IntelliJ Platform Plugin SDK Help

IDE Development Instances

A JetBrains feature for developing plugins is running or debugging a plugin project from within an IntelliJ Platform-based IDE such as IntelliJ IDEA. Selecting the runIde task for a Gradle-based project (or Run menu for a DevKit-based project) will launch a Development Instance of the IDE with the plugin enabled. This page describes how to control some of the settings for the Development Instance.

Using a JetBrains Runtime for the Development Instance

An everyday use case is to develop (build) a plugin project against a JDK, e.g., Java 8, and then run or debug the plugin in a Development Instance of the IDE. In such a situation, Development Instance must use a JetBrains Runtime (JBR) rather than the JDK used to build the plugin project.

The JetBrains Runtime is an environment for running IntelliJ Platform-based IDEs on Windows, macOS, and Linux. It has some modifications by JetBrains, such as fixes for native crashes not present in official JDK builds. A version of the JetBrains Runtime is bundled with all IntelliJ Platform-based IDEs. To produce accurate results while running or debugging a plugin project in a Development Instance, follow the procedures below to ensure the Development Instance uses a JetBrains Runtime.

Determining a JetBrains Runtime Version

The JetBrains Runtime is determined from the JDK version used to build the plugin project, regardless of whether it is built on macOS, Windows, or Linux. For example, if a plugin is developed against the Java 8 SE Development Kit 8 for macOS (jdk-8u212-macosx-x64.dmg) to acquire the compatible JetBrains Runtime:

  • Go to the JetBrains Runtime Site for general information and the latest build.

  • Open the Release notes page to access all releases.

  • Select the package name corresponding to the platform and SDK version. In this case, the package name is jbrsdk8-osx-x64 for JetBrains Runtime SDK version 8, macOS x64 hardware.

  • On the macOS package page of the JetBrains Bintray site, select the Files menu.

  • In the list of files, find the name that satisfies:

    • The version and build number match the JDK used to build the plugin project. For example, jbrx-8u252-osx-x64 matches the Java 8 JDK, build 252: jdk-8u252-macosx-x64.

    • Pick the highest JetBrains Runtime build number available. For example, the file is jbrx-8u252-osx-x64-b1649.2.tar.gz, meaning build 1649.2 for this JetBrains Runtime matching Java 8 JDK build 252.

By default, the Gradle plugin will fetch and use the version of the JetBrains Runtime for the Development Instance corresponding to the version of the IntelliJ Platform used for building the plugin project. If required, an alternative version can be specified using jbrVersion attribute of runIde task.

The Run Configuration for a DevKit-based plugin project controls the JDK used to run and debug a plugin project in a Development Instance. The default Run Configuration uses the same JDK for building the plugin project and running the plugin in a Development Instance.

To change the runtime for the Development Instance, set the JRE field in the Run Configuration edit dialog to download a JetBrains Runtime.

Enabling Auto-Reload

Starting in 2020.1, this is available for compatible dynamic plugins. This allows a much faster development cycle by avoiding a full restart of the development instance after detecting code changes (when JARs are modified).

Please note that any unloading problems in a production environment will ask the user to restart the IDE.

Enabled by default for target platform 2020.2 or later.

Set autoReloadPlugins = true in runIde task to enable it for earlier platform versions or autoReloadPlugins = false to disable it explicitly.

After starting the sandbox IDE instance, run buildPlugin task after modifications in the plugin project and switch focus back to sandbox instance to trigger reload.

Add system property in the Plugin DevKit run configuration.

To disable auto-reload, set to false explicitly (2020.1.2+).

The Development Instance Sandbox Directory

The Sandbox Home directory contains the settings, caches, logs, and plugins for a Development Instance of the IDE. This information is stored in a different location than for the installed IDE itself.

For Gradle-based plugins, the default Sandbox Home location is defined by the IntelliJ Platform gradle-intellij-plugin. See Configuring a Gradle Plugin Project for more information about specifying a Sandbox Home location.

The default Sandbox Home location is:

  • Windows: $PROJECT_DIRECTORY$\build\idea-sandbox

  • Linux/macOS: $PROJECT_DIRECTORY$/build/idea-sandbox

For DevKit-based plugins, the default Sandbox Home location is defined in the IntelliJ Platform Plugin SDK. See specifying the Sandbox Home for DevKit Projects for more information.

The default Sandbox Home directory location is:

  • Windows: <User home>\.<product_system_name><product_version>\system\plugins-sandbox\

  • Linux: ~/.<product_system_name><product_version>/system/plugins-sandbox/

  • macOS: ~/Library/Caches/<product_system_name><product_version>/plugins-sandbox/

Development Instance Settings, Caches, Logs, and Plugins

Within the Sandbox Home directory are subdirectories of the Development Instance:

  • config contains settings for the IDE instance.

  • plugins contains folders for each plugin being run in the IDE instance.

  • system/caches or system\caches holds the IDE instance data.

  • system/log or system\log contains the idea.log file for the IDE instance.

Each of these Sandbox Home subdirectories can be manually cleared to reset the IDE Development Instance. At the next launch of a Development Instance, the subdirectories will be repopulated with the appropriate information.

Last modified: 07 March 2022