What is IDE

Piyush Bhartiya
Modified on 2020-02-15 in General
Read time: 12 mins

IDE(Integrated Development Environment) is a design environment that enables programmers to consolidate the different aspects of writing a computer program by providing different tools to execute the task above. In layman’s terms, it is an environment where one writes codes.

An IDE generally consists of a source code editor, a compiler\interpreter, and a debugger. Modern IDE tends to have a plethora of new features such as regex checker, Syntax Highlighting, code completion, Command Line Interface, etc. This article aims to educate one about Integrated Development Environments, when should they be used, and which one should be used for a particular language.


The motive behind the initial development of IDE’s was to maximize the productivity of the programmer by providing appropriate tools in a Single cohesive Environment.

When development is done using an IDE, all the development is done in a single program. Such that IDE’s can be considered as an all in one package. Most of them are generally built targeting a specific programming language, as this allows for incorporating language-specific tools in the IDE, which would aid the programming paradigm of the specific Programming language.

Newer IDE’s have also implemented Version Control Systems such as GIT, CVM, SCS, etc. in their IDE’s which further provides backup of different versions of the code.

Integrated Development Environment Vs. Text Editor

A lot of people have a misconception that an IDE is always required to create a program, which is not necessarily true. A text editor, for the most part, is capable of writing code that could further be converted into machine language via an Interpreter or Compiler. Then what exactly is the difference between the two? And when should one be used over the other?

IDE Vs. Text Editor: Use Cases

An IDE is generally a rational choice when the program that needs to be coded is large enough and contains a lot of features. As the IDE would provide the programmer with apt tools which would ease up the development process of the program, whereas,

A Text Editor (paired with a language-specific interpreter\compiler) is the preferred choice when the code that is to be written is subtle, or when one is learning about the specific programming language (as beginner codes aren’t lengthy). They would lack the features of an IDE, but when the code is little, or the coder is unaware of the tools, the tools barely serve any purpose.

IDE Vs. Text Editor: Resource Usage

A lot of IDE’s tend to have one drawback that follows all the splendid features provided by it. That they have a high System(resource) requirement, this may not be that big of a concern for some people as modern rugs tend to have several Gigabytes of System memory and a fast processor. Still, for some, this High Resource Requirement is a deal-breaker.

Text Editors barely have any system requirement for them to run. They consume such a low amount of resources that most operating systems tend to have one variant of them preinstalled. That makes Text Editors a viable choice for people who don’t have the system resources to run an IDE.

IDE Vs. Text Editor: Code Appearance

IDE’s incorporate features such as Syntax highlighting, Dark Background, Just in time Interpretation, etc., due to which the code appears a lot more understandable and elegant. Such that some python code, when written in Pycharm IDE appears like this-


But the same code when written in a Text Editor(Notepad) appears like this-


As one can see, the code in the IDE is a lot more understandable than the one written in a Text Editor. This makes the code a lot more recognizable by others and makes the process of error finding a lot less exhaustive.


An Integrated Development Environment (IDE) is a software application that combines basic tools required to write and test software. It enables programmers to consolidate the various aspects of writing a computer program. A programmer uses various tools throughout software code creation, building and testing. An IDE combines many of the software development tools together to function as a single unit. Without the use of an IDE, a programmer will have to select, use, and integrate the various tools separately.

IDE combined toolsets simplify software development and can identify and minimize coding mistakes and typos. An IDE can also be said to be a software for developing applications that combines common developer tools into a single Graphical User Interface (GUI). An IDE might be stand-alone application or a part of a larger package/compatible applications. The main objective of using an IDE by developers is improves developer productivity.

An IDE allows the programmers to start developing new applications quickly as they do not have to spend time in individually learning the working of different tools when each of them is already present in the same workbench. An IDE can enhance the productivity of software developers because of fast set up and standardization across tools. Since utilities are available through a single GUI, developers can perform various actions without switching between applications. The IDE interface combines the following features/tools a developer needs-

  • Code editor: It is text editor intended for writing and editing source code.
  • Complier: This tool transforms or translates source code written in a human recognized language into a form identifiable by a computer.
  • Debugger: This tool is used during testing to help debug application programs.
  • Build Automation Tools: These tools automate common developer tasks.
  • Class Browser: This tool is used to test and position the properties of an object-oriented class hierarchy.
  • Object Browser: It is used to test the objects exemplified in a running application program. 
  • Class-hierarchy Diagram: This tool allows the developer to envision the structure of object-oriented programming code.

What is an IDE in Java

Java is one of the easiest programming languages. It is widely used for developing secure desktop apps, mobile apps and web applications. A Java IDE is an integrated development environment for programming in Java. Apart from the basic tools provided by an IDE, Java IDE also includes language-specific elements such as Ant and Maven build tools and TestNG and JUnit testing.

A Java IDE is a software application that allows the programmers to write and debug Java programs more easily. While choosing a Java IDE, a programmer may want to keep in mind that the IDE supports the major application servers and the most popular web frameworks. It should also enable editing, building, debugging, and testing of the systems with much ease. Here are most often chosen Java IDEs-

  • Eclipse: It is a Java-based open-source platform and freely distributed IDE available for enterprise web development. It has been listed as one of the best Java IDEs. It is robust, commercial quality, full-featured platform for developing modern web applications.
  • IntelliJ: It is also commercial Java IDE with a free and open-source community version. It provides features like cross-language refactoring and data flow analysis for added functions by the developer. It is available in two different versions, an Apache 2 Licensed community edition and a proprietary Ultimate edition which is a paid version.
  • NetBeans: NetBeans is the official IDE for Java 8. It is a free and open-source IDE for software developers. It is easy to install and can run on many platforms including Windows, GNU/Linux, Solaris and Mac OS X. NetBeans also supports C/C++, PHP, Groovy, and HTML5.
  • JDeveloper: JDeveloper is a freeware Java IDE developed by Oracle. It offers many integrated developer tools and several visual development tools. It simplifies the development of Java-based applications by checking every step of the process.

What is an IDE in VB

Visual Basic (VB) Express is a fast and comprehensive way to create programs for Microsoft Windows. Visual refers to the method to create GUI, while Basic refers to the BASIC (Beginners All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) programming language. VB is a high level programming language which evolved from the earlier DOS version called BASIC. Many versions of VB exist in the market, and the most popular version is Visual Basic 6.

For Visual Basic .NET, the most popular IDE used is Visual Studio. The Visual Studio IDE consists of numerous features or tools used by developers while programming. The Visual Studio IDE is a creative launching platform where a developer can edit, debug, and build code, and then publish an app. It is commonly used to develop and execute .NET applications.

  • Visual studio provides compilers, code completion tools, graphical designers, and many more features to make the software development process faster.
  • Visual Studio is available for both Windows and Mac that share almost the same features.
  • The Visual Studio for Mac has been optimized for developing cross-platform and mobile apps.
  • It includes various productive features like Refactoring, IntelliSense, Search box, Live Share, Call Hierarchy, CodeLens and many more.

What is an IDE in Python

A Python IDE is an IDE that specifically allows a programmer to test, run, and edit code written in Python. While choosing an IDE for Python, a programmer needs to make sure that the IDE allows them to save and reload code files whenever needed. Also, it should allow them to run the Python code in the same editor.

A good Python IDE should allow you debugging support along with fast syntax highlighting. Syntax highlighting is a feature that can quickly spot keywords, variables, and symbols in your code which makes reading and understanding the code easier. Here are some of the most popular Python IDEs-

  • Visual Studio: It is a full-featured IDE that is built for Windows and Mac OS platforms. It has a free community and paid, professional and enterprise version. Python Tools for Visual Studio enables Python coding in Visual Studio.
  • PyCharm: It is known to be one of the best full-featured dedicated IDEs for Python. PyCharm works on several platforms such as Windows, Mac OS, and Linux platforms. PyCharm supports Python development directly where you can write and edit a code and debug Python inside PyCharm.
  • Spyder: Spyder is an open-sourced IDE optimized for data science workflows. Spyder has most of the commonly used developer tools such as a code editor with robust syntax highlighting, Python code completion, and integrated documentation browser.
  • Thonny: Thonny is known to be an IDE for beginner. Thonny is available for all major platforms where it installs its own bundled version of Python by default.

What is an IDE in Android

Android is known as the best mobile operating system by many developers. Since most smartphone users operate on Android, most of the developers use different Android IDEs for mobile app development. Different IDEs enable the developers to build, run, and test applications on mobile devices running on Android.

A good IDE for android has to be a full integrated development environment or a cross-platform development framework. It should support Android platform and support various programming languages. An Android IDE should be chosen keeping in mind the targeted audience for android IDE and the license of the IDE. Some of the most common Android IDEs are-

  • Android Studio: Android Studio is an IDE developed by Google for its Android Operating System. It has many included features like Visual layout editor, APK analyser, Intelligent code editor, Real Time profilers and many more. This IDE supports Java, C++, and Kotlin languages.
  • AIDE: It is the most popular Android IDE for programming in Java and C++. It is a large coding suite that focuses on programmers at all levels. It comes up with an interactive step-by-step course that includes Java programming, Android development, game development and creating apps for android Wear-based devices.
  • Android Web Developer (AWD): It is a web development system that allows the programmers to run the code written in PHP, CSS, JavaScript, HTML, and JSON.
  • Unreal Engine: It is an advanced IDE for Android game development. It is a free and open-source tool highly popular among game developers.

What is an IDE in Programming

IDE in programming is a software application that provides a platform for users to write, edit and run codes to develop an application. IDEs combine the functionality of various programming processes into one. Some IDEs target on a specific programming language such as Python or Java while many have cross-language capabilities. Most of the IDEs include built-in debuggers that spot any bug or error and allows the developer to fix it.

IDEs present a single platform where all development is done. An IDE can enhance the productivity of software developers because of fast set up and standardization across tools. Since utilities are available through a single GUI, developers can perform various actions without switching between applications. Most of the IDEs are graphical text-based IDEs. IDEs that do not support alternative languages, make use of plugins to enable that possibility.

  • There are many IDEs available catering to the various needs of the developers, how they work and what types of codes they produce.
  • IDEs enable automatic checking of errors and bugs to ensure high quality codes.
  • They provide a smooth development cycle and increase developer efficiency.
  • There are various IDEs available in the market, some to work with specific languages, cloud-based IDEs, IDEs customized for HTML or mobile app development etc.

What is IDE and its components

A Component in an IDE is an object used in developing the user interface to an application. Components are things that can be placed on forms. Visual Components that can be placed on forms are called controls or widgets. Components are inputs that display something on the app. IDE components vary for different IDEs as per the requirements of the developer. The components displayed can take the user to any function of the IDE application.

Examples of some IDE components can be Menu Bar, Tool Bar, Project Explorer, Properties Window, Toolbox, Form Layout Window etc. All these components are an example from the IDE screen of Visual Basics.

Some components that can be seen on an IDE screen are-

  • Check-box
  • Multi-item list
  • Cancel-button
  •  Default-button
  • Editable-text
  • Horizontal and vertical scroll bar
  • Header control
  • Tab control
  • List view
  • Calendar

About the Author

Piyush BhartiyaPiyush values education and has studied from the top institutes of IIT Roorkee, IIM Bangalore, KTH Sweden and Tsinghua University in China. Post completing his MBA, he has worked with the world's # 1 consulting firm, The Boston Consulting Group and focused on building sales and marketing verticals for top MNCs and Indian business houses.

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