JetBrain's Project Rider Cross-Platform IDE
Written by Nikos Vaggalis   
Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Project Rider, JetBrain's new cross-platform IDE brainchild for coding in most languages used in .NET development, has been made available for a second round of EAP (Early Access Program).

In contrast to the closed and private EAP six months ago, this one has been made public and accessible to everyone within just a click's reach with no questions asked, and no need to fill web forms with personal details.


I Programmer covered Rider's initial launch back in January, and found that it was an intriguing project bringing together a number of versatile components. But what is meant by that?

As far as Rider's front end goes, it is based on the IntelliJ platform and written in Kotlin, a language JetBrains wrote for its own in-house needs. Kotlin turned out so 'pragmatic' that  close to ten JetBrains products, including Rider, IntelliJ IDEA and YouTrack are now using thousands of Kotlin lines of codebases.

Therefore, Kotlin is the first element that grants Rider cross-platform capabilities, since as a programming language for the JVM it can also run anywhere where Java works, and that is everywhere...

The second part powering up Rider is Resharper, JetBrain's most famous code analysis and re-factoring plugin for Visual Studio. In this instance it assumes a lonely role, living in a process of its own and  communicating with Rider through a propriety binary protocol in order to handle the language support. Thus as a side-effect, Rider has also been made capable of running ReSharper plugins, just as in the case of the resharper-unity one which adds Unity specific functionality to it.

Resharper therefore, written in C# and running on .NET and Mono, is the other component that grants cross-platform capabilities to Rider. So, putting it all together, JVM, .NET, Mono, Resharper and Kotlin all  have to live together in harmony in order for Rider to exist - that's why you see a mix of .jar and .dll files flying by during Rider's installation.

As far as the IDE itself is concerned, it strongly resembles Android Studio, no coincidence since they both are based on JetBrain's IntelliJ IDE construction platform.

As such, it has everything a modern IDE should posses :

  • code completion
  • code templates
  • context actions
  • intuitive searching and navigation
  • re-factorings such as Rename, extract methods, interfaces and classes
  • full blown debugger
  • code analysis through Resharper
  • decompilation
  • unit testing supporting NUnit and xUnit by default
  • version control
  • NuGet support
  • plugin support

....and much more


Rider will also load standard .NET Framework or Mono projects, understand Visual Studio .sln files, and support, albeit limited for the time being, working with Xamarin solutions. Of course it goes without saying that it also supports .NET Core projects.

With all that, why would you opt for Visual Studio instead? Missing cross-platform support on VS behalf aside, plus the feeling that Rider performs faster than VS too, it all comes down to preference and familiarity. If you're used to the IntelliJ family of IDE's, the likes of Android Studio or IDEA, then you'll feel right at home, shifting the workflow patterns from those IDE's onto Rider.

Android Studio vs Rider

Another minus is that Rider still has no GUI designer for drawing WinForms and Xamarin Forms, plus it does not/will not support F#, at least inherently.

A last factor to take into consideration, is license and pricing.
Back in January Ian Elliot reported that :

Now we come to the slight problem with Project Rider - it is not open source. JetBrains changed its licensing method at the end of 2015 and this annoyed a lot of its users. Things have quietened down following some concessions, but many users have taken Project Rider as another opportunity to talk about licensing.

At the moment pricing hasn't been established and JetBrains say that it will be inline with other products in the JetBrains Toolbox. Many JetBrains products have a community edition, but it isn't clear that Project Rider will.

Unfortunately this situation has not been cleared up yet, hence the mystery continues. For example, when you install the current EAP build, there is no license to accept. In its place the user finds just the JetBrains Privacy Policy. The current build 14 is available for download from here and is valid December 21 when the evaluation period times out.

Still in its baby steps and with a lot of wishful features on its to-do list, Project Rider certainly looks like a worthy opponent to Visual Studio, having by far surpassed Microsoft's Visual Studio Code cross-platform IDE offering.

Of course, it's no surprise that IDE's got caught in the cross-fire of these cross-platform wars, joining the rest of  libraries, frameworks, cloud or dbmss, a field particularly shaken by the news of SQL Server's release on Linux.


More Information

Project Rider

Kotlin on GitHub

resharper-unity plugin


Related Articles

Project Rider A Cross Platform C# IDE

SQL Server on Linux, Love or Calculated Move?


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Last Updated ( Thursday, 01 December 2016 )