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Is JetBrains Fleet the New VS Code?

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Every so often you will read about the next up and coming coding IDE destined to take over the development world and topple the reign that is VS Code.

And just as often those IDE's fail to hit the mark and within a few months developers lose interest and typically gravitate back towards what they were using before. Usually that means VS Code. As you can see from this years StackOverflow developer survey, VS Code is hard to beat.

I use VS Code personally. And odds are you do as well. But truthfully, I also use Visual Studio 2022 and Notepad++ when the need arises.

JetBrains has recently announced their new IDE, Fleet, quoting it as being the next generation IDE. Pretty bold claims indeed, especially after seeing the chart above. But JetBrains is no slouch when it comes to software. In fact, several of their IDE's rank in the top in the chart above as well.

In this article I will dive deep into Fleet and take a look at the features and my opinion on whether it stands a chance against the reining champion. Because, while it features many of the same tools and elements that VS Code has perfected throughout the years, it also brings a few new things to the table.

And those new features might definitely be bold enough to push VS Code down by a few pegs.

Who is JetBrains?

Fleet is the latest innovation from JetBrains, a leader in the world of software development tools. I will say now that JetBrains for sure makes solid apps and IDE's catered to developers working in many different environments.

They are responsible for notable IDE's, like WebStorm, PyCharm and IntelliJ and they have been around for over 2 decades. They know software developers pretty well.

They are also the creators of Kotlin, the server-side programming language that is compatible with the Java ecosystem and noted for its ease of use and performance.

I personally have used many of JetBrains tools during my development career, so when they announce a new application, I tend to pay attention and not brush it off.

What is Fleet?

Fleet is a brand new IDE which supports multiple programming languages and has built-in remote collaboration tools.

Fleet is currently in a closed preview release (as of this writing) so it hasn't just yet had the opportunity to wow the crowds and to really put itself through the test.

But essentially Fleet is marketing itself as a direct competitor to VS Code supporting multiple languages, a plugin ecosystem, a stylish looking editor and even built-in collaboration tools. This last one I will get into more down below, because I think it's the most interesting.

Fleet is also marketing itself as a high-performance IDE with quick load times and responsive performance as its lightweight text editor runs independently from its code processing engine. But since it's still in closed preview, I will defer those claims until I've had the opportunity to spend more time with it.

Multiple language support

Fleet currently supports multiple programming languages, including JavaScript, Java, Python, TypeScript and Go with plans to support other languages non-natively through a plugin ecosystem (similar to VS Code).

There is also planned support for C++, PHP and C# in the near future as well.

Fleet aims to have one consistent layout regardless of the language that you find yourself using. Which I personally appreciate, as often times IDE's will have their own custom workflows in order to perform essentially identical tasks.

It also supports Kotlin, which is JetBrains's own server-side programming language mentioned above.

Seeing as how there are a large number of front-end JavaScript developers in today's market, it would make sense that JetBrains has a potentially large client-base.

Smart IDE

Similar to VS Code, Fleet comes prepared with auto-suggestions, autocompletion and intellisense right out of the box.

Fleet can also offer quick fixes in real-time based on the current context of your projects. You can navigate to function declarations and function usage as well.

This isn't really a standout feature for me, as VS Code has been doing the same for a long time now. And with the support of thousands of developers in the VS Code community, it has also been able to add support for pretty much every language available today.

As Fleet gains popularity though, I do expect it to become smarter in terms of offering coding suggestions and quick fixes.

Remote development

One of the more interesting features of Fleet is its support for remote development using JetBrains Space.

Your projects along with Fleet will both run in pre-configured virtual environments that can spin up in seconds. Once you are done with your work, you can dispose of the VM safely.

This also means remote team collaboration essentially, as multiple members of your development team can join the same Space through the same remote IDE.

There is a ton more that you can do with JetBrains Space, but that goes beyond the scope of this particular article. For more information though, check out their official page right over here.

This to me is the standout feature that I hope JetBrains decides to focus heavily on. I tend to work with other developers remotely during my day to day work, and often times it can be difficult to communicate effectively using the usual means of text and Zoom.

Being able to share the exact same coding environment, down to the terminals and consoles, is as close to being in the same room as you can get.

Will it win out?

It's tough to say. Odds are that VS Code has a few more years on top of the podium comfortably before anything comes in to interrupt it.

And even if Fleet were to make a dent at some point, it still has to contend with a dozen other IDE's that are popular in their own right.

In terms of remote software development though? Fleet for sure has a strong chance at being near the top here. For one, it already has a strong and steady foundation as it is designed to work with distributed cloud environments, like Space.

As remote work becomes more and more important during the next few years, so too will the importance of remote workspaces.

So while not out just yet in public release, this is one to keep an eye out for in the coming months.

Walter Guevara is a software engineer, startup founder and currently teaches programming for a coding bootcamp. He is currently building things that don't yet exist.


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