Best IDE for Grails/Groovy – NetBeans, Spring or IntelliJ?

Gone are the days when developers or programmers were solving all the programming issues on their own without using any tool. In today’s highly competitive software application development world, spending hours of time just to code everything right may not be a feasible solution for the developers, and that’s where the significance of IDE (Integrated Development Environment) comes into the picture, specifically when you’re developing applications using Groovy and Grails.

Integrated development environment (IDE) brings a whole host of features like auto complete, re-factoring  source control and more for the developers. However, when it comes to Groovy and Grails, it becomes crucial for the developers to choose the right kind of IDE to improve the productivity on the go.

While Groovy is written for the JVM and uses features and syntax of Java, Grails is built upon Hibernate and Spring. Most of the developers are using Eclipse for developing any kind of Java applications, but when it comes to the Grails, developers have to consider various plugins and IDEs to easily and effectively develop applications based on Groovy and Grails. So, which are the best IDEs that developers can use to build applications based on Groovy and Grails? Let’s find it out!


NetBeans is a free and open source IDE which can be used for Groovy/Grails development. NetBeans 6.5 or above versions support Groovy/ Grails development. NetBeans comes with a Groovy editor with various integrated tools and offers features like code completion, providing name of dynamic methods for grails domain and controller class. It is light and offers great functional features.

NetBeans is a free IDE tool, which brings tons of benefits for the developers. However, like any other tool or technology, it also has some drawbacks: it is too slow and many developers using it have experienced slow code completion.

If you have a tight budget and can’t afford a paid IDE, this is a best choice. Moreover, it has been integrated with multiple Grails actions. You can easily control the deployment status of your Grails application from the Service window, you can also run Grails generator, Grails commands and create Groovy Server Pages (GSPs) on the go.

Spring Tool Suite (STS)

STS for Grails is an eclipse based IDE, which is free and offers out-of-the-box features; all this makes it highly popular among the developer community. Many developers are switching to STS from NetBeans because of better code completion support provided by it. STS is faster and improves developer’s productivity significantly.

Although STS for Grails is not as feature rich as NetBeans, we can expect an improvement on this front as Grails is owned by Spring. If you’re looking for a strong alternative of NetBeans, then STS is without any doubt a great option for you!


IntelliJ IDE is one of the most popular IDE tools for Grails Development. This amazing IDE comes in two forms: one is free IDEA Community Edition and other one is commercialized IDE known as IntelliJ IDEA Ultimate. There are many advantages of IntelliJ, which simplifies the development of your Groovy and Grails applications.

IntelliJ offers many out-of-the-box features like code completion, on the fly code analysis, Groovy to Java converter, built-in Groovy Shell, integrations with different frameworks other than Grails, like Hibernate, Play and so on. Overall, it offers excellent support for Groovy and Grails. Moreover, it indexes files much faster than any other IDEs.

Final Verdict

The above discussed IDEs can easily help you simplify your Groovy and Grails application development. However, if you don’t have any price constraint, then IntelliJ is the best option. On the other hand, if you wish to go for a FREE IDE, then you may two options. If you choose NetBeans, you may get plenty of features, but you may have to compromise on speed that has been offered by STS for Grails.

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  • Carsten

    Grails does not work with IDEA Community Edition, only with the $199 Ultimate Edition

  • Guillaume Barthe

    Why don’t you mention Groovy Grails Tool Suite (which is different from Spring Tool Suite)?

    • Nilanchala Panigrahy

      Hi Guillaume, thanks for pointing out.

  • Scott Watson

    Emacs works pretty swell for me!

    That said, I use IntelliJ for static code analysis and STS for typical run-time debugging, primarily because it’s the one I have the most experience with.

    • @Scott, thanks for sharing your view on the same.