IntelliJ IDEA 13 Brings a Full Bag of Goodies to Android Developers

At JetBrains we’re always listening to developers, and Android developers are no exception. Based on this tight feedback loop, we’ve made a long list of changes to our award-winning IDE which will hopefully make development of Android apps an even bigger pleasure. Here’s what IntelliJ IDEA 13 has to offer you.

Gradle-based build system
IntelliJ IDEA 13 offers first-class support for Gradle, with Gradle-based application now being a distinct type of project. This version is the first to incorporate new features coming from our collaboration with Google’s Android Studio. Developers have reported that IntelliJ IDEA’s higher level of support for Gradle is the biggest difference between the two IDEs.

To create a Gradle project, you go through a wizard similar to that of Android Studio. Among other things, you can choose the application icon and its default type of activity. IntelliJ IDEA 13 also makes Gradle files easily accessible, and provides full code assistance for editing them.

Smarter XML editor
Creating an Android application sometimes requires dealing with a lot of different XML files—layout, manifest, resources, settings, and more. IntelliJ IDEA already provides a nifty graphical editor for layout files, but what about others? According to the feedback we’ve been getting, the majority of Android developers still love to edit XML files manually. So we greatly improved the XML editor and made it smarter than ever!

In IntelliJ IDEA 13, the XML text editor offers the following new features.

User-defined XML attributes order. You can use the Settings dialog to define how attributes in your layout files should be arranged. After defining the rules, simply perform code formatting to apply them.
Automatic insertion of required attributes. IntelliJ IDEA can detect and add XML attributes required by document schema with just a single click.
Documentation popups for XML attributes. You can view documentation provided in XML schema for elements, attributes and types by just hovering your mouse over them in editor, as you type.
Line breaks. You can instruct IntelliJ IDEA to style your XML code so that line breaks are automatically inserted before the first and/or after the last attribute of an XML element. Note that you can apply different settings for manifest and layout files.

In Android, you have many XML files where you store color information: layouts, shapes, gradients, etc. IntelliJ IDEA now offers built-in color pickers that let you insert a color value anywhere by just clicking the corresponding gutter icon, which is context-sensitive and intelligently appears only when you may need it.

Navigating through a pair of related files
In Android applications, XML files and classes are often related. The classic example is a layout file (or fragment), and its associated activity; other examples are activities or services and the manifest file. IntelliJ IDEA helps tracking dependencies between any pair of XML and manifest, layout or fragment files, and provides navigation between them via gutter icons.

Also, you can navigate between related files by using Go to>Implementation context menu command.

IntelliJ IDEA 13 also brings you an easier way to browse Android SDK classes, with a significantly reduced amount of red code you encounter. Navigation to classes is also possible from platform XML files.

Easier component prototyping
IntelliJ IDEA makes development of Android components faster by letting you create new fragments directly from the menu, and, optionally, automatically generating basic layout files.

After you type the name of a view component in XML code, IntelliJ IDEA shows an icon in the completion list that you can click to automatically generate the appropriate XML code.

Android-specific code inspections
IntelliJ IDEA 13 brings many new Android-specific code inspections. For example, it can tell you when the onclick attribute of a layout element tries to reference a method that does not exist, and then offers a quick-fix to create a stub for such method.

Android-specific code analysis works together with many new Lint inspections.

Dedicated editing features for manifest files
You can enjoy all the power of default XML editor for manifest and other Android application files, plus these features provided specifically for them.

Completion for SDK versions in manifest. When you specify the minimum and maximum SDK that the application may support, IntelliJ IDEA provides code completion to help choose the API version.

Line breaks. You can tell IntelliJ IDEA to insert line breaks before the first, and/or after the last attribute of an XML element. This setting is independent from its twin which affects layout files.

Class-manifest cross navigation. When you edit a Java class, you can jump to the corresponding location in the manifest file via a gutter icon. If a class uses another class defined in manifest, you can also jump to its declaration. Documentation from XML schema is also available in the manifest editor.

Redesigned Logcat UI
IntelliJ IDEA provides a nice user interface around the logcat command, which lets you view and filter content generated by the Android logging system. In the latest version, this has been improved with tabbed layout and one-click navigation to specific process output. Plus, you can capture screenshots directly from the IDE.

Also, you can create and apply filters to the logcat view based on a number of parameters, e.g. contained text, tag, package name or process ID. Note that for tags and text, you can specify regular expressions along with literal values.

Finally, you can disable logcat for application start, and run it to clear the log before launch.

Multi-device preview
IntelliJ IDEA UI designer allows you to build application UI by dragging widgets from its side palette. In version 13 you can simultaneously preview the UI you’re creating on multiple devices, by just selecting Preview All Screen Sizes from the device drop-down. Preview displays all changes made through the UI designer or XML editor in real time.

Access SQLite Databases right from the IDE
This is one of the most requested features that lets you connect to device database and explore its contents directly from the Database tool window by selecting the Android SQLite entry. You have the complete range of database tools at your disposal: table editor, query editor, and diagram builder.

SQLite support is not available on Android versions prior to 2.2. It works on both rooted and non-rooted devices. In IntelliJ IDEA, SQLite support is only available in the Ultimate Edition, because it relies on the Database Support plugin.

Built-in 9-patch Editor
IntelliJ IDEA 13 comes with built-in editor that supports 9-patch graphics. To use it, just create files .9.png extension in one of the drawable folders, and then double-click them.

And the list doesn’t end there
Of course, IntelliJ IDEA 13 brings Android developers more than can be described in a single article. For example, IntelliJ IDEA 13 gives you a new type of folder in addition to Sources Root, Resources Root and test roots: Generated folder, where you place system-generated source files. These folders offer read-only access, and are not available as a refactoring target.

With IntelliJ IDEA you can deploy a previously defined custom Android artifact via the Edit Configurations dialog.

Another small but useful feature lets you automatically extract string literals into resource files from layout and manifest files.

Not to mention that writing Android applications has a lot to do with Java, and IntelliJ IDEA 13, being an award-winning Java IDE, brings Android developers its powerful Java editor, navigation, inspections, refactorings, and many other features.

To download your copy of IntelliJ IDEA 13, visit http://www.jetbrains.com/idea.

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16 Responses to IntelliJ IDEA 13 Brings a Full Bag of Goodies to Android Developers

  1. Avatar

    Brian Bowman says:

    December 11, 2013

    Awesome! Glad to see you are still working on the already-great built-in support and not handing everything over to Android Studio.

  2. Avatar

    kuriandungu says:

    December 11, 2013

    Excellent stuff!
    I’d started with intellij then switched to Studio after Google IO. After this article I’m switching back to Intellij. Coincidentally I’ve just spent hours debugging gradle issues on a new app within studio and was thinking of going back to “J”
    Hats off to the boys and girls creating and maintaining both IntelliJ and studio. Your work is appreciated and changes lives.

  3. Avatar

    Nuwan says:

    December 12, 2013

    Nice Post

  4. Avatar

    Cabi says:

    December 12, 2013

    Andorid support in 13 is simply great. I would like to ask if you can modify in “New Android Dialog” the “Kind:” elements. E.g. Modify template of the “Activity” in the Kind-DropdownMenu

    • Avatar

      eugene.kudelevsky says:

      December 16, 2013

      Yes, it is possible. These templates are located in Settings | File and Code Templates | Java EE | Android

      • Avatar

        Cabi says:

        December 20, 2013

        Thank you very much for hint. I see in documenation that it is not alolowed to create new one that tab, but modifying of existing should be good enough.

  5. Avatar

    Jim Boyd says:

    December 17, 2013

    This looks great! What is the migration path from AndroidStudio? Is it possible to open an AndroidStudio project in IDEA 13? Will AndroidStudio eventually get these updated features or are the two projects divergent at this point?

    • Avatar

      Andreano Lanusse says:

      January 10, 2014

      I would love to hear more about that as well

    • Avatar

      Sena Gbeckor-Kove says:

      February 4, 2014

      I’d also like to know how one would migrate. If it is working well I’ll buy licenses for all my devs. The Database integration alone is worth it.

  6. Avatar

    Rob Lanter says:

    January 21, 2014

    Is there an xml menu wizard similar to what Eclipse offers so that menus can be created graphically instead as an alternative to having to write xml?

  7. Avatar

    Vin Tekiel says:

    March 7, 2014

    Where is the support for JUnit? I’m happy to see it integrated in IntelliJ, but with folder moving around, it would be nice to get the JUnit support as well…

    • Avatar

      Andrey Cheptsov says:

      March 7, 2014

      Support for JUnit is there for years, what do you mean?

  8. Avatar

    Arpita Bharadwaj says:

    March 11, 2014

    Really nice… android developers will have a chance to go for android training online


  9. Avatar

    Bert says:

    June 23, 2014

    Is there a way to open an encrypted SQLite database right on the device? Our database is ecrypted using SQLcipher. I mean full sqlite file encryption.


    java.sql.SQLException: [SQLITE_NOTADB] File opened that is not a database file (file is encrypted or is not a database)
    at org.sqlite.DB.newSQLException(DB.java:383)
    at org.sqlite.DB.newSQLException(DB.java:388)

    • Avatar

      Rod Rye says:

      June 25, 2017

      Wow, really, 3 years later I’m struggling with the same thing. Doesn’t appear to be a way to specify a password for an SQLite DB (or any appropriate documentation)…

  10. Avatar

    Paul Blase says:

    January 13, 2015

    Ok. First problem: at the top of the page should be one paragraph telling people who have never programmed for the android before what the heck “Gradle” is. I hear lots about how great it is, how new it is, how everybody’s using it. What is it? Don’t assume that new visitors understand all of the jargon!

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