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JetBrains Fleet Review – The VSCode Killer?

JetBrains Fleet Review – The VSCode Killer?

JetBrains, the company behind well-known IDEs like IntelliJ Idea and WebStorm, recently declared that Fleet was now ready for public preview. Since then there has been a lot of noise around Fleet within the developer community, and it also has been questioned about being the VSCode killer. So how does it fair against VSCode? In this article, I’ll walk you through my experience with using Fleet for the past few days, and a few things you should know if you’re interested in trying it out.

The Idea behind Fleet

The popular VSCode text editor appears to have set off a new trend, which led to the development of this new IDE. According to its website, Fleet claims to be “a fast and lightweight text editor for when you need to quickly browse and edit your code” which seems to be the same user base VSCode is targeting. Fleet can also transform into an IDE with the help of its “IntelliJ code-processing engine” and provide context-aware code completion, quick fixes, etc.

In VSCode, remote development has also received a lot of support. Fleet is also trying to go in that direction with its remote development features. When working with your code, Fleet allows you to connect to a remote machine and use a Fleet instance already there.

The Fleet Review

Here I’ll be listing down a few of the important pointers that caught my eye while I was using Fleet. These are not separated by the pros and cons but rather are my thoughts about different parts of the editor.

Installation

Okay, I had to mention this because I know it is a huge turn-off for a lot of people. If you want to download Fleet you need to first download their Toolbox App and download Fleet from there. If you don’t use other JetBrains IDEs then there is no point in having a manager for all your JetBrains tools. This seems to be a growing trend from a lot of big companies to get people into their ecosystem (I’m looking at you, Adobe).

Speed

I’ve had mixed experiences with JetBrains IDEs. I love the sheer amount of features and tooling they provide but their IDEs always feel very heavy and slow at first.

Thankfully, that was not the case with Fleet. I tried to open a decently sized React project and opened up almost instantly. I really enjoyed how snappy the editor felt, big points for that.

The UI

The UI looks and feels great. It is clean with the ability to dock any window you’d like in its left, right, or bottom panel. I also really liked the file explorer window, and I think I prefer how it looks and feels over VSCode. Although I think having a good UI is a no-brainer for JetBrains, they have been making IDEs for decades.

Fleet editor UI
Fleet editor

Smart Mode

I really wanted to like the Smart Mode, I do like the idea of being able to turn IntelliSense on and off. But I think it still has a long way to go in terms of support. First of all, my medium-sized React project took a few minutes to get indexed by Smart Mode before I could use its features. VSCode barely takes a minute before the IntelliSense and all the nice code completions are ready to use. Also, it is just not there with language and tools support. I tried opening a Svelte project and it was all plain white. I do realize it is a preview version, but it has a long way to go before it is usable.

It is a memory hog

I honestly do not know what to say about this one. With the same project and file open, Fleet was proud enough to take up more than 3 times the memory than VSCode.

Fleet memory usage

This just did not seem right, and I hope it is optimized in the future. Fleet even put Google Chrome to shame with its memory usage!

Git Integration

Okay, finally something genuinely nice to say. I very much liked the Git integration Fleet comes with by default. You can review and commit your changed files in the Git tab as you’d expect. It also has a nice history tab where you can review all your branches, past commits, and so on. Although, you can achieve the same in VSCode with the power of extensions.

Fleet Git History
Fleet Git History

Where are the extensions?!

As soon as I opened a Svelte project on Fleet and saw the plain white text, I knew I had to get the Svelte extension for Fleet. Soon I find out there is no such extension or plugin support for Fleet, yet. According to their website, plugin support is coming soon and I think community plugins will fix a lot of the problems I had with Fleet. But such a crucial feature not being there yet left a sour taste.

Pricing

This is probably the worst part. Fleet is not going to be a completely free-to-use IDE. Their free version is only meant for personal and non-commercial projects with “limited” features. Whereas VSCode is completely free, and open source.

Fleet pricing
Fleet pricing

Verdict

I think Fleet is a great option – for existing JetBrains users. I think the goal of Fleet is to unify JetBrains IDEs into one IDEs powered by the many language servers on offer by JetBrains, especially for the multilingual developers out there.

As for VSCode users, I see no reason to make the switch yet. For the time I was using it, Fleet always felt like it was missing all the features that I love about VSCode. Although we need to understand that Fleet is still in preview, and I think it has the potential to become a great alternative to VSCode after a couple of years.

Conclusion

In this article, we looked at what JetBrains Fleet is and some of the important pointers that caught my eye while I was using it. We also compared several of its components to VSCode, one of the most popular code editors. What do you think about JetBrains Fleet? Do you plan to use it for your projects? Let me know what you liked and disliked about Fleet in the comments!

If you have any questions regarding this article or want to talk about anything technology, you can find me on Twitter. Thank you for reading!

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