Getting Started with Visual Studio Code

Codecademy Team
Visual Studio Code is one of the most popular and powerful text editors used by software engineers today.

In this article, we will go over the steps necessary to download a popular text editor called Visual Studio Code, also referred to as “VS Code.” By the end of this article, you will be all set up to start interacting with code using VS Code!

I. Introduction

What are ‘text editors’?

Text editors, also called code editors, are applications used by developers to write code. They can highlight and format your code so that it’s easier to read and understand. If you’ve used Codecademy, you’re already familiar with a text editor. It’s the area you write your code in.

Using a text editor is part of creating your “development environment,” the set of tools that you use for working on coding projects. It will allow you to take what you’ve learned on Codecademy and put it into practice as you work on projects on your computer. Not only will this introduce you to tools that are commonly used by professional developers but it also means that you’ve grown as a developer and are ready to start working on your own—great work!

Specific to writing code, text editors provide a number of advantages:

  • Language-specific syntax highlighting
  • Automatic code indentation
  • Color schemes to suit your preferences and make code easier to read
  • Plug-ins, or add-on programs, to catch errors in code *A tree view, or visual representation, of a project’s folders and files, so you can conveniently navigate your project
  • Key shortcuts, or combinations, for faster development

You may also have read or heard about IDEs, or “integrated development environments.” An IDE allows you to not only edit, but also compile, and debug your code through one application or interface. While the text editor we recommend isn’t considered an IDE, it has many IDE-like features that make life as a developer easier without needing a lot of resources that an IDE usually requires. The best of both worlds!

Choosing a Text Editor

There are a number of text editors to choose from. For example, Visual Studio Code is one of the most popular text editors used by developers. (That’s Visual Studio Code and not Visual Studio, which is slightly different. We want the former, the one with ‘Code’ in the name.) Other popular text editors you may have heard of are Atom and Sublime Text.

Any of these text editors mentioned are great for development but to make things easier, we suggest you start off with Visual Studio Code. Some of the benefits of this editor are:

  • Free to use
  • Open-source, (meaning a program’s code can be viewed, modified, and shared)
  • IDE-like features
  • Supported by a large community of users and Microsoft

When you are further along in your coding career, you can try other code editors to see what features work best with your personal development workflow.

II. Installing Visual Studio Code

So, we’ve chosen our text editor, now we just need to install it on our computer!

Video Instructions

For visual learners, this video details how to download and install Visual Studio Code. Written instructions are below.

Installation Steps

The installation process for computers running macOS, Windows, and Linux, (specifically Ubuntu and Debian), will be very similar. Also, using Visual Studio Code across all of them will be the same.

  1. Visit the Visual Studio Code website to download the latest version of Visual Studio Code.

  2. You should see your computer’s operating system displayed, but if it’s not correct, click on the down arrow and find the option that matches your operating system from the drop-down menu, and click on the down arrow icon under “Stable.”

Windows users: This will download the latest version of Visual Studio Code as an .exe file.

Mac users: This will download the latest version of Visual Studio Code for Mac as a .zip file.

Linux users: .deb and .rpm are different file types for storing data. We suggest you download the .deb file so auto-updates work as the Visual Studio Code documentation suggests.

  1. Once the Visual Studio Code file is finished downloading, we need to install it. Find the Visual Studio Code file in your file manager, the program that lets you see the files and folders on your computer.

Windows users: Open the .exe file by clicking on it and on run the installer. Keep clicking ‘Next’ and then finally ‘Finish.’

Mac users: The downloaded .zip file should be in your ‘Downloads’ folder. Open the file. If you see this message choose “Open.”

Linux users: The downloaded file should be in your ‘Downloads’ folder.

Find it in your file manager, double click and choose ‘Install’ in the GUI software center, or run the following commands, one at a time, in the terminal:

sudo dpkg -i downloaded_filename.deb
sudo apt-get install -f
  1. Make sure you have your Visual Studio Code application saved in a place you know you will easily be able to find it.

Windows users: It will automatically be placed in your Start menu.

Mac users: Click and drag the Visual Studio Code icon from the Downloads folder to the Applications folder.

Linux users: It should appear in your taskbar of programs.

That’s it, you’ve successfully installed your text editor and are ready to start coding!