What’s An IDE?
IDEs are applications equipped with a graphical user interface (GUI), and designed to make the development of custom software easier. The main components of an IDE are a text editor that lets you write code and a compiler/interpreter that lets your computer run the code you have written. Compilers compile code into a language your computer can understand while an interpreter is what actually executes the code. Most IDEs will also include a debugger to help you evaluate your code and resolve errors.
Many IDEs also come with syntax highlighters, which display different elements of your code in different colors. Elements like tags, attributes, language reserved words, and properties are typically assigned different colors, letting you more easily look over your code for possible errors. Automated refactoring and debugging tools are also common IDE tools.
Microsoft Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code
Microsoft has two different IDEs it offers to the software development community, both of which are incredibly popular amongst developers. The two IDEs offered by Microsoft are Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code.
Visual Studio (VS) is a full-featured development environment, available for Windows and Mac OS platforms. There are three different versions of VS provided. The “Community” version is free for individual developers, while the “Professional” and “Enterprise” versions of the IDE require a license.
All versions of VS come with support for safe refactoring, one-click web deployment, graphical debugging and unit testing. All versions of VS also have cross-platform development tools in the form of an iOS simulator for windows and the ability to share code between iOS and Android development environments. VS natively allows developers to collaborate with their teammates and do live development together. The Professional version of VS is intended for use by professional developers and has development platform support for Windows, Web, the Azure Stack, Python, Node.JS, Docker tools and more. The Enterprise version of VS comes with additional features like architectural design and validation tools, live unit testing, code coverage, and the IntelliTrace tracing tool to record metrics about the execution of your programs.
Visual Studio Code (VS Code) is a free, open-source cross-platform editor available for Windows, Linux, and Mac. VS Code supports the development of mobile, desktop, and web applications and games using languages like Python, C++, Node.JS, ASP.Net, and more.
It also integrates with the Azure cloud computing service, letting users create development environments in the cloud.
VS Code lets users collaborate with their teammates and do live, cooperative development together using an extension. Teammates can share their terminals, servers, and comments with each other. VS Code also learns to predict your lines of code based on your edits and behaviors, saving you time. Git commands are built into VS Code making committing code possible directly from the editor. VS Code is also extensible and customizable, letting developers add extensions to the IDE that add support for different languages or other features like Docker integration.
Eclipse is one of the most well-known IDEs for Java development. Although it was originally intended for Java development, it now supports a variety of other languages like C, C++, Python, Perl, and more.
Eclipse is a cross-platform application, and it lets developers combine code sections using drag and drop functionality. Eclipse emphasizes customization. Eclipse also lets you install a variety of plugins and development tools to customize your development experience to match your needs. Eclipse supports debugging and profiling, letting you resolve the issues found by the automatic error reporting system.
Eclipse has many experimental support options that other IDEs may not have, including experimental Edge Browser support, early access to Mac ARM64 support, and support for the latest version of JUnit and Java.
JetBrains is a software development company specializing in the creation of IDEs for a variety of languages, along with tools and plugins that support development in those languages. JetBrains is responsible for the creation of multiple IDEs, each of which is centered on a different language. The IDEs created by JetBrains are known for their reliability and user-friendliness, featuring smart coding assistance tools that let developers quickly identify and correct errors.
As the name of this IDE suggests, PyCharm is focused on the development of programs using Python. Much like Intellij IDEA, JetBrains’ PyCharm automatically checks codes for errors and suggests objects to autocomplete your code. PyCharm has a minimalistic GUI and checks your code to make sure that it follows the PEP-8 standards (guidelines and standards for writing Python code). PyCharm comes with a number of different debugging and testing tools. The premium version of PyCharm lets you code using other languages, but you can meet all your Python needs with the free version.
Code::Blocks is one of the most popular open source IDEs, popular because of how customizable it is. Code::Blocks is designed to help developers create C/C++ and Fortran programs. Code::Blocks comes with numerous pre-built and proprietary languages. You can use the many simple task management tools that the IDE comes with, or you can import various external development tools to meet your own needs. Code:Blocks may be better suited to small projects and beginning programmers, as its limitations can make it infeasible for larger, more complex projects. However, its straight-forward, slimmed down design makes it easy for beginning programmers to learn for this reason.
GNAT Studio bills itself as a powerful IDE that helps developers move through the entire software development lifecycle, from coding to system integration, testing, and analysis. The GNAT compiler supports the C, C++, and Ada languages. GNAT studio lets developers drag and drop systems sections of code and files. GNAT Studio also helps developers with code auto-completion. GNAT studio lets users install additional development plugins and tools. Users of GNAT Studio also let you customize its look and behavior for different projects.
XCode is a free, open-source IDE. XCode provides tools for the creation of applications for Apple devices including the Mac, iPhone, and iPad. XCode integrates with the CocoaTouch development environment for iPhones and iPads. XCode lets you enable features like Passbook or Game Center with just the click of a button. XCode supports a split-screen workspace and even lets you build prototypes using the Interface Builder.
Considerations for Selecting an IDE
To select the best IDE for your development needs, you’ll want to consider the features you require in an IDE.
Evidently, you will want to consider which languages the IDE supports. You’ll also want to consider which debugging and testing features the IDE comes with. Some IDEs offer more unit-testing and debugging tools than others, something particularly true for IDEs that focus on the most popular languages.
You should consider how customizable you need your IDE to be. Some IDEs offer you the ability to edit the GUI to match your development needs and preferences. Additionally, you should consider how the IDE supports plugins and extensions in case you want to use third-party development tools. Finally, be sure to give some consideration to model versioning and deployment. Determine if you’ll want integration with version control and deployment platforms like Git or Apache.