IntelliJ Platform Plugin SDK Help

IDE Development Instance

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 GitHub JetBrains Runtime Releases for general information and the latest build.

  • Open the Releases 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.

  • 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.

JetBrains Runtime Variants

The JetBrains Runtime is delivered in various variants used for different purposes, like debugging, running for development purposes or bundling with the IDE.

Available JBR variants are:

  • jcef - the release bundles with the JCEF browser engine

  • sdk - JBR SDK bundle used for development purposes

  • fd - the fastdebug bundle which also includes the jcef module

  • dcevm - bundles DCEVM (Dynamic Code Evolution Virtual Machine)

  • nomod – the release bundled without any additional modules

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 runIde.jbrVersion task property.

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 property runIde.autoReloadPlugins to true for enabling it in earlier platform versions or false to disable it explicitly, see How to disable automatic reload of dynamic plugins.

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 idea.auto.reload.plugins in the Plugin DevKit run configuration.

To disable auto-reload, set idea.auto.reload.plugins 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.

The default Sandbox Home location in a plugin Gradle project is:

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

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

The Sandbox Home location can be configured with the intellij.sandboxDir property.

For DevKit-based plugins, the default Sandbox Home location is defined in the IntelliJ Platform Plugin SDK. See the Setting Up a Theme Development Environment for information about how to set up Sandbox Home in IntelliJ Platform SDK.

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: 27 September 2022