Java3 Top Java Debugging Tools for 2023

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Java debugging tools come equipped with many features to help developers detect and resolve issues quickly. Pick the right Java debugging tool with capabilities for variable inspection, remote debugging, breakpoints, and more, and you can enjoy increased productivity and higher-quality code. This guide will break down the following top Java debugging tools in terms of their features, pros, cons, and pricing to aid you in your search:

  • IntelliJ IDEA: Ideal for developers needing a Java debugging tool with multiple robust features from a popular Java integrated development environment (IDE).
  • NetBeans: A great choice for budget-minded developers of all levels looking to debug Java code from a user-friendly open-source IDE.
  • Eclipse: A solid pick for developers seeking a well-rounded debugging tool from an open-source Java IDE.

IntelliJ IDEA

Java IntelliJ IDEA

Best for developers needing a Java debugging tool with multiple robust features from a popular Java integrated development environment (IDE).

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5

  • Pricing: 4.75 out of 5
  • Core Features: 5 out of 5
  • Customer Support: 3.7 out of 5
  • Ease of Use: 4 out of 5
  • Performance: 4.25 out of 5
  • User Reviews: 5 out of 5

IntelliJ IDEA is a widely used Java IDE from JetBrains that is highly extensible and offers a robust and user-friendly debugging experience to help developers increase productivity and code quality.

Features of IntelliJ IDEA

IntelliJ IDEA’s Java debugging features include:

  • Breakpoints
  • Code stepping
  • Evaluate expressions
  • Variable inspection
  • Watches
  • HotSwap
  • Remote debugging
  • Integrations

IntelliJ IDEA prides itself on offering a streamlined Java debugging experience. Developers can set breakpoints, run the debugger, and view results in a dedicated window. They can then step along code, evaluate expressions, inspect variables, add watches, and more.

The HotSwap feature lets you make code changes while debugging to save time versus having to restart the application. There is also remote debugging for applications running on virtual machines or remote servers, plus integrations with Dockers, Kubernetes, profilers, popular testing frameworks, etc.

Pros of IntelliJ IDEA

IntelliJ IDEA’s Java debugging strengths include:

  • User-friendly debugging
  • Powerful debugger
  • Extensibility
  • Full IDE features

IntelliJ IDEA makes debugging as straightforward as possible while packing a robust set of features that include breakpoints, code stepping, variable inspection, watches, etc. You can easily extend IntelliJ IDEA’s already impressive capabilities with a wide range of plugins and extensions, and you also get access to everything IntelliJ IDEA offers as a full-fledged IDE for a more unified development environment.

Cons of IntelliJ IDEA

IntelliJ IDEA’s debugging weaknesses include:

  • Large installation
  • Overall complexity
  • Cost
  • Heavy resource usage

While IntelliJ IDEA is a powerful IDE, some developers simply seeking debugging capabilities may see it as overkill, especially due to its large installation requirements. And while IntelliJ IDEA’s debugging is straightforward and to the point, figuring out its other features can take some time for beginners.

Unlike other IDEs that offer Java debugging, IntelliJ IDEA is a commercial product that charges a premium. Yes, there is a Community Edition, but it may not have enough features to suit your needs. Lastly, IntelliJ IDEA can slow performance and become sluggish when debugging due to its heavy resource usage.

Pricing of IntelliJ IDEA

IntelliJ IDEA offers separate pricing plans for individuals and organizations. There is a free, open-source Community Edition that offers the basics, plus a 90-day free trial for teams and special discounts for startups, students, etc.

IntelliJ IDEA’s individual plans are as follows:

  • IntelliJ IDEA Ultimate: $169 for the first year. $135 and $101 for the second and third years, respectively.
  • All Products Pack: $289 for the first year. $231 and $173 for the second and third years, respectively.

IntelliJ IDEA Ultimate gives individuals all the features of the popular Java and Kotlin IDE. The All Products Pack includes IntelliJ IDEA and 15 other tools, such as PyCharm and ReSharper, for one price.

IntelliJ IDEA’s plans for organizations include:

  • IntelliJ IDEA Ultimate: $599 for the first year. $479 and $359 for the second and third years, respectively.
  • All Products Pack: $779 for the first year. $623 and $467 for the second and third years, respectively.

As with the individual plans, Ultimate unlocks access to just the Java IDE, while All Products Pack includes 15 other developer tools.

Check out our IntelliJ IDEA Review for more.


NetBeans IDE

Best for budget-minded developers of all levels looking to debug Java code from a user-friendly open-source IDE.

Overall Rating: 4.15 out of 5

  • Pricing: 4.75 out of 5
  • Core Features: 4.5 out of 5
  • Customer Support: 3.2 out of 5
  • Ease of Use: 3.5 out of 5
  • Performance: 3.75 out of 5
  • User Reviews: 5 out of 5

NetBeans is a user-friendly open-source Java IDE with an intuitive interface that can help developers of all experience levels fulfill their debugging needs.

Features of NetBeans

NetBeans’ most noteworthy Java debugging features include:

  • Visual debugger
  • Conditional breakpoints
  • Remote debugging
  • Hot swapping
  • Multi-thread debugging
  • Code stepping
  • Variable inspection
  • Third-party integrations

NetBeans’ visual debugger eases the debugging process with its intuitive interface that simplifies the process of setting breakpoints and navigating through code. Conditional breakpoints come in handy for spotting specific bugs and debugging complex issues, while remote debugging lets developers debug Java applications on remote machines.

NetBeans offers time-saving hot swapping for applying code changes on the fly while you debug, multi-thread debugging to fix threading-related problems, code stepping, and variable inspection. The Java IDE also integrates with popular version control systems, profilers for analyzing app performance during debugging, and more.

Pros of NetBeans

NetBeans’ positives for Java debugging include:

  • No cost
  • Easy to use
  • Long history
  • Helpful hints

Java developers with budget constraints can use NetBeans to debug their code without worry since it is open-source and free. The Java debugger is user-friendly with an intuitive interface, making it ideal for all technical levels. NetBeans’ lengthy history has allowed it to offer stability for Java development, and its hints work wonders for spotting and fixing potential problems during debugging.

Cons of NetBeans

NetBeans’ negatives include:

  • Limited support
  • Third-party integrations
  • Resource usage

NetBeans’ community and support may not be as substantial as other IDEs, which can be a disadvantage for beginners looking for added resources, documentation, and assistance. NetBeans’ integration with third-party tools, version control systems, etc., has been noted as being challenging, and, like other IDEs on this list, it is known for being resource-intensive with the potential for slowing performance.

Pricing of NetBeans

NetBeans is an open-source Java IDE. As such, developers can enjoy its debugging capabilities at no cost.


Eclipse IDE Review

Best for developers seeking a well-rounded debugging tool from an open-source Java IDE.

Overall Rating: 4.24 out of 5

  • Pricing: 4.75 out of 5
  • Core Features: 4.75 out of 5
  • Customer Support: 2.65 out of 5
  • Ease of Use: 3.5 out of 5
  • Performance: 4.25 out of 5
  • User Reviews: 5 out of 5

Eclipse is a popular open-source Java IDE with a large, supportive community that provides plenty of debugging versatility and extensibility through its large ecosystem of plugins.

Features of Eclipse

Eclipse’s highlights in terms of Java debugging capabilities include:

  • Breakpoints
  • Expression evaluation
  • Variable inspection
  • Code stepping
  • Multi-thread debugging
  • Remote debugging
  • Watches
  • Hot swapping
  • Integrations

Eclipse lets developers set breakpoints for added control over the debugging process. You can evaluate expressions on the fly for enhanced code change experimentation and inspect variables with ease. The Java IDE supports code stepping, debugging applications with multiple threads, and remote debugging on servers and other devices.

Eclipse also lets you watch expressions and apply code changes while debugging (aka hot swapping). Another Eclipse highlight is its support for applications running in Kubernetes and Docker and its integrations with popular profiling tools, testing frameworks, version control systems, etc.

Pros of Eclipse

Eclipse’s pros include:

  • Free to use
  • Debugging versatility
  • Other IDE features
  • Strong community

Eclipse is open-source and free to use, making it attractive to Java developers with limited budgets. It offers plenty of debugging versatility with features like breakpoints, watches, variable expression, etc., plus additional features as a comprehensive IDE, including code analysis and code completion to make developers’ lives easier. Eclipse’s large and active community is another plus, providing you with documentation, support, and added resources when needed.

Cons of Eclipse

Eclipse’s cons include:

  • User interface
  • Learning curve
  • Remote debugging configuration
  • Resource usage

Eclipse’s user interface is not as polished as some would prefer, and its long list of features beyond debugging could seem overwhelming for beginners. The remote debugging experience is not ideal due to complex configuration, either. And since it is a complete IDE, Eclipse can lead to slow performance, especially on older, less potent machines.

Pricing of Eclipse

Since Eclipse is an open-source IDE, you can use its debugging features and enjoy its other capabilities for free. If you want to install any premium plugins or extensions, however, be prepared to pay for those.

Check out our Eclipse Review for more.

What to Look for in Java Debugging Tools

With several Java debugging tools on the market, you must consider several factors when shopping around to ensure you make the right pick to fit your web or software development needs. First, make sure the debugging tool is compatible with the Java version you are using and your overall Java development environment. Second, consider the cost, as some Java debugging tools are open-source and free, while others charge for more premium and advanced capabilities.

Third, read reviews on user-friendliness. The easier a Java debugging tool is to use and the more intuitive its interface, the better. While reading reviews, check for comments on documentation, support, and the user community. Larger communities can offer added support and resources to make your debugging experience a smoother one. Regarding specific features, look for capabilities found in most of the top Java debugging tools, such as support for breakpoints, variable inspection, code stepping, watches, profiling for performance analysis, and remote debugging.

How We Evaluated Java Debugging Tools

While evaluating the best code debugging tools for Java, we started by creating six weighted categories that contained vital sub criteria. Our sub criteria was then used to assign scores (ranging from 1-5) to each debugging tool on our list, which gave us a total score for each platform. The top three options with the highest overall score made our list.

Below you can find an explanation of our evaluation criteria and examples of sub criteria, alongside their percentage score.

Pricing – 20%

Pricing is an important factor for choosing a debugging platform. For our Pricing criteria, we looked at sub criteria that included the following:

  • Free trial available and length of trial
  • Free to use?
  • Cost for themes, plugins, and development
  • Is the pricing transparent on the vendor’s website
  • Is a demo available

Core Features – 25%

Core Features offered by debugging tools are especially important, as Java programmers often seek to limit the amount of time and effort needed to find and fix errors in their code. We looked at several sub criteria for our Core Features evaluation, including (but not limited to):

  • Language and platform support
  • Debugging commands
  • Remote debugging
  • Code debugging collaboration

Customer Support – 10%

Having someone to reach out to is important in the event you experience issues with your debugging tool. For our Customer Support criteria, we looked at the following support options to see if they were available and, if so, during which hours:

  • Phone, chat, and email
  • forums
  • Usergroups

Ease of Use – 20%

Using a code debugger with a low learning curve and maintenance helps Java programmers fix code more efficiently. Our Ease of Use criteria looked at the following sub criteria:

  • Difficulty to setup, configure, and maintain
  • Does the tool offer advanced configurations
  • Is the user interface intuitive
  • Are there plenty of documentation and video learning resources

Performance – 15%

For our Performance criteria, we looked at the following sub criteria:

  • Speed
  • Reliability
  • Reported bugs
  • Frequency of updates

User Reviews – 10%

Finally, to truly evaluate the refactoring software on our list, we looked at other user reviews to see how users with diverse backgrounds viewed our options. Reviews can be subjective, so we ranked this criteria with lowest importance on our list.

Final Thoughts on the Top Debugging Tools for Java

IntelliJ IDEA, NetBeans, and Eclipse feature some of the best Java debugging capabilities on the market. Before choosing a Java debugging tool, make sure it fits your development team’s needs in terms of features, user-friendliness, community/support, and pricing. If you find that the Java debugging tools listed above fail to meet your requirements, know that there are other options out there, such as JDeveloper, Visual Studio Code, and more.

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