Jetbrains Fleet & WSL: First impressions

October 14, 2022 2 By addshore

It’s no secret that I develop using Windows and WSL. For the past few years, I have also primarily used VSCode as my go-to development environment.

Between 2012 and 2018 I mainly used Jetbrains IntellijJ IDEA, but I found the speed of VSCode (launched in 2015), along with the modern design and vibrate plugin ecosystem, to win me over.

Every now and again I have found myself dipping back into the suite of Jetbrains IDEs, primarily for their high-quality code refactoring tools, nothing that I have seen in the VSCode ecosystem has quite lived up to this functionality.

Jetbrains Fleet was announced in 2021, and was behind a waitlist until this past week. It’s now in public preview!

This is exciting, as it’s advertised as “lightweight” with code processing engines running separately, similar to what is done in VSCode. But also contains their “20 years of experience developing IDEs”, which I hope will maintain the high-quality refactoring tools. Not to mention built-in “distributed” working modes for remote development, thus built-in WSL project integration.

So here is a very first look at using Fleet with a project in WSL2 land.

Download & Startup

I already have the Jetbrains Toolbox installed, so I downloaded Fleet from there.

According to the downloads page, this may be the only option for install for Windows.

Once downloaded and opened, Fleet has a familiar look and feel. The thing that really jumps out to me here is the focus on remote development, be that connecting to a machine of your own, or joining a remote session in another IDE.

Opening a WSL project

WSL is presented front and centre as an option. This differs slightly from VSCode which has a slightly higher barrier to entry as “Remote-WSL” is part of the remote development extension pack that you also need to download.

Selecting WSL prompts you to select the “WSL Distribution” that you wish to connect with. I’ll choose “Ubuntu”!

Next, I had to wait for the backends to download into the WSL machine.

This download is likely just as big as the IDE you have already installed in windows land, as all of the code processing etc will happen in WSL land.

The IDE you have in windows land will only be your little window to WSL.

Once downloaded you are presented with a directory selector to find your project on the WSL disk.

And Tada! You have your project open in Fleet from WSL land.

It’s just remote development

Yes, the WSL integration is ultimately just “remote development” on another machine. That machine just so happens to be a WSL VM on your own device.

I haven’t tried the other remote development options that come with Fleet yet, but I hope they open up more options for developing on cloud machines, and also collaborating together.

All of this was and still is possible in the older Jetbrains IDEs through the native functionality of plugins, but it feels very well-rounded in this new IDE. All of this is also possible in VSCode, but Fleet comes with everything out of the box, rather than needing to rely on the plugin ecosystem.