What is an IDE in programming?

What is an IDE in programming?

In this article, we will mainly focus on an IDE and why programmers use IDE for coding. Also, we will focus on some popular IDEs heavily used nowadays. Every beginner faces one common question “Where should I code?” or “Which IDE will be the best for me to start coding?”. Hopefully, after going through this article any beginner will be able to find out which IDE is good for him/her.
Let’s begin.

What is an IDE?

IDE in programming stands for Integrated Development Environment. As its name suggests an IDE is really an integrated part of developers. IDE is nothing but software that provides flexibility to computer programmers for software development by providing some excellent features and tools. An IDE typically provides three main tools: Source code editing, Build automation tools, and Debugger. Let’s briefly discuss all of them first.

  1. Source Code Editor: This is basically a text editor(like notepad) that helps developers to write and edit code efficiently. This tool provides syntax highlighting as well as different colors to the keywords used in specific programming languages. Modern-day IDEs come with the auto-completion feature that helps developers to write code faster than ever.
  2. Build automation tools: To get the software, that can be run on any machine, the source code needs to go through certain processes like compiling it into binary code, packaging binary code, and running automated tests. These processes can be completed with just a click with the help of an IDE. Especially, beginner level coders find this tool very useful as well as time-saving.
  3. Debugger: IDEs also come with a debugging feature. Sometimes in a large codebase finding the error consumes a lot of time. Here the debugger comes as a time-saving tool. This is basically a program that helps the developers to test another program to locate the error(s).

Evolution of IDEs

Before moving on to further discussion, I think it is quite interesting to brief the history of modern IDEs.
In the earlier days, coding was not possible in a colorful editor with the user’s favorite theme or background. Initially, it started with punched cards and gradually turned into simple text editors( “text-only” like notepad). The world’s first IDE was Maestro I which was a product from Softlab Munich.
When the “text-only” text editors became popular programmers used to write code in that editors, compile the code separately and figure out the errors manually, and then fixed them. By the time these processes became automated through IDE. Today, writing code is easier and more interesting because of its beautiful appearance in an IDE.
Worldwide, Visual Studio is the most popular IDE, Visual Studio Code grew the most in the last 5 years (10.8%) and Eclipse lost the most (-13.5%). Some popular IDEs’ trends are given below(collected from https://pypl.github.io/IDE.html):

Types of IDEs

There are various IDEs available in the market nowadays. Among them, some are paid and some are free as well as some are focused on a specific language and some are built to support multiple languages. we are going to discuss some of the types here.

Single Language IDEs

This type of IDEs is built to support a specific language. This is very much helpful for those who generally work in a single language. But nowadays most developers use multi-language IDEs. Some examples are given below:
C & C++: C-Free, Dev-C++
Python: Idle
Java: Jcreator
Ruby/Rails: RubyMine

Multi-language IDEs

As its name suggests these types of IDEs support multiple languages. These IDEs are massively used by today’s developers. Some of the popular IDEs are discussed below:

  • Visual Studio: The most commonly used IDE in the developers’ community and supports many languages. It is supported by MAC os, Linux as well as windows. This helps programmers to code in a productive and innovative way. This IDE also supports AI-completion of code. This is also beginner-friendly. Official page: https://visualstudio.microsoft.com/
  • Xcode: This IDE is Apple’s very own product and this is only supported by Mac os. This IDE is very much helpful to build software for iPad, iPhones, Mac, and all other apple devices. The latest release of this version includes many useful packages. Official page: https://developer.apple.com/xcode/
  • Eclipse: This IDE is great for people using Java. But it also supports languages like C/C++, PHP, Javascript, and more. Official Page: https://www.eclipse.org/ide/

Mobile Development IDEs

In today’s smartphones are an integral part of our lives. Now, these smart devices require smart apps. So, mobile app development is one of the most exciting fields. People use various IDEs for mobile app development and among them, we are going to discuss the two most widely used IDEs.

  • Android Studio: This is an excellent IDE for android developers. This empowers developers to build amazing useful apps for all kinds of android devices. This IDE is based on IntelliJ IDEA. Official Page: https://developer.android.com/studio
  • Xcode: This IDE is discussed above. This IDE mainly supports Apple developers to create apps for ios.

Cloud IDEs

With the help of the previously discussed, we can work only on our local machine. But cloud-based IDEs have broken this limitation and have given access to programmers to code from anywhere and from any machine. These IDEs are growing rapidly. There are various cloud IDEs. Among them, the popular ones are CodeAnywhere, Cloud9, Codenvy, CodeTasty, etc.

Benefits of using IDEs for coding

  • The use of IDE makes coding interesting through syntax highlighting, keywords coloring, and more.
  • IDE saves a lot of time and also automates tedious jobs simpler for developers.
  • Fast coding is introduced with the use of an auto-completion feature.
  • The setup is also beginner-friendly.

How to choose IDEs

Till now, we have discussed various IDEs with their use cases. There are many more IDEs out there but to choose the suitable ones we need to know our requirements from an IDE while developing something. We also need to check the cost and the user-friendliness of an IDE while choosing it. I think going through this article once, it is possible to decide. I personally like to use multi-language IDEs and recommend this to beginners.


Overall, the use of IDEs varies from person to person as well as project to project. Hopefully, this article will be helpful for resolving confusion regarding choosing an IDE.

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