How to develop your IntelliJ IDEA plugins even faster with JRebel

Back in my NetBeans times I wrote several articles (1, 2) about using Zeroturnarounds JRebel to develop NetBeans plugins faster by not restarting nor reloading the whole target-platform. JRebel is a Java agent, so it can be used with nearly every Java-based application. Even for developing IDEA plugins. And here is how you do it:

One-Time-Setup

  1. Buy a JRebel license or get a free one for your open-source plugin at myRebel
  2. Install the JRebel plugin for IDEA from the plugin manager (for bundling JRebel, a configuration UI and debugging support)
  3. Activate the plugin using the license from step 1
  4. Update the your Run- or Debug configuration with the Java agent configuration – based on the standard documentation)
    For example: -agentpath:/Users/markiewb/Downloads/jrebel/lib/libjrebel64.dylib
    runconfiguration

Every-day-workflow

  1. Run / debug your plugin using the configuration created above – JRebel should show its banner and an IDEA instance should load
    banner
  2. Edit your Java sources as normal and when you want to get the changes reloaded then compile the project/all the changed files (thus the sources are compiled into class-files and JRebel can pick up the changes)
  3. Reinvoke your plugins actions (or what ever) in the target platform – your changes should be picked up

Notes

Note 1 Not all changes will be picked up. JRebel does not have yet official support for this usage scenario. Especially changes in the plugin.xml won’t be picked up. But within existing or new Java classes you can code and refactor as much as you like!

Note 2 If you are on Mac OS consider to install JRebel separately. I had issues to set the Java agent with the bundled JRebel from the JRebel IDE plugin. Do you see the culprit in -agentpath:/Users/markiewb/Library/Application Support/IntelliJIdea2017.2/jr-ide-idea/lib/jrebel6/lib/libjrebel64.dylib? The whitespace!

Note 3 Of course this also works when you write plugins for the other Java based IntelliJ platform IDEs like WebStorm, PHPStorm and so on.

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