Best shortcuts, preferences, and plugins for the JetBrains' IntelliJ IDE
IntelliJ IDEA is an incredibly popular cross-platform IDE developed by JetBrains. Used frequently for Java development, IntelliJ now supports dozens of different languages and frameworks, such as Dart, Go, Kotlin, and Rust.
IntelliJ is used by 25.4% of developers according to the 2019 Stack Overflow Developer Survey, surpassed only by Visual Studio Code (50.7%), Visual Studio (31.5%), and Notepad++ (30.5%).
While IntelliJ is an incredibly powerful IDE with tons of out-of-the-box features, we’ve compiled a list of modifications that you can make to your IDE to make you a power user.
In this guide, you will find:
- 15 IntelliJ plugins to install
- 10 IntelliJ settings to customize
- 15 IntelliJ shortcuts to memorize
Top 15 IntelliJ plugins to install
The Community version of IntelliJ includes access to nearly 4,000 plugins. You can search for new plugins on the official JetBrains plugin marketplace.
JetBrains comes with a number of bundled plugins, which you can browse on its GitHub repository. Plugins created by the community, however, make IntelliJ an even more powerful development platform.
To install an IntelliJ plugin, visit the Settings/Preferences dialog with using the shortcut CMD + , or CTRL + ,. Next, select Plugins in the menu. From here, you will be able to search the plugin marketplace and install any plugin that you need.
To get you started, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most useful IntelliJ plugins that any developer can use.
1. Rainbow Brackets (1.4M)
Rainbow Brackets adds rainbow brackets and rainbows parentheses to your code. Color coding your brackets make it easier to find paired brackets so that you don’t get lost in a sea of identical brackets.
2. .ignore (9.8M)
This plugin is designed to manage your .gitignore, .npmignore, .dockerignore, and other .ignore files.
With this plugin, you will get files syntax highlighting and custom .ignore file templates. You will also be able to quickly add any selected file or directory to your ignore rules from a convenient popup menu. If you don’t want to see ignored files in your Project View, .ignore includes an option to hide those files.
3. Native Terminal (48k)
JetBrains includes an integrated terminal, but sometimes you want to use the native terminal outside of the IDE. Native Terminal adds a terminal icon to the IDE toolbar and context menu that will open project directories in your favorite terminal. Native Terminal supports native terminals across Windows, Linux, and macOS, as well as PowerShell, ConEmu, Cmder, WSL, GitBash, RXVT, and iTerm.
4. Scratch (108k)
Need somewhere to quickly jot down your thoughts or code snippets? Scratch lets you open temporary IntelliJ text editor tabs where you can write down code or ideas that you want to reference later but don’t need to save forever. You can keep a running list of scratches that are easily accessible with Scratch’s list popup, which can be opened with ALT+C, ALT +S.
5. GitToolBox (680k)
JetBrains includes version control tools by default, but GitToolBox can extend those features to make your Git management more powerful.
GitToolBox adds a status display, auto fetch, inline blame annotation, commit dialog completion, behind notifications, and more.
6. GitLink (55k)
GitLink provides a shortcut to open any file or commit in GitHub, Bitbucket, GitLab, Gitea, Gogs or GitBlit using your default browser.
7. BashSupport (12.6M)
BashSupport adds Bash language support to IntelliJ. BashSupport supports run configurations, syntax highlighting, rename refactoring, documentation lookup, inspections, and more. IntelliJ is bundling a new Shell plugin, but BashSupport is more robust and feature-rich.
8. Codota (540k)
Codota provides line completion suggestions so that you can write code faster and more efficiently. Trained on millions of open source Java projects, Codota offers full-line autocomplete and in-line code examples.
Codota supports Java and Kotlin. Codota is free to use, but they offer a paid option that lets you use your own data to customize Codota’s recommendation engine.
9. Atom Material Icons (180k)
Atom Material Icons will replace JetBrains’ icons with Atom File Icons and Material Design Icons. If you want to change up how your IDE looks, swapping in new icons can make a dramatic difference.
10. CamelCase (230k)
Quickly switch between CamelCase, camelCase, snakecase, and SNAKECASE. CamelCase is great for writing API documentation or refactoring lots of code.
11. Markdown Navigator (4M)
Markdown Navigator makes writing Markdown files easier so that you can write documentation faster. You can insert links and images quickly, convert HTML to Markdown, refactor referencing elements, automatically format your writing, and more.
Markdown Navigator includes many great basic features for free, but you might also consider paying for a yearly license to get access to even more features ($16 USD/year).
You should note that JetBrains offers its own Markdown plugin, although the reviews are mixed.
12. Docker (2.2M)
The Docker plugin, created by the JetBrains team, lets you download and build Docker images, create and start Docker containers, and carry out other related tasks. If you work with Docker frequently, this plugin can simplify many of your most common workflows.
13. EditorConfig (1M)
EditorConfig is a great tool for development teams who want to maintain consistent coding styles across different editors and IDEs. With EditorConfig, you can define project properties such as indent style, indent size, tab width, end of line characters, and trimming whitespace. The EditorConfig plugin for JetBrains will quietly enforce your EditorConfig settings in your code.
All settings are stored in an .editorconfig file. You can store this file in a git repo and make it accessible to your entire team.
14. Code Glance (930k)
Code Glance adds a code minimap into the editor pane to help you navigate around your code. It works well with both light and dark themes.
15. Code Time (11.7k)
Code Time is our automatic time-tracking extension for IntelliJ. The in-editor dashboard shows you daily and weekly reports of your programming activity right in your code editor. In the IntelliJ status bar, our Code Time extension displays real time metrics—like hours coded per day and daily average—so you can see how you’re tracking.
Visiting the web app gives you access to even more interesting data visualizations. See your 90-day coding heatmap, code start times, work-life balance, top projects, and more.
10 IntelliJ settings to customize
To change your settings, visit the Settings/Preferences dialog with using the shortcut CMD + , or CTRL + ,. Next, select the menu item on the left that best matches what type of setting you’d like to edit: Appearance and Behavior; Keymap; Editor; Version Control; Build, Execution and Deployment; Language & Frameworks; or Tools.
You can share your IDE settings with either Settings Sync (available in the Ultimate version) or a settings repository, which will store your preferences in a version control system of your choice.
1. Customize actions, menus, and toolbars
Under Appearance and Behavior > Menus and Toolbars, you can change what items appear in menus throughout the IDE. You can change your IDE to only have your most frequently used options in the menus to reduce clutter. You can also change the icons on your toolbar.
You can also make a quick list. A quick list lets you compile a few of your favorite actions, map them to a particular hotkey, and open a popup menu with your preselected options.
2. Customize code style
IntelliJ can help you follow code guidelines when writing code. Under Editor > Code Style, you have access to style options for each language that you use. You can set tab size, indent size, continuation index, and more to ensure that your code follows your team’s guidelines.
3. Change fonts
Under Editor > Font, you can select new fonts for your IDE. You can also edit font size, line spacing, and font ligatures.
4. Add a background image
Under Appearance and Behavior > Appearance, you are presented with a number of UI options. If you want to customize the appearance of your IDE, try adding a new background image.
5. Reopen last project on startup
Under Appearance and Behavior > System Settings, you can change startup, shutdown, and project behavior. You can choose to reopen your last project on startup so that you can keep your most recent work right at your fingertips.
6. Customize notifications
Under Appearance and Behavior > Notifications, you can customize how notifications appear in your IDE. You can turn notifications off or change how sticky they are when they pop up.
7. Show indent guides
Under Editor > General > Appearance menu, select this checkbox to show vertical lines in the editor to indicate positions of indents.
8. Mark modified
Under Editor > Editor Tabs, select to mark modified files with an asterisk. That makes it easier to see files that have unsaved changes.
9. Add or edit TODO comments
IntelliJ recognizes and highlights TODO and FIXME comments by default. If you want to add more annotations to mark, you can add a regular expression that will trigger IntelliJ to mark your comments. You can even change the foreground and background color for your newly recognized comments. Change TODO settings under Editor > TODO.
10. Color scheme
Under Editor > Color Scheme, you can select the color scheme to be used in your workspace.
15 IntelliJ shortcuts to memorize
Here’s a great overview of a few important IntelliJ tips and tricks from the JetBrains team.
IntelliJ also offers a reference card with all available shortcuts across all platforms. The most important shortcuts are highlighted in the reference card as well.
Here are a few shortcuts to help et you started memorizing the most important ones.
1. Smart code completion
CTRL + SHIFT + SPACE: Forces your IDE to display autocomplete options so that you can find relevant code suggestions faster.
2. Go to declaration and implementation
CMD + B and CMD + CLICK or CTRL + B and CTRL + CLICK: This shortcut will quickly find where a function is declared. If you want to go to the function implementation, you can use the shortcuts CMD + OPTION + B or CTRL + ALT + B.
3. Go to next or previous tab
CTRL + LEFT/RIGHT or ALT + RIGHT/LEFT: Quickly switch tabs.
4. Recent file popup
CMD + E or CTRL + E: Opens a menu where you can find your most recent files.
5. Search everywhere
Double Shift: Search your entire project.
6. Show usages
CMD + OPTION + F7 or CTRL + ALT + F7: Shows all locations where a method, class, or variable is used.
7. Comment line
CMD + / or CTRL + /: Comment or uncomment a line or selection of code.
8. Extract method
CMD + OPTION + M or CTRL + ALT + M: Extracts the current code into a new method. This is a powerful shortcut for refactoring or cleaning up your code.
9. Rename everywhere
SHIFT + F6: Renames current selection, which can be helpful for quickly refactoring code.
10. Parameter info
CMD + P or CTRL + P: Shows the names of parameters in method and function calls.
11. Make project
CMD + F9 or CTRL + F9: Compiles and builds your code.
12. Run / debug
CTRL + R / D or SHIFT + F10 / F9: Run or debug your code.
13. Extend or shrink selection
CMD + OPTION + RIGHT or CTRL + W: Extends your selection. CMD + OPTION + RIGHT or CTRL + SHIFT + W: Shrinks your selection.
14. Show intention actions
CMD + ENTER or ALT + ENTER: Intention actions cover code suggestions ranging from warnings to optimization suggestions. This shortcut will reveal all intention actions.
15. Generate code
CMD + N or ALT + INSERT: IntelliJ lets you generate common code constructs and recurring elements. IntelliJ can generate constructors, delegation methods, getters and setters, custom code, and more. To see a full list of how to set up code generation, read through JetBrains’ documentation.
IntelliJ is an incredibly powerful IDE with tons of functionality and customizations. With this guide, you are one step closer to being an IntelliJ power user. If you’re looking for more ways to tweak your IDE, we suggest looking through JetBrains’ documentation.