Fresh CLion released into arena on its 5th birthday: Woulda, shoulda, gives better support for CUDA

CLion 2020.1

JetBrains has pushed out version 2020.1 of C/C++ IDE CLion, sporting improved support for CUDA, embedded, and Windows projects.

On first look, devs will mainly notice adjustments in theme and font after making the jump. Defaults across operating systems have changed to the slightly cleaner looking IntelliJ Light and the company’s own coding font JetBrains Mono. The latter was introduced in January 2020 and has been especially praised for its distinctive symbols, keeping devs from wondering if it’s supposed to be a one, a small L or a capital i on their screen.

Other UI related changes include the option to split terminal windows vertically or horizontally for running concurrent sessions, and a quick documentation feature offering type information and the like on mouseover.

Stepping deeper into the lion’s den, refactoring and formatting has been slightly reworked. Devs now have a way of telling the IDE the value it is supposed to substitute across updated function usages, should they for example want to extend a function by another parameter. In former versions CLion just defaulted to the standard type value. In terms of formatting, version 2020.1 has seen the addition of dedicated naming settings for struct member fields and their class equivalents.

JetBrains mentioned in its announcement that it had discovered Windows is a primary platform for CLion users, saying it had looked into the most requested features on that front and added Clang-cl to the list of supported compilers. Meanwhile the default debugger for the Visual Studio C++ toolchain was changed to the LLDB based one the company set up. Compared to regular LLDB builds, it is supposed to be able to handle some special visualisations within the IDE.

At five years in, the CLion team also looked to make the tool more appealing to some more specialised forms of C/C++ development. Programmers working with Nvidia’s parallel computing engine CUDA, for example, should get more assistance while writing code and encounter less false error highlighting, since the internal language engine learned to parse CUDA passages correctly. CUDA targets and file extensions have been added to the list of supported artifacts, which means they’ll show up in the dropdowns when starting a new file, and a project wizard can help generate *.cu files.

Embedded development is another C/C++ speciality that is seeing more support in this release. CLion supposedly is now able to correctly collect IAR compiler information so that the tool can be used without hiccups. Apart from that, there’s a PlatformIO plugin for getting started with embedded projects using Arduino and similar platforms.

CLion was first released to the general masses in 2015 to round off JetBrains’ portfolio of language specific IDEs. The idea stemmed from the feedback received from users of the company’s iOS/OS X IDE, which quickly went from an Objective-C project to something also able to handle C++ features. Today, as was the case five years ago, CLion mainly competes with IDEs like Qt Creator, Eclipse CDT, Microsoft Visual Studio, and KDevelop, even though the company’s own research finds text editors Vim and Geany are primary challengers.