IntelliJ .idea folder

IntelliJ IDEA: What Is the .idea Folder and How to Manage It

Learn about the .idea folder in IntelliJ IDEA, its purpose, content, and best practices. This blog post will explain how to configure, ignore, share, and delete the .idea folder in your projects.


IntelliJ IDEA is a popular integrated development environment (IDE) for Java and other programming languages. It offers many features and tools to help developers write, debug, test, and run their code. One of the features that IntelliJ IDEA provides is the ability to store project-specific settings in a folder called .idea. In this blog post, we will explore what the .idea folder is, what it contains, and how to manage it effectively in our projects.

What Is the .idea Folder?

The .idea folder is a hidden folder that IntelliJ IDEA automatically generates in the root directory of every project. It contains various files and subfolders that store the project-level settings and configurations. These include information such as:

  • Version control system (VCS) settings
  • Run and debug configurations
  • Code style settings
  • Data sources settings
  • Workspace layout
  • And more

The .idea folder is visible within the IntelliJ IDE. However, when using a file manager, it’s typically visible on Windows systems but remains hidden on macOS and Linux systems. To reveal it, we can use the ls -a command in the terminal or enable the Show Hidden Files option in the file manager.

The .idea folder is not part of the source code of the project, but rather a part of the IDE. Therefore, it is not mandatory to keep it in the project directory, and we can delete it or move it to another location if we want. However, doing so will reset the project settings to the default values, and we will have to reconfigure them manually.

Contents of the .idea Directory

The .idea directory contains various files and subfolders that store the project-level settings and configurations for IntelliJ IDEA. These include information such as:

  1. workspace.xml: Holds the workspace layout and window arrangement settings tailored to your preferences, providing a personalized working environment.
  2. modules.xml: Stores details about project modules, their dependencies, and specific configurations for each module within your project.
  3. misc.xml: Contains additional project settings that don’t fit into specific categories, ensuring flexibility for various configurations.
  4. vcs.xml: Stores version control settings, including VCS mappings and configurations, allowing seamless integration with your chosen version control system.
  5. codeStyles/: Contains code style settings defining code formatting rules for supported languages, ensuring consistent coding conventions.
  6. runConfigurations/: Houses configurations for running and debugging applications, tests, and other project elements, streamlining development tasks.
  7. libraries/: Stores information about project libraries and dependencies, ensuring proper integration of external code resources.
  8. dataSources/: Contains configurations related to data sources and databases used within the project, facilitating database integration and management.
  9. dictionaries/: Holds user dictionaries for spellchecking or language-specific words, enhancing the coding experience with custom vocabulary.
  10. sonarlint/: Contains configurations and cache related to SonarLint, a code analysis tool used for identifying and fixing code quality issues.
  11. compiler.xml: Stores settings and configurations related to the compiler, specifying options and behavior during code compilation.
  12. encodings.xml: Contains encoding-related settings, defining character encodings used within the project for proper file interpretation.
  13. jpaRepositories.xml: Stores configurations specific to Java Persistence API (JPA) repositories, if applicable to the project.
  14. *.iml file: Module file containing module-specific configurations, dependencies, and settings for individual modules within the project.
  15. uiDesigner.xml: Contains settings and configurations related to UI (User Interface) designer tools, if used within the project for visual design.
  16. shelf/: Stores shelved changes—temporary modifications set aside by developers without committing to version control. These shelved changes are typically personal and temporary, meant to be unshelved, discarded, or committed later based on individual development needs.

The contents within the .idea folder can differ based on the specific project setup and tools utilized within the IDE. Additional directories or files might be added by the IDE to accommodate the project’s configuration and employed tools.

How to Configure the .idea Folder?

The .idea folder is automatically generated and updated by IntelliJ IDEA based on the project structure and the user actions. We do not need to manually edit the files inside the .idea folder, as this can cause errors or inconsistencies. Instead, we can use the IDE’s graphical user interface (GUI) to configure the project settings and preferences.

To access the project settings, we can go to File -> Project Structure or press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+S. On macOS shortcut is Command+; This will open a dialog window where we can adjust various options, such as:

  • Project SDK and language level
  • Project compiler output path
  • Modules and dependencies
  • Libraries and global libraries
  • Artifacts and build tools
  • And more

To access the preferences, we can go to File -> Settings or press Ctrl+Alt+S on windows OS. On macOS, we can go to Intellij IDEA -> Settings or press Command+, .This will open another dialog window where we can customize various options, such as:

  • Editor settings, such as code style, fonts, colors, inspections, etc.
  • Plugins and marketplace
  • Version control settings, such as VCS integration, commit options, branches, etc.
  • Tools settings, such as terminal, database, HTTP client, etc.
  • And more

We can also use the search bar at the top of the dialog windows to quickly find the option we are looking for.

How to Ignore the .idea Folder?

One of the common questions that developers have is whether to include the .idea folder in the version control system (VCS) or not. The answer depends on the project and the team preferences, but in general, it is recommended to ignore the .idea folder, as it contains user-specific and machine-specific settings that are not relevant for other developers or environments.

To ignore the .idea folder, we can use the .gitignore file if we are using Git as our VCS. The .gitignore file is a text file that specifies the files and folders that Git should not track or upload to the remote repository. To ignore the .idea folder, we can simply add the following line to the .gitignore file:


This will tell Git to ignore the .idea folder and all its contents. Alternatively, we can use the .gitignore plugin for IntelliJ IDEA, which can automatically generate the .gitignore file for us based on the project type and the VCS.

How to Share the .idea Folder?

In some cases, we might want to share the .idea folder with other developers or environments, for example, to keep the project settings consistent across the team or to simplify the project setup process. To do this, we can include the .idea folder in the VCS, but we need to be careful about what files and folders we share and what we exclude.

According to the official JetBrains documentation, the recommended files and folders to share are:

  • .idea/codeStyles (code style settings)
  • .idea/dictionaries (user dictionaries)
  • .idea/runConfigurations (run configurations)
  • .idea/vcs.xml (VCS settings)
  • .idea/misc.xml (some project settings)
  • .idea/modules.xml (module locations)
  • .idea/jsLibraryMappings.xml (JavaScript libraries mappings)

An example of JetBrains’ recommended .gitignore file, inclusive of the .idea folder, can be accessed here.

The recommended files and folders to exclude are:

  • .idea/workspace.xml (user-specific workspace layout)
  • .idea/tasks.xml (user-specific tasks)
  • .idea/shelf (shelved changes)
  • .idea/dataSources (data sources settings)
  • .idea/dataSources.ids (data sources IDs)
  • .idea/dataSources.local.xml (local data sources settings)
  • .idea/sqlDataSources.xml (SQL data sources settings)
  • .idea/dynamic.xml (dynamic plugins settings)
  • .idea/uiDesigner.xml (UI designer settings)
  • .idea/gradle.xml (Gradle settings)
  • .idea/libraries (libraries information)

To exclude the files and folders that we do not want to share, we can use the .gitignore file or the .gitignore plugin, as explained in the previous section.

How to Delete the .idea Folder?

Sometimes, we might encounter some issues or errors with the project settings or the IDE, such as:

  • The project does not compile or run correctly
  • The code completion or syntax highlighting does not work properly
  • The VCS integration does not function as expected
  • The IDE becomes slow or unresponsive

In such cases, one of the possible solutions is to delete the .idea folder and let IntelliJ IDEA regenerate it with the default settings. This can help to resolve any corrupted or outdated settings that might be causing the problems.

To delete the .idea folder, we can simply select it in the project view or the file manager and press the Delete key. Alternatively, we can use the terminal and run the following command in the project directory:

rm -rf .idea

This will delete the .idea folder and all its contents. However, before doing this, we should make sure that we have backed up any important settings or configurations that we want to keep, such as run configurations, code style settings, etc. We can export them to a file and import them later, or copy them to another location.

After deleting the .idea folder, we need to reopen the project in IntelliJ IDEA and reconfigure the project settings and preferences as needed.

How to Sync Settings Across Different Devices?

Settings Sync is a new plugin that is available and bundled in IntelliJ IDEA and other JetBrains IDEs. It allows you to synchronize your IDE settings across different devices and IDE products using your JetBrains Account. This can help you to maintain a consistent and comfortable working environment wherever you work.

To use Settings Sync, you need to do the following steps:

  • Enable the Settings Sync plugin in your IDE if disabled. You can find it in the Plugins settings under the Installed tab.
  • To access the Settings Sync option, navigate to the Settings section (Windows: File -> Settings | macOS: IntelliJ IDEA -> Settings). Log in using your JetBrains account.
  • Choose the settings you want to sync. You can also choose whether to sync settings across all JetBrains IDE products or only specific ones.
  • Apply the changes and start syncing. You can do this by clicking on the Apply Changes button in the Settings Sync dialog. The IDE will then upload your settings to the JetBrains server and download them to any other devices or IDE products where you log in with the same JetBrains Account.

Things to Consider

When dealing with the .idea folder in IntelliJ IDEA projects these are few considerations to keep in mind:

  • Collaboration Strategy: Decide whether to include the .idea folder in version control based on team preferences and project needs.
  • Platform Consistency: Be cautious when sharing the folder across different operating systems to avoid conflicts due to platform-specific settings.
  • Version Control Exclusions: Configure version control (e.g., Git) to exclude user-specific settings to avoid unnecessary commits.
  • Backup Practices: Regularly back up critical settings or configurations within the .idea folder to prevent accidental loss.
  • Folder Deletion Impact: Understand that deleting the .idea folder resets settings to default, necessitating reconfiguration.


What is the purpose of the .idea folder in IntelliJ IDEA?

The .idea folder stores project-specific settings and configurations necessary for the IntelliJ IDEA IDE.

Should the .idea folder be included in version control?

It’s debated. While including it ensures consistent settings among team members, some settings are user-specific and shouldn’t be versioned.

Can the .idea folder be shared across different operating systems?

Yes, but exercise caution. Some settings might be platform-dependent and could cause conflicts.

How can I avoid sharing user-specific settings within the .idea folder?

Use appropriate .gitignore rules or version control exclusions to omit user-specific settings from commits.

What happens if I delete the .idea folder accidentally?

Deleting the folder resets project settings to default. Backups or manual reconfiguration might be needed.

What should I do if the .idea folder becomes corrupted?

If the folder gets corrupted, consider deleting it and reconfiguring your project settings. Ensure you have backups of critical settings beforehand.

What’s the significance of the .iml file compared to the .idea folder?

The .idea folder contains project-specific settings shared among team members. Conversely, the .iml file holds module-specific settings unique to each module in the project.


In conclusion, the .idea folder in IntelliJ IDEA holds vital project-specific configurations, offering a centralized space for settings crucial to project development. Understanding its contents, version control implications, and strategies for sharing or excluding its contents is pivotal for seamless collaboration among team members. By considering platform consistency and backup practices, we can ensure a consistent and efficient development environment across projects and teams.

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