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Making IntelliJ Work for the Dev: The Insights Exposed by the New Book Written by Gee and Scott

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Article originally posted on InfoQ. Visit InfoQ

Working smarter, not harder is an idiom we more often hear, together with being in the flow. As professional developers spend most of their productive time writing code in an IDE, it will probably amplify their productivity to better know the tool. Helen Scott, lead developer advocate at JetBrains, and Trisha Gee, engineer, author, keynote speaker and former developer advocate at JetBrains, transposed their impressive careers into a new book, Getting to Know IntelliJ IDEA, for developers to improve their productivity with IntelliJ IDEA. In order to extract its gist, InfoQ reached out to them with a couple of questions.

InfoQ: Congratulations on publishing the book and thank you for responding to the questions for InfoQ’s readers. Can you please introduce yourselves?

Helen Scott:

After a couple of years of writing code, I decided that it isn’t for me, so I pivoted my career to Technical Writing following my passion for communication. Now I come full circle and use my drive for writing, speaking and learning coupled with my first love of Java in my Java Developer Advocate role, helping others excel in their chosen careers. IDEs weren’t around when I was a developer, but Trisha’s knowledge blew me away.

Trisha Gee:

In my 20 years plus career, as a developer at LMAX or as a developer advocate at JetBrains, I learned how important knowing your IDE is. Through the years I produced a lot of content for supporting others with tips and techniques to use IntelliJ Idea at its best for creating Java applications. At one point I realized that I needed to find a coherent story about getting started with IntelliJ and how to use it further for day-to-day development. The book tells that story.

InfoQ: Who does your book target? The seasoned professional or the novice?

Scott:

This was one of the concerns we had while writing. We focused on three major themes:

  • Keyboard First
  • Always Green
  • Staying in the Flow

All these focused on two personas:

  • Trisha – tips for the advanced user
  • Hellen – tips for the beginner

Gee:

Great question! We set ourselves the VERY difficult task to target both. The first category will probably want to read the book from cover to cover, being able to learn more. The second one will skip some parts focusing on more advanced subjects.

InfoQ: How do you recommend reading the book? Is it a one-time read, or a reference to visit when needed?

Gee:

The higher purpose of the book is to make the reader understand how IntelliJ IDEA “thinks” and in this way allow her to become more productive by making the IDE work for her. By understanding how Idea was designed to help, when treading new waters you would know where to look, or the right combination of shortcuts to use.

The book is split into four distinct parts:

  • How IDEA was developed to make the developer’s life easier
  • Two parts containing step-by-step tutorials and key features
  • The last part provides a deeper dive into how specific functionality works in more detail

InfoQ: What are the key takeaways of the book?

Scott:

Learn how to get IntelliJ IDEA to do all the heavy lifting so you can focus on what you do best – solving problems. We believe that being able to use your tools efficiently boosts your effectiveness and perhaps even your happiness!

Gee:

IntelliJ IDEA is powerful and useful. You don’t need to know all of its functionality, but you should know the 20% of the features you’ll use 80% of the time. We’d like you to see when you’d use those features and how they help you. Using your IDE effectively will make you more productive, yes, but in my experience, it also makes development more satisfying. Even, dare I say it, more fun. Besides, the concepts apply to all IDEs from the Intellij family like PyCharm or Webstorm.

Even if writing the book was a tremendous effort, for Helen and Trisha it was just the beginning. Starting from the available content, they will create workshops and be present wherever the audience is curious about how the IDE can make their work more productive and fun. So, at points even if developers think they cannot extract more productivity from a workday, mastering the tools that they use could boost it even further.

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