The Kaptain on … stuff

21 Feb, 2010

Developing Faster with the Atlassian IntelliJ Connector

Posted by: TheKaptain In: Cool Toys|Development

Once upon a time I used Eclipse as a development environment. It had a lot of things going for it: free(as in beer), rich community involvement, a plethora of plugins and probably my favorite feature: Mylyn. The problem was that it seemed everytime I wanted to upgrade to a newer version, inevitably half of the integrations broke. Please don’t get me wrong, Eclipse is AMAZING software and I do still use it occasionally for specific tasks – but nevertheless I now spend most of my day in IntelliJ. In particular it had better support for Groovy/Grails development and Maven integration – both of which were essential to my everyday work. Throw in default included support for JBoss Seam, JSF/Facelets, html and css and I didn’t really need a lot of plugins anymore. One of the ones I have been using, and that I’ve watched mature over the course of the last year, is the Atlassian IntelliJ Connector. Between it and the greatly improved changeset functionality I finally feel like I have a solid replacement for Mylyn’s excellent task management facilities.

This plugin integrates the IDE with one or more components of the Atlassian application suite. Multiple instances of Jira, Fisheye, Bamboo and Crucible can all be configured and used to streamline the development workflow.

Jira

This is perhaps the most essential piece of the puzzle, and inevitably the part a developer is going to interact with the most – the issue tracker. From within the IDE Jira master view you can load filters(basically stored searches for issues), do ad hoc searches and start work on a particular issue. If you drill down to a particular issue you can comment on it, assign it to yourself or another user, log work against it and generally manage it in most of the ways you can from the Jira web interface. Granted it’s not quite as pretty as the web interface, but the essential information and interaction is all there, and if you’re missing something an action is provided to open any issue in a web browser.

What really works for me is how the interaction supports my general workflow so closely:

  • Look in Jira for an issue to work on
  • Assign it to myself(if it’s not already)
  • Start progress on the issue, which starts a timer and creates a corresponding changeset
  • Do whatever development work that is required to satisfy the issue, pausing and resuming as necessary for
    the duration of the task
  • Commit the changeset, optionally logging time against the issue and creating a Crucible review for later
  • Rinse and repeat

Granted, I’m not the best at remembering to pause the timer, but being confronted with the time when I commit forces me to honestly evaluate how much time it took to complete the task when it’s clearest in my mind. And incidentally, while we’re here, the option to automatically organize imports in the commit dialog, a built in IDE function, has saved my butt from maven dependency-analyze any number of times.

It’s also convenient that you can see all comments and attachments for issues – viewing a screenshot describing a UI issue is pretty much essential after all, don’t you think?

Bamboo

So once your code is committed, a build is kicked off on Bamboo. Hopefully all goes well, but if any build you’re listening to fails the IDE will give you a message to that effect. You also have access to changes, tests and any associated build logs. And whether or not your build does fail, stacktraces from the log are immediately available and clickable in the IDE. In addition, you can manually trigger builds and label or comment them.

Fisheye

Integration with Fisheye is bi-directional between the IDE and the Fisheye webview. Context menus are available on right clicks in the IDE that open a file in Fisheye. And in the Fisheye web app clicking an IntelliJ icon will open a file in the IDE. It should be noted that this feature only appears to be available with Fisheye 2. I know because I’ve been missing it in Jira Studio, which still uses the 1.6 version of Fisheye.


Crucible

This is the one integration I’ve used the least so far, primarily because I don’t have Crucible installed locally for testing and again it seems a lot of the power of the integration is only available with version 2. The documentation certainly seems to suggest more rich functionality than I’ve found available anyhow. Fisheye and Crucible are actually bundled together for installation, so the Jira Studio version appears also restricted to the 1.6 version – for the time being at least. Mostly the Crucible integration is convenient because it provides messaging when reviews are assigned or commented.

Documentation

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even look for these until writing this blog post. Configuring and using the plugin is very straightforward, provided you’re familiar with using these Atlassian tools at least. Nevertheless, I did discover a few additional bonuses and as usual the docs are both complete and up to date.

Overall

Really the point of using this plugin is to significantly reduce context switching; as much as possible your work is concentrated in one interface, and for the vast majority of cases you only need one piece of software running to get the job done. Where context switching is inevitable, this software tries to make it as “one-click” as possible. The end result is to put the power of your Atlassian products front and center in the IDE, where us developer types spend most of our working lives. Now, if only Jira Studio gets updated to the latest available software versions, because I’m dying to try out side-by-side diffs for Crucible reviews in IntelliJ!

Anyhow, if you use Atlassian tools the Connector is well worth checking out. And you Eclipse users aren’t left in the dark either. I can’t vouch for it’s quality, but there is an equivalent plugin for Eclipse available as well.

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