Best Java Refactoring Tools for 2023

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Refactoring is the process of cleaning up and restructuring existing code without changing its external behavior. Java developers can refactor their code to enhance its structure and make it more readable, concise, and maintainable, which can help future development and result in high-quality software.

Java refactoring tools simplify the process of refactoring code, increase developer efficiency, and minimize errors. This guide will break down the following top Java refactoring tools in terms of their features, pros, cons, and pricing so you can pick the best one for your development needs:

  • IntelliJ IDEA: a great choice for Java developers looking for a comprehensive solution to automate refactoring to optimize their code safely and efficiently with minimal manual effort.
  • Eclipse: ideal for developers seeking various automated refactoring options from an open-source Java IDE.
  • NetBeans: a solid pick for developers looking for simple refactoring via an open-source Java IDE with a user-friendly interface.

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IntelliJ IDEA

NetBeans IDE for Android

Best for Java developers looking for a comprehensive solution to automate refactoring to optimize their code safely and efficiently with minimal manual effort.

IntelliJ IDEA is a popular Java integrated development environment (IDE) that offers a wide range of refactorings as part of its comprehensive set of features. Developers can use IntelliJ IDEA’s Java refactoring to safely and efficiently make their code simpler, more readable, and easier to maintain via automation and minimal manual intervention.

Features of IntelliJ IDEA

IntelliJ IDEA’s refactoring features include:

  • Rename for classes, variables, and more
  • Move/copy
  • Safe delete
  • Extract
  • Introduce
  • Inline
  • Change signature
  • Find and replace duplicates
  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • Refactoring preview
  • Problem detection

As you can see, IntelliJ IDEA offers a wide range of refactoring features. Developers can refactor their Java code via rename (class, variable, method, etc.), move/copy (class, method, field, etc.), safe delete, extract (method, constant, field, parameter, etc.), introduce variable, inline, change signature, and more. IntelliJ IDEA can find and replace duplicates, and most of its refactoring functions are quickly accessible via convenient keyboard shortcuts.

IntelliJ IDEA also lets developers preview refactoring changes before applying them and detects refactoring problems, offering details on any existing conflicts that need to be addressed.

Pros of IntelliJ IDEA

IntelliJ IDEA’s pros as a Java refactoring tool include:

  • Refactoring versatility
  • Automations
  • Code preview
  • IDE integrations

Java developers looking for a comprehensive refactoring tool will get just that with IntelliJ IDEA, as it covers many corners, from basic to more advanced capabilities. The tool automates refactorings intelligently to save time and minimize manual intervention, and its code preview prior to refactoring execution reduces the risk of bugs. Refactoring here also integrates seamlessly with other IntelliJ IDEA features like code analysis, version control, and more.

Cons of IntelliJ IDEA

IntelliJ IDEA’s cons as a Java refactoring tool include:

  • Commercial license
  • Complexity
  • Hefty installation
  • Resource-intensive

Unlike some Java refactoring tools that are entirely open-source and free to use, IntelliJ IDE has a commercial license that charges you a premium for its top features. This can be a downside for developers with limited budgets.

While IntelliJ IDEA’s various refactoring features are a plus, they can also be a minus in terms of complexity and learning curve, especially for beginners. Having to install the IDE leads to a larger installation than more lightweight refactoring tools, which can be a problem if you have limited disk space. IntelliJ IDEA can also be resource-intensive, which can lead to slowed performance.

Pricing of IntelliJ IDEA

IntelliJ IDEA’s pricing is divided between plans for organizations and individual use. It has a 90-day free trial, a 50 percent discount for startups, universities, educational organizations, and nonprofits, and is free for qualifying non-commercial open-source projects, students, teachers, and certain classroom assistance situations. It also has a Community Edition that is free and open-source with basic features.

IntelliJ IDEA’s plans for organizations are as follows:

  • Ultimate: $599 per user for the first year.
  • All Products Pack: $779 per user for the first year.

The Ultimate plan gives you IntelliJ IDEA and everything the popular Java IDE has to offer. The All Products Pack includes IntelliJ IDEA plus fifteen other tools (CLion, Code With Me, GoLand, PhpStorm, PyCharm, ReSharper, Rider, WebStorm, etc.) via a single subscription.

IntelliJ IDEA’s plans for individuals follow a similar pattern to the organizational offerings, only with cheaper pricing:

  • Ultimate: $169 for the first year.
  • All Products Pack: $289 for the first year.

You can learn more by reading our IntelliJ IDEA Review.

Eclipse

Eclipse IDE Review

Best for developers seeking various automated refactoring options from an open-source Java IDE.

Eclipse is a widely-used Java IDE equipped with several refactoring features, such as renaming, extracting, inlining, and moving to enhance code quality, readability, and maintainability.

Features of Eclipse

Eclipse’s top refactoring features include:

  • Rename
  • Move/copy
  • Extract
  • Inline
  • Safe delete
  • Extract/introduce variable
  • Change signature

Developers can rename various Java elements (classes, variables, methods, etc.) in Eclipse, and the refactoring tool will update all the references automatically. You can move/copy class, methods, and fields, extract (method, class, variable, interface, etc.), and inline (methods, variables, constants, etc.). The refactoring tool also has safe delete to ensure you do not accidentally remove classes, methods, or other code elements, change signature for methods or classes, and more.

Pros of Eclipse

Eclipse’s strengths in terms of Java refactoring include:

  • Wide range of features
  • Automates refactoring
  • Open-source
  • IDE integrations

Eclipse offers a wide range of refactoring features, making it a powerful tool for ensuring your code is readable, maintainable, and optimized for quality. It automates refactoring to save time and minimize manual errors, and its open-source nature is another plus for Java developers seeking a free solution. Eclipse’s refactoring integrates well with the IDE’s other features (code completion, code analysis, etc.), giving developers added convenience.

Cons of Eclipse

Eclipse’s refactoring weaknesses include:

  • Complexity
  • Resource-intensive
  • Lack of customization

One of Eclipse’s strengths (wide range of features) can also be a weakness for some developers, as they may initially find the refactoring tool complex. Developers working with large codebases or older, less powerful hardware may encounter sluggish performance, as Eclipse is known for being resource-intensive. Another Eclipse weakness is that its customization options for specific project requirements are limited and could force you to rely on plugins to fill that void.

Pricing of Eclipse

Eclipse is an open-source IDE. As such, developers can enjoy its refactoring capabilities and other IDE features at no cost. While Eclipse itself is free, you may incur costs should you decide to use any paid plugins and extensions.

You can learn even more by reading our Eclipse IDE Review.

NetBeans

NetBeans

Best for developers looking for simple refactoring via an open-source Java IDE with a user-friendly interface.

NetBeans is a lightweight, open-source Java IDE that comes equipped with basic refactoring features to help developers increase code quality, readability, and maintainability via a simple, user-friendly interface.

Features of NetBeans

NetBeans’ Java refactoring features include:

  • Rename
  • Extract
  • Find and replace
  • Copy/move
  • Inline
  • Safe delete

Java programmers can use NetBeans to rename methods, classes, variables, etc. They can extract methods, constants, or variables to improve code readability and reusability, use find and replace to quickly change code, copy/move to organize code logically to increase maintainability, and inline for simplifying code. There is also a safe delete feature for removing unused code to improve quality.

Pros of NetBeans

Advantages of using NetBeans for Java refactoring include:

  • Open-source
  • User-friendly
  • IDE integration
  • Refactoring versatility

Java developers looking for a free, open-source refactoring solution can find it with NetBeans. It is user-friendly with an intuitive interface, making it ideal for those who value simplicity and beginners wanting to try a less technical refactoring tool. The Java refactoring features mesh well with NetBeans’ other IDE capabilities to help streamline and unify your development process. Lastly, while not as feature-rich as other tools on this list, NetBeans provides various refactoring options for improving Java code.

Cons of NetBeans

Disadvantages of NetBeans’ Java refactoring include:

  • Less advanced features than others in its class
  • Less support
  • Large project performance can be sluggish

As mentioned, NetBeans does offer some Java refactoring versatility, but it is not as advanced as some competing IDEs in this department, such as IntelliJ IDEA and Eclipse. NetBeans also has less community/commercial support and resources, which could become problematic if you encounter issues. And if you have large or complex refactoring projects, NetBeans may provide sluggish performance.

Pricing of NetBeans

Since NetBeans is open-source, the Java IDE and its refactoring features are free to use.

What to Look for in a Java Refactoring Tool

Java code refactoring tools come in many forms. They are sometimes presented as standalone applications or plugins, while they can also be singular features found in integrated development environments. Regardless of the delivery, there are several factors to look for in a Java refactoring tool to ensure you make the right choice, including:

  • User interface and user-friendliness
  • Performance, especially with large codebases
  • Support and active community
  • Documentation and learning resources
  • Compatibility with developer environments and ecosystems
  • Language support
  • Configuration options and customizations
  • Developer tool integrations
  • Number of refactoring capabilities

When shopping for a Java refactoring tool, look for reviews on the user interface. It should be intuitive and user-friendly so you can quickly start unlocking the tool’s features. As you read reviews on the user interface, also look for comments on the refactoring tool’s performance. The ideal refactoring tool should refactor quickly, even when working with large codebases, to ensure your productivity is not negatively impacted. Reviews can also reveal if the refactoring tool has solid support and an active community offering help, plus tutorials, documentation, and other resources.

Compatibility with your development environment (Java frameworks, build systems, IDEs, etc.) is another factor to consider, as are integrations with version control systems (Git, Mercurial, etc.) and other developer tools (continuous integration systems, build tools, static code analyzers, etc.) to help streamline your development process. A refactoring tool that supports multiple programming languages can be helpful when working with projects that are not entirely Java-centric.

If you want more control over the Java code refactoring process, look for a customizable tool with plenty of configuration options regarding refactoring rules, behavior, and more. And if you want a tool that can handle projects of all sizes, seek one that offers scalability. There are open-source Java refactoring tools that are free to use, plus commercial options with more advanced features. If your budget is limited, look for the former, and if you want extended functionalities, seek the latter. As for features, the more refactoring capabilities, such as renaming, moving code, extracting, etc., the better. Also, look for features like code analysis, code preview, code cleanup, safety checks, and undo/redo.

Final Thoughts on Java Refactoring Tools

The Java refactoring tools listed above are some of the best solutions for keeping your code clean, readable, and maintainable while boosting your productivity and efficiency as a developer. Before choosing a tool to refactor your Java code, make sure it has the features you desire, is user-friendly with solid support and an active community, and is compatible with your current development environment to ensure it is the right fit.

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