Integrated Development Environment (IDE)

What is an Integrated Development Environment (IDE)?

An Integrated Development Environment (IDE) is a programme to efficiently write code and develop applications. All tools are available immediately and in one central location. Other terms for IDE are Software Development Environment, Software Production Environment and Software Engineering Environment System.

Theoretically, a text editor can also be used by developers, but an IDE massively facilitates the work of developers by providing the necessary tools for daily work. 

So…What is an IDE in programming? An IDE is like a toolbox for a craftsman. In the toolbox, all the tools are ready to hand. Like a craftsman, a developer also has all the necessary tools available in the IDE. This means that work can be done quickly and efficiently without having to constantly search for the right tool.

Example of what an IDE looks like. Extensions can be seen on the left. The editor is on the right side.

A brief overview of the subject is given by “ColorCode” in his video:  “What is an IDE? – Coding for Beginners

What does an IDE normally include?

The tools in an IDE are typically the following:

  • Editor for the code
    • The editor is the environment that allows code to be written. But not only that: in many IDEs, software developers get more advanced support, e.g. syntax highlighting to see immediately where errors are or autocompletion to complete user input.
  • Debugger
    • A debugger supports the testing of the code. It shows which error and where the error occurred in the code.
  • Compiler
    • A compiler converts the source code into a form that is executable by the computer.

Types of IDEs

Integrated development environments can be classified into different categories. 

Local IDEs

IDEs are installed on the laptop or computer. Just as typical other programmes such as MS Office or the Adobe Creative Suite can also be installed locally. If an IDE is installed locally, it can be adapted to individual needs.

Cloud IDEs

As already mentioned, IDEs are installed locally, i.e. on the laptop or computer. There is also the possibility of using IDEs in the cloud. Advantage: The software no longer has to be installed locally. Disadvantages are the constantly required internet connection and the lack of customisation options.

The “extended” form of an IDE are Remote Development Environments. Here, all the tools are available that can be used in an individually set up, local development environment.

Read more:

Why do software developers use IDEs?

#1 Facilitation of development

IDEs contain many tools that simplify the development process. As mentioned earlier, these include syntax highlighting, code completion and debugging tools. These tools can all be used centrally in one program (the IDE).

#2 Increased efficiency and productivity

IDEs make it possible to work faster. Errors in the code, for example, can be automatically flagged and can be detected and corrected at an early stage.

#3 Individualisation

Developers can often customise IDEs. Many IDEs offer options such as layout customisation, editor settings and the addition of plug-ins / extensions. It is also normally possible to create and save different working environments that contain different project settings.

Which IDE is the best?

Without more details about the programming language and the features needed, it is very difficult to identify the best IDE. For the selection of an IDE, these points can be considered:

  • Programming language: Check if the IDE supports the programming language needed.
  • Integrated tools: Are all tools provided that are needed?
  • OS: Is the IDE suitable for the operating system?
  • Plugins: Is there the possibility to extend the IDE?
  • Memory: How much memory does the IDE need?

Examples of IDEs

  • VSCode – a very popular open source IDE.
  • Eclipse – strong in the Java area.
  • PyCharm – optimized for Python.