IntelliJ Platform Plugin SDK Help

SDK Code Sample Guidelines

This document describes the coding guidelines used for authoring open-source IntelliJ Platform SDK code samples. Before you begin, please read this page thoroughly, as well as the Code of Conduct and License documents.

For information about contributing to the IntelliJ Platform itself, visit Contributing to the IntelliJ Platform.


Keep the following considerations in mind while authoring an SDK code sample:

  • The purpose of an SDK sample is to demonstrate an implementation pattern of the IntelliJ Platform.

  • SDK code samples are instructional code, intended to teach.

    • Instructional code differs from production code in some key aspects:

      • Sacrifice some robustness in the interest of simplicity and brevity. Use error checking where it is necessary to make a point about an implementation pitfall.

      • Keep implementations as simple as possible, but use the full features of the IntelliJ Platform, programming language, and libraries.

      • Use meaningful names for interfaces, classes, fields, methods, and extension points.

      • Write instructional Javadoc comments.

    • Code samples replace lots of documentation.

  • Aim for two levels of SDK samples:

    • A basic sample is focused on a particular subject by demonstrating a limited area of the IntelliJ Platform. It should show all the components and architecture but ultimately accomplish something elementary. For example, demonstrate persistence by storing only a String.

    • An advanced sample demonstrates how different parts of the IntelliJ Platform integrate and work together, such as combining inspections or intentions with non-trivial PsiTree manipulation.

Ultimately, the goal is to provide developers with roadmaps for implementing functionality in an IntelliJ Platform-based plugin. Each roadmap should contain:

  • Pointers to SDK documentation about the IntelliJ Platform APIs needed to implement the functionality.

  • Pointers to relevant basic SDK sample plugins.

  • Pointers to related advanced SDK sample plugins.

Use the standard intellij-community copyright notice in all sample plugins authored by JetBrains:

Copyright 2000-2023 JetBrains s.r.o. and contributors. Use of this source code is governed by the Apache 2.0 license.

Directory Naming Conventions for SDK Plugins

For basic samples, the plugin directory name is derived from the IntelliJ Platform extension points demonstrated. For example, foo_basics where foo corresponds to an IntelliJ Platform framework, extension point, or component. Some naming examples include facet_basics and editor_basics. There is only one basic sample per IntelliJ Platform API area.

For advanced code samples, the name should reflect the complex functionality delivered by the plugin rather than the IntelliJ Platform APIs. Advanced samples will be cross-referenced to the IntelliJ Platform APIs demonstrated in the sample.

The only symbol characters allowed in the name of a plugin root directory are underscores, such as foo_basics or max_opened_projects. However, underscores should not be used in any other symbol names, such as Artifact ID, plugin ID, package names, etc. Instead, concatenate a long name into camelCase such as maxOpenedProjects.

Group and Artifact ID

When creating a Gradle-based IntelliJ Platform plugin, the plugin's Maven coordinates (Group ID, Artifact ID, Version) are defined.

The Group ID for SDK plugins is always org.intellij.sdk.

The Artifact ID is a brief derivative of the plugin directory name. An Artifact ID should not contain symbols.

For basic code samples, it is not necessary to include "basic" in the Artifact ID. For example, the foo_basics directory name would have the Artifact ID foo.

A plugin with a longer directory name, such as conditional_operator_intention, could have the more succinct Artifact ID of conditionalOperatorIntention. (For legacy reasons, the conditional_operator_intention plugin uses a more concise Artifact ID.)

Plugin ID Conventions

The plugin ID appears between <id> elements in the plugin.xml file.

In general, the plugin ID is the Group ID concatenated with the Artifact ID. For example, a plugin like facet_basics has the plugin ID org.intellij.sdk.facet.

Plugin IDs do not contain underscores.

Plugin Package Names

Packages in plugins should begin with the plugin ID. If there is only one package in a plugin, then the package name is the same as the plugin ID. Additional suffix words, separated by "." characters, can be added to form more specific package names. Package names do not contain underscores.

Plugin Directory Structure

SDK sample code should have a standard directory footprint. The standardized structure not only makes the samples simpler to navigate and understand, but it builds on the default Gradle plugin project structure.

Note that directories below the plugin root folder should not have underscore characters, and should use camelCase if needed. The following is an example directory structure for a foo_basics plugin.

code_samples/ foo_basics/ gradle/ src/ main/ java/ icons/ # The standard SDK icon class resources/ icons/ sdk_16.svg # The standard SDK icon for menus, etc. META-INF/ plugin.xml # The plugin configuration file pluginIcon.svg # The standard SDK plugin icon test/ # Omit if there are no tests java/ resources/ build.gradle.kts gradlew gradle.bat settings.gradle.kts

Gradle Build Script Conventions

SDK code samples must be developed using Gradle. As of this writing, the use of Gradle in SDK code samples still relies heavily on the plugin.xml for specifying the plugin configuration. At a later, second phase, the SDK code samples will transition to rely more on the Gradle configuration.

The default contents of a Gradle build script file are produced by the New Project Wizard. A consistent structure for an SDK code sample's Gradle build script file is essential for clarity and is based on the default produced by the project wizard. Comments in SDK code sample Gradle build scripts should only draw attention to the parts of the Gradle configuration that are unique for a plugin.

For SDK code samples, a few alterations are needed to the default build.gradle.kts file produced by the plugin wizard:

  • Maintain the Gradle properties version (project.version) and group ( See the Plugin Gradle Properties section for how these Gradle properties relate to the elements in plugin.xml.

  • Add the following statement to the Patching DSL (patchPluginXml {...}) section:

    // Patches <version> value in plugin.xml version.set(project.version) sinceBuild.set("221") untilBuild.set("223.*")

plugin.xml Conventions

A consistent structure for the plugin.xml configuration file of an SDK code sample is important because we want to draw attention to the unique parts of the file for a plugin. Comment profusely about unique elements and configurations, and comment sparingly for the rest.

The sequence of elements in an SDK code sample plugin.xml file is:

  • <id> Use the fully qualified Plugin ID.

  • <name> The name value does not have to match the Plugin Directory Name. The name is used for display purposes and should reflect the functionality of the plugin. The name must start with "SDK: ".

  • <version> The code sample's version in MAJOR.MINOR.FIX format.

    • MAJOR corresponds to a significant upgrade in functionality.

    • MINOR corresponds to minor refactoring and small improvements in functionality.

    • FIX corresponds to changes that fix problems without significant refactoring.

  • <depends> Include at least one dependency with the module com.intellij.modules.platform to indicate basic plugin compatibility with IntelliJ Platform-based products. Add <depends> elements containing module FQNs as needed to describe more specialized Compatibility with Multiple Products, and any other Plugin Dependencies.

  • <description> is a concise explanation of what is being demonstrated and how a user would access the functionality. If the plugin by default overrides IDE behavior (such as tree_structure_provider) it must be noted in the description.

  • <change-notes> is an ordered list by version numbers with a brief description of changes for each version.

  • <vendor> Set the value to IntelliJ Platform SDK. Set the attributes:

    • email omit this attribute.

    • url to the JetBrains Marketplace ""

  • The remainder of the plugin configuration elements should only appear if they are needed by a specific plugin.


Each code sample provided within the IntelliJ Platform SDK should contain a README file describing the sample purpose and its content. The file contains a template that should be used as an initial draft for further writing.

Each file is supposed to have the same structure for better navigation and readability:

  • A header with the link to the main IntelliJ SDK documentation and a page that the sample refers to.

  • Quickstart section briefly describes the sample's purpose and significant parts of the IntelliJ SDK it implements.

  • Extension Points section (if implements) with a listing of implemented extension points, links to the implementation classes, and names of extended classes.

  • Actions section (if implements) with a listing of implemented actions, action IDs, links to the implementation classes, and names of base action classes.

  • Listeners section (if implements) with a listing of implemented application- or project-level listeners, links to the implementation classes, and names of base listener classes.

  • Each link that appears in the documentation has to be listed on the very bottom of the file with the clear link ID and proper prefix depending on the link context (docs:, file:, etc.).


IntelliJ Platform SDK code samples should be built and tested against the since-build version.

Code samples should build cleanly, with no warnings or errors, and new code samples should pass all default IntelliJ IDEA code inspections.

Testers should complete the following checklist. Here the term "IDE" means the IntelliJ Platform-based IDE in which the plugin is designed to run:

  • The plugin should load in the IDE.

  • The correct information about the plugin should display in the Settings | Plugins panel.

  • If applicable, the plugin UI, such as tool windows, menu additions, etc. should display correctly.

  • The functionality of the plugin should be tested with a sample file.

  • If applicable, the plugin should pass unit tests.

Last modified: 28 June 2023