Most of Google’s 2013 I/O event was about Android. One specific announcement managed to attract a lot of hype and that was no other than Google’s own Android IDE, Android Studio. It has been just over a year now since the first public release and Android Studio has come a long way, despite still being in beta. The IDE itself is based off the very popular IntelliJ IDEA from JetBrains and is being offered by Google for free.
On the other hand, Eclipse is more mature than ever and Google’s ADT plugin which transforms the popular IDE into a fully featured Android developing environment has become very stable. Eclipse feels like home for many Java developers and is a natural starting point for Java developers who want to get into Android development.
While both solutions look promising, which one has the edge over the other? In this blog we will compare the two in 5 distinct areas in an effort to reveal the main differences in the Android Studio vs Eclipse battle.
Android Studio vs Eclipse – Main Differences:
Android Studio utilizes the fast growing Gradle build system. It builds on top of the concepts of Apache Ant and Apache Maven but it also introduces a Groovy DSL (Domain-Specific Language) that allows for scripted builds which opens up many automation possibilities like uploading your beta .apk to TestFlight for testing. Eclipse on the other hand uses Apache Ant as its main build system which a very robust XML based build system that many Java developers may already be familiar with.
Advanced Code Completion/Refactoring
Both IDEs feature the standard Java code auto completion but in the case of Android Studio, Google has baked in deeper support for specific Android code and refactoring. Android Studio can refactor your code in places where it’s just not possible using Eclipse and ADT. In addition, in my opinion IntelliJ’s Java auto completion seems more “intelligent” and predicts better what I want to do so there is definitely an improvement in this area over Eclipse.
User Interface Design
One of the main selling point Google used to market Android Studio when it came out was its completely redesigned user interface design tool. After working with it for some time, it’s clear that the new tool is much better than the old. It literally crashes it. The new interface design too in Android Studio is faster, responds to changes more rapidly and has more customization options that with Eclipse, you had to manually set in the XML.
Both IDEs work differently in an effort to help you manage and organize your projects. If you’ve used Eclipse then you must be familiar with the concept of workspaces. When Eclipse starts, you select the workspace that contains your projects and you can load all project of that workspace in your tree navigation. If you want to switch to a project in a different workspace, then you have to restart the whole IDE. Android Studio treats this situation differently by introducing the concept of modules. Your app could be one module, a library that you just downloaded can be another and the Ad SDK you are currently integrating could be a third. Each of these modules can have their own Gradle build files and declare their own dependencies. To me, Android Studio seems more natural but it takes some time to get used to if you have been using Eclipse for a long time.
Eclipse is a purely Java based software, and a big one. In order to run it reliably you need to have more than decent amount of RAM and good CPU power to back it up. Many user who do not strictly meet these criteria are reporting very bad experiences with it. It is not unusual for Eclipse to crash while exporting an apk or having to restart it after using it for a few hours straight. Having said that, Android Studio is still in beta so it comes with its own bugs that crash the IDE every now and then but in the meanwhile, the whole experience feels faster and more robust.
Having used both Android Studio and Eclipse for a while now, I would personally say that Android Studio has the edge over the two. It might be a bit unstable yet and some updates require a complete re-installation of the software but when it eventually comes out of beta, it will blow Eclipse with ADT out of the water. I especially like the stability of the editor and not having to reboot every now and then, the new and improved UI designer and the sexy themes that make Android Studio a real eye candy. What side will you take in the Android Studio vs Eclipse battle?