CLion vs IntelliJ IDEA: which IDE should you choose?

CLion is a specialized IDE for C and C++ development, while IntelliJ IDEA supports multiple programming languages.

Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) are important pieces of software for developers and programmers because they let them write, compile, and fix bugs in code all in one place. These powerful environments have many useful tools, such as grammar highlighting, code completion, debugging tools, and version control integration, which makes the process of making software easier and more productive.

IDEs are essential for making complicated coding jobs easier, making it easier for team members to work together, and making sure that the quality and consistency of the code is maintained. CLion and IntelliJ IDEA are two of the most popular IDEs. They both meet the needs of developers working with a wide range of computer languages and environments. CLion is an IDE that is designed to help you create in C and C++. It has tools and features that make writing code easier in these languages.

On the other hand, IntelliJ IDEA is a flexible IDE that works with many computer languages. It has a full set of tools for Java, Kotlin, and other languages, which makes it a popular choice among developers working on a wide range of projects. We will look at the differences between CLion and IntelliJ IDEA in more detail in the next section. This will help you choose the best IDE for your programming needs and tastes.

CLion vs IntelliJ IDEA Comparison table

JetBrains makes both CLion and IntelliJ IDEA, but they are not the same. CLion is designed for developing in C and C++ and has specific features for that. IntelliJ IDEA, on the other hand, supports more languages, has a lot of plugins, and lets you change the way the Java and other languages are displayed.

AspectCLionIntelliJ IDEA
Primary Use CaseC and C++ developmentJava and other languages
Language SupportC and C++Java, Kotlin, and more
Plugin EcosystemLimited due to C and C++ focusExtensive plugin ecosystem
User InterfaceFocused on C and C++ developmentGeneral-purpose, customizable
Version Control IntegrationGit, SVN, MercurialGit, SVN, Mercurial, and more
Community SupportActive community for C and C++Active community for various languages
PerformanceOptimized for C and C++Highly optimized for Java and other languages
Code AssistanceTailored for C and C++Tailored for Java and other languages
Cross-Platform SupportAvailable for Windows, macOS, and LinuxAvailable for Windows, macOS, and Linux
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CLion vs IntelliJ IDEA: User Interface and User Experience

CLion vs IntelliJ IDEA

The user experience of Clion is lighter and simpler than that of IntelliJ IDEA. This is because CLion was made to work with C and C++ development only. It doesn’t need to handle all the features needed for other programming languages. Because of this, CLion’s UI is cleaner and easier to use.

The way that CLion and IntelliJ IDEA handle tool windows is another big difference between the two. Every tool window in CLion is placed on the left side of the main window. Because of this, you can quickly get to all the tools you need without having to switch screens. You can dock tool windows anywhere around the main window in IntelliJ IDEA. This might make things more flexible, but it might also make the UI look messier.

FeatureCLionIntelliJ IDEA
User interfaceLightweight and streamlinedPowerful and feature-rich
Tool windowsDocked on the left-hand side of the main windowCan be docked anywhere around the main window
CustomizationLess customizableMore customizable
Programming languages and frameworksC and C++Wide range of programming languages and frameworks

The interface of IntelliJ IDEA is stronger and has more features than the interface of CLion. This is due to the fact that IntelliJ IDEA is a flexible IDE that works with many computer languages and frameworks. IntelliJ IDEA’s UI is more complicated and can be harder to learn because of this.

But IntelliJ IDEA’s UI can also be changed in a lot of ways. You can choose which tool windows to show or hide, and you can change how the main window is laid out to suit your needs. IntelliJ IDEA also has plugins that you can use to add new features and functions.

CLion vs IntelliJ IDEA: Supported Programming Languages

This is CLion, a cross-platform IDE made just for C and C++. That’s right, the same company that makes IntelliJ IDEA also made this. CLion does a great job of supporting all parts of C and C++ development, such as testing, debugging, code completion, and rewriting. Aside from that, it has features made just for C++ developers, like checking code for common C++ mistakes, supporting current C++ standards, and working with well-known C++ libraries.

As a general-purpose IDE, IntelliJ IDEA works with many computer languages, such as Java, Kotlin, Scala, Groovy, and more. Adding support for more languages is also possible with plugins. But IntelliJ IDEA doesn’t have as good support for C and C++ out of the box as CLion does.

In IntelliJ IDEA, for instance, you can’t use code completion or rewriting for C and C++. It doesn’t work as well with new C++ standards either compared to CLion. Plugins, on the other hand, can be used to offer these benefits.

Overall, I would tell anyone who is serious about C and C++ programming to get CLion. It works best with C and C++ than any other IDE I’ve tried. But if you need to handle more than one programming language, IntelliJ IDEA is a good choice because it does that right out of the box.

Integrated Development Environment (IDE) Customization Options

CLion vs IntelliJ IDEA

Because Clion is a C/C++ IDE, it is meant to help you write code in both C and C++. Because of this, it has tools like code completion, refactoring, and debugging that are designed to meet the needs of C and C++ developers. IntelliJ IDEA, on the other hand, is a more flexible IDE that can be used to create in many languages, such as Scala, Kotlin, and Java. Because of this, it doesn’t have as many tools that are specific to C and C++ as CLion does.

You can change a lot of things about IntelliJ IDEA, but not so much about CLion. IntelliJ IDEA, for instance, lets you change the style of the editor, the keyboard shortcuts, and the menus and toolbars. You can also make your own IntelliJ IDEA apps. You can’t change as many of these settings in CLion, but you can share your IDE settings between different CLion versions or even between IntelliJ-based IDE products.

In general, I think that both CLion and IntelliJ IDEA let you change a lot of things. However, CLion is better for writing code in C and C++, while IntelliJ IDEA is better for writing code in many languages.

Code Navigation and Refactoring Capabilities

One of the main differences is that IntelliJ IDEA is a more general-purpose IDE that works with many programming languages, while CLion is intended to work only with C and C++. This means that CLion has some tools that are designed to make developing in C and C++ easier. For example, it supports CMake projects and lets you easily switch between header and source files.

IntelliJ IDEA has a wider range of editing tools than CLion, which is another difference. As an example, IntelliJ IDEA can refactor code in Java, Kotlin, and other languages, but CLion can only refactor code in C and C++.

But CLion has some refactoring tools that IntelliJ IDEA doesn’t have. For example, you can rename macros and use templates to refactor classes in CLion.

Overall, I think that both CLion and IntelliJ IDEA are great at navigating and changing code. Which IDE is best for you will rely on your needs and preferences. It’s recommended that you use CLion if you mostly write C and C++ code. IntelliJ IDEA is a better choice if you need to write code in more than one language or if you need a wider range of editing tools.

CLion vs IntelliJ IDEA: Debugging Tools

CLion is made to work with C and C++ programming languages, and its debugger tools are also made to work with those languages. The two most famous debuggers for C and C++ are GDB and LLDB, and CLion has one built in for each. CLion also has tools like breakpoints, watches, and variable inspection that make it easy to fix bugs in C and C++ code.

The debugger in IntelliJ IDEA is stronger and has more features than the debugger in CLion. There are more debugging choices with this version, such as the ability to debug remote processes, attach to running processes, and debug applications that use more than one thread. IntelliJ IDEA also has a debugger interface that is easier for people to use. It has tools like code completion and variable evaluation inline.

IntelliJ IDEA is a more versatile IDE that can be used with many computer languages, such as Python, Java, and Kotlin. Another set of very strong debugging tools is IntelliJ IDEA’s. However, they are not as focused on C and C++ as CLion’s. The debugger in Clion is less powerful but simpler and easy to use. It is still a good choice for debugging C and C++ code, but it doesn’t have as many debugging tools as IntelliJ IDEA. Also, CLion’s debugger works well with the CLion IDE. This makes it simple to start debugging sessions and set them up.

CLion: Pros

  • Specialized for C and C++ development.
  • Tailored code assistance for C and C++.
  • Active community support for C and C++ programming.

CLion: Cons

  • Limited plugin ecosystem compared to IntelliJ IDEA.

IntelliJ IDEA: Pros

  • Extensive plugin ecosystem and customizable interface.
  • Supports various languages including Java, Kotlin, and more.
  • Highly optimized performance for Java and other languages.

IntelliJ IDEA: Cons

  • Less specialized for C and C++ development.

Which one should you consider?

Which one you choose between CLion and IntelliJ IDEA relies on your needs. CLion is great for developing in C and C++ because it has advanced tools like code analysis and refactoring that are made to work with these languages. IntelliJ IDEA, on the other hand, has strong debugging and productivity tools and supports Java, Kotlin, and other JVM-based languages well.

If you’re mostly interested in developing in C/C++, CLion’s unique features make it a good contender. IntelliJ IDEA’s flexibility and large ecosystem of plugins may make it the best choice for a wider range of computer languages, such as Java and Kotlin. Before making a choice, think about the needs of your job and your preferred language.


Is IntelliJ IDEA good for C++?

You can use CLion instead of IntelliJ IDEA if you need to work with C or C++. You can look through JetBrains Marketplace to find either an official tool that works with almost every language, framework, or technology used today, or a plugin made by a third party. Read Install plugins for more information on how to manage plugins.

Which is better CLion or Visual Studio?

Visual Studio Code is a text editor from Microsoft that lets you write code, debug it, and see highlighted syntax with IntelliSense, among other things. CLion has the best user interface, the newest tools, a smaller installation size, smart code completion, an up-to-date GNU compiler, and a free student licence.

Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff
The Bollyinside editorial staff is made up of tech experts with more than 10 years of experience Led by Sumit Chauhan. We started in 2014 and now Bollyinside is a leading tech resource, offering everything from product reviews and tech guides to marketing tips. Think of us as your go-to tech encyclopedia!


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