When you take courses with us online, you use the text editor built into our platform. But once you move on to applying your programming skills to personal projects and work, you’ll need a text editor on your own computer. That’s where IDEs and code editors come into play.

In this article, we’ll explain what IDEs and code editors are and how they’re different. We’ll also help you get started with selecting the best option for your needs.

Below, we’ve listed some of the most popular IDEs and code editors that developers use and what makes each of them unique.

What are IDEs and code editors?

An IDE is an Integrated Development Environment. It’s a piece of software that allows developers to create, modify, and debug code easily. While some may require library extensions for certain programming languages, most of the common IDEs are ready to go, making it easy to catch potential syntax errors and bugs before you compile or run your code.

A code editor is a type of text editor with a few features that make it easy to write code. For example, code editors will automatically highlight words based on syntax and will automatically indent lines of code correctly. But, a code editor doesn’t have the debugging and autocomplete features that an IDE has.

Some developers prefer to start a program from scratch in a code editor. But others prefer an IDE when reviewing or modifying someone else’s code because it’s easier to debug.

4 common IDEs that developers use

If you’re looking to start with an IDE, you’ll have a little more help with debugging, syntax highlighting, and autocompletion features. If you’re starting on your own, without a large team of colleagues around you, an IDE can be a great way to increase the support you might need at the beginning. As you get more comfortable, IDEs will also help you increase your code creation and modification efficiency.

Here are four popular IDEs to consider:

1. Visual Studio Code

Microsoft’s Visual Studio Code is a text editor that can run on many different operating systems, including Windows, MacOSX, and Linux. Its interface is simple, with a panel on the left listing code versions and one in the middle where you type the code. It includes debugging features for many different programming languages.

This editor is a popular choice among developers, as an overwhelming 70% named it their favorite in Stack Overflow’s 2021 survey. It’s also free to download, making it an attractive option for new programmers to try.

2. IntelliJ IDEA

IntelliJ IDEA is a compact and “intelligent” IDE that provides suggestions to developers on how to improve their programs and makes it much faster for them to develop and debug. Features include version control, code analysis, and suggested code completion. Plus, you don’t need new plug-ins for additional languages.

IntelliJ isn’t free, like Visual Studio Code. Depending on the billing frequency you choose, it costs $499 per year or $49.90 per month. The price is steep, but many developers swear by this IDE as the key to their productivity. It’s most popular among developers who frequently use Java, even though it does support other languages.

3. Android Studio

If you’re interested in developing apps for Android devices, then the IDE you may want to focus on is Android Studio. Not only is it the recommended IDE for Android, but it also has some pretty neat features. You can lay out your app visually using Android Studio, and you can analyze APK files and view what your app will look like with an emulator feature.

The Android Studio is free to download, making it an obvious choice for Android developers. While this IDE also has an excellent code editor, it only provides code completion suggestions on the languages that Android requires (Java, C/C++, and Kotlin).

4. PyCharm

PyCharm is the IDE designed by developers for developers using Python. The IDE was created to keep Python code neat and tidy while boosting efficiency. It includes intelligent code completion and support for a few other languages, including JavaScript, CoffeeScript, TypeScript, and SQL, to name a few.

You can download a free community-level of PyCharm that will let you program in Python. But, if you want access to both Scientific and Web Python development, as well as support for HTML, SQL, and JavaScript, then you’ll have to pay for a license. Created by the same company that releases IntelliJ IDEA, the full version of PyCharm is slightly more affordable at $199 per year, or $19.90 per month.

4 common code editors for development

If you choose to go the route of code editor instead of IDE, below are four popular options with developers.

Keep in mind that there are more than four options out there, but this list will give you great, robust options with varying price points for you to choose from.

1. Sublime Text

Created by a former employee of Google, Sublime Text is a streamlined editor without many menus and windows. It can run on Windows, MacOSX, and Linux operating systems. Developers love Sublime Text’s syntax highlighting, fast load times, and updated autocomplete engine, which helps improve their efficiency.

Though there is a free trial version, you need to spend $99 on a licensing fee to unlock all Sublime Text’s power. If you don’t have much of a budget for a code editor, though, don’t worry. There are some great free options below.

2. Notepad++

The Notepad++ code editor works with a variety of programming languages, but it was designed using C++ and is often preferred when developing in the same language.

While it’s free to download, its use is limited to the Windows operating system.

3. Vim

Vim is a very popular code editor too. It’s included by default on UNIX and macOS operating systems as “vi.” So, if you program on a Mac or Linux, check to see if Vim is already installed. You’ll save yourself some time.

Developers use Vim because of its multi-level undo tree, fast loading times, and plenty of plug-ins for programming languages. Vim is also a free code editor, making it a great choice for anyone just getting started.

4. Atom

Last but not least is the Atom text editor. It’s an open-source option, which the company calls “hackable.” But what that also means is that it’s free for you to download and use.

On top of being cross-platform (macOS, Windows, and Linux), there are customization options and themes for developers along with the expected features, like autocompletion, find and replace, and multiple panes to compare code.

Ready to get started with IDEs and code editors? Start learning with us for free today!

What Is an IDE? | Codecademy
Learn about the Integrated Development Environment, an application that makes programming easier!

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