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catkin_make vs catkin_make_isolated, which is preferred?

During our recent work on the ROS Visual Studio Code plugin (, we're still working on a fork), we have noticed that the plugin is assuming the workspace to have been built with catkin_make instead of catkin_make_isolated since devel is being searched instead of devel_isolated.

Is there a preferred choice between catkin_make and catkin_make_isolated?

The only official documentation does not seem to imply any preference and it seems quite a few people are still using catkin_make over catkin_make_isolated. Some differences I have noticed:

  • catkin_make_isolated generates a .catkin_workspace file while catkin_make does not
  • catkin_make_isolated has --install enabled by default
  • catkin_make_isolated allows building non-catkin packages? (not sure if there is any actual example of this)