Autocompletion is crap

1 minute read

I can’t believe autocompletion is still so stupid in 2013. Alright, I said it, I feel better. It’s actually not quite true and a lot of smart things are going on in Eclipse or IntelliJ IDEA but completion remains incredibly stupid when it comes to discovering an API and offering the most appropriate choice.

It is very important for fluent APIs tailored to offer only the APIs that make sense in a particular context. So when the autocompletion offers you the full monty of useless methods of Object, it kills the hours of work an API designer put into his fluent API and its discoverability. Seriously notify(), notifyAll() and wait() x 3!

I developed, help develop or gave advice on a number of fluent APIs in Java including:

  • Hibernate Search and Hibernate Validator programmatic mapping API,
  • an upcoming Hibernate OGM programmatic configuration API
  • ShrinkWrap API
  • Hibernate Search Query DSL API

So I feel very personally offended when something gets between my work and the end user.


I use Eclipse these days and the sort by relevance works only in so far as relevance is synonymous to alphabetical. In other words it sucks… but in a predictably alphabetical way.

Eclipse autocompletion

IntelliJ IDEA

IntelliJ IDEA is smarter as it puts in bold the methods hosted on the type and leave supertype methods in regular.

IntelliJ IDEA autocompletion

If you dig enough though, you can find a setting

Sort lookup items lexicographically

by opening up preferences and search of autocompletion. Weirdly enough, if you uncheck this box, IntelliJ IDEA does the better thing and put the elements in bold next to each others.

IntelliJ IDEA smarter

And that concludes this half rant, half tip, half call to action to IDE developers. Yes I know but it takes at least 3 halfs for a good cocktail :)