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Fleet, a JetBrains product, calls itself a high-performance IDE with quick load times, responsive performance, and a light-weight text editor. The build-up is to present itself as a competitor to Visual Studio Code (VSCode).
JetBrains is a big player in the IDE market. IntelliJ IDEA and WebStorm were until now its main rivals for VSCode. But, IntelliJ IDEA and WebStorm had various downsides—not free, licence required, high boot-up times, non-intuitive for beginners and unable to run in browsers, among others—that couldn’t give a real challenge to VSCode.
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The Fleet IDE has been completely rebuilt. There are no UI components from the past. The company claims that they are reusing their code-processing engine, which distinguished them in the past and continues to distinguish them from others even now. The code-processing engine, which the company uses for code refactoring, is one of the reasons developers use IntelliJ Idea or Webstorm over VSCode.
The Fleet editor also enables natively connecting to a remote workstation where the code is stored. It is JetBrains’ take on GitHub’s Codespaces.
The JetBrains team goes even a step further. It intends to perform some of the IDE Backend processes in the cloud in the future. This will transform any slow machine into a lightning-fast programming machine. Developers will no longer have to rely on the performance of their development computer to change or run code. Their machines will just be clients.
“What we’re going to provide with Fleet is a different experience for those who sometimes just want an editor but also want a fully-fledged IDE. The platform is for those who want to use a single tool as opposed to specialized ones. And, of course for those certain scenarios that some of our existing IDEs may not cater for when it comes to distributed development,” said JetBrains in a statement.
Meanwhile, VSCode is the biggest player in the segment with no rivals currently.
VSCode: Developers’ first choice
Launched in 2015, VSCode rose to popularity quickly and became one of the fifteen top development tools in a year. In 2016, it ranked 13th among the top popular development tools on Stackoverflow. The 2019 Developers Survey found that the VS Code editor quickly rose to the top, with 50% of the 87,317 participants using it.
The popularity of the editor is based on various factors—free, open-source, and cross-platform. Besides, it offers various features which its competitors don’t.
Unlike many other code editors, VSCode has an in-built debugger, which makes the development flow less ‘clicky’ and keeps the code and debugger in a single view. This makes issue tracking and code run-throughs easier and faster. You don’t need numerous displays to run the various consoles and rearrange them every time you need to minimise something. It’s incorporated into the design and the layout of your ideal workstation.
There is intelliSense built into the code editor. It is a form of predictive coding. Along with framework, library, and language plugin extensions, developers can leverage predictive coding with ready-made boilerplate codes.
While the debate—whether Fleet will clinch the throne from VSCode—is gaining momentum, users also have a completely different take on it. In 2021, when JetBrains announced the launch of the initial version of Fleet with limited access, there were tons of comments on the website page.
A comment aptly summarised the needs of users. “Very interesting,” read one comment. “Do you plan on making it free (as in freedom) software? As far as I’m concerned, a proprietary editor is not going to compete with VSCode, regardless of how good it is. But if Fleet is going to be free that might make it a VSCode killer for me, more so if you bundle a free C# debugger.”