve robustness and performance and might add one or the other feature in the future, but the Eclipse-support really has come to a state where not much is missing. Personally I like Eclipse as a code base as well as a tool, but the reduced activity in the platform itself has resulted in a noticeable decline of excitement and we see more and more devs preferring IntelliJ IDEA for their Java development. Also there are many shops where the IDE is not set, so developers can choose. Those teams with mixed IDEs suffer from lacking DSL tool support for their non-Eclipse IDEs, of course.

Long story short, this summer we started working on support for IntelliJ IDEA. It shall work without requiring duplicate implementation for the main aspects. So as an Xtext user you can still work against the core Xtext APIs and any existing Xtext language is going to work in IDEA without further ado. A thin layer translates the information to IntelliJ’s concepts (PSI, etc.). Of course everything is composed with dependency injection, such that IntelliJ-specific optimisations and customisations are still possible. The work is coming along nicely and we hope that a first public beta version can be released early next year. Of course this includes IntelliJ IDEA support for Xtend as well!

Here’s a short screencast showing a bit what’s already working.

Xtext on IntelliJ IDEA from Xtext Team on Vimeo.

More platforms to come

Although the current focus is IntelliJ (and Eclipse of course) we think in the long term it is important for the Xtext framework to support other platforms as well. Next up will be serious support for web browsers, which is especially interesting for the many DSLs targeting non-developers (i.e. “business DSLs”).