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What is an IDE? – Integrated Development Environment

Last Updated : 15 Apr, 2024
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An IDE (Integrated Development Environment) is software that combines commonly used developer tools into a compact GUI (graphical user interface) application. It is a combination of tools like a code editor, code compiler, and code debugger with an integrated terminal.

What is IDE

Integrating features like software editing, building, testing, and packaging in a simple-to-use tool, IDEs help boost developer productivity. IDEs are commonly used by programmers and software developers to make their programming journey smoother.

Why are IDEs important?

One certainly does not need an IDE to code or develop applications. Even a simple text editor like notepad can be used to write code. However, IDEs offer some stunning features that go beyond ordinary editing. By providing frequently used developer tools all in one simple interface, one can directly get on to building their applications without going through the hardship of manually configuring and integrating the development environment.

Common Features of an IDE (Integrated Development Environment)

IDEs provide a broad variety of features which typically consist of:

  • Editor: Typically a text editor can help you write software code by highlighting syntax with visual cues, providing language-specific auto-completion, and checking for bugs as you type.
  • Compiler: A compiler interprets human-readable code into machine-specific code that can be executed on different operating systems like Linux, Windows, or Mac OS. Most IDEs usually come with built-in compilers for the language it supports.
  • Debugger: A tool that can assist developers to test and debug their applications and graphically point out the locations of bugs or errors if any.
  • Build-in Terminal: Terminal is a text-based interface that can be used for interacting with the machine’s operating system. Developers can directly run the scripts or commands within an IDE with a built-in terminal/console.
  • Version Control: Version control helps bring clarity to the development of the software. Some IDEs also support version control tools like Git, through which a user can track and manage the changes to the software code.
  • Code snippets: IDEs support code snippets that are usually used to accomplish a single task and can also reduce redundant work to some great extent.
  • Extensions and Plugins: Extensions and Plugins are used to extend the functionality of the IDEs with respect to specific programming languages. 
  • Code navigation: IDEs come with tools like code folding, class and method navigation, and refactoring tools that make it simple to go through and analyze code.

Why do Developers Use IDE (Integrated Development Environment)?

By providing a single, unified environment for managing all aspects of the development process, IDEs can help improve a developer’s productivity, code quality, and overall development experience. 

  • Productivity: By combining common activities such as editing code, building executables, debugging, and testing as part of software/application development, IDEs help by reducing time and increasing overall productivity.
  • Code Quality: IDEs come with built-in tools as a part of a single GUI, through which developers can execute actions without switching between applications. Furthermore, it can also help in Syntax highlighting, code refactoring, and code analysis boosting overall code quality.
  • Integrated Environment: IDEs come pre-built with a combination of development tools that allow developers to start programming new applications quickly. With IDEs, it is no longer necessary to manually configure and integrate numerous utilities as part of the setup procedure. Additionally, since every utility is available on the same workbench, developers don’t have to spend hours learning how to use each one separately.
  • Customizability: By incorporating customization options ranging from custom color schemes, and keyboard shortcuts, to choosing unique layouts, different plugins, and add-ons;  IDEs enable developers to customize their environment to their unique needs and tastes, improving the comfort and efficiency of the development process.

Types of IDEs

IDEs come in various forms, some are designed to work for a specific language whereas some are targeted to a particular platform like mobile devices. Hence, it becomes equally important to choose an IDE best suited to one’s needs. 

1. Desktop IDEs

This type includes the IDEs that can be configured locally. They do not need an active internet connection to build/run programs. Desktop IDEs are highly customizable to suit developer-specific needs and provide performance irrespective of the internet speed. Examples: include Microsoft Visual Studio, Eclipse, Netbeans, etc.

2. Cloud IDEs

Cloud IDEs eliminate the overhead of configuring the software locally. They run on remote servers and can be accessed through desktop browsers. Cloud IDEs provide better accessibility and platform independence making them accessible through the Internet Irrespective of the Client Operating System. Cloud IDEs can be used freely or can have pricing models with respect to the provider. Examples: Include Gitpod, AWS Cloud 9, Replit, etc.

3. Mobile App Development IDEs

These IDEs are specially designed for creating mobile applications. They include features like Emulator support and integration for developing and testing mobile applications. Mobile Development IDEs can be in the form of Desktop IDE or Cloud IDE. Examples: Include Android Studio,, etc.

4. Database-Specific IDEs

These IDEs (Integrated Development Environments) are specially designed for working with databases. They include features like query builders and n for developing and testing mobile applications. Like mobile-development IDEs, Database IDEs can also be in the form of Desktop IDE or Cloud IDEs. Examples: Include MySQL Workbench, Oracle SQL Developer, etc.

How Should I Choose an IDE?

One can find many IDEs available in the market, while some are open-source and free to use, others may work with subscription models. Popular IDEs include Visual Studio, PyCharm, Android Studio, etc. 

1. Programming Language: The choice of IDE (Integrated Development Environment) mainly lies with the programming language you decide on. Dedicated IDEs have automated features that best suit the programming languages they support. While there also exist IDEs that support multiple programming languages.

2. Operating System: Mostly all IDEs work with different Operating systems, but there exist IDEs that might only work best on specific platforms. You may take into account the IDEs’ compatibility with various platforms and operating systems.

3. Pricing Model: Some IDEs might be freely available while some may require a premium subscription model to unlock the majority of the features. Taking your budget and your needs, go with the IDE that suits you the best.

4. Features: Features like version control, debugger, code highlighter, integrated terminal, and code refactoring are some of the features that can be considered white choosing an IDE.

Advantages of using IDE

Some of common advantages of IDEs or Integrated Development Environments are as follows:

  • Project Management: IDEs make viewing the project directory structure much simpler which breaks down the tedious tasks of working with multiple files. Typically IDEs also include a number of tools, such as syntax highlighting, code completion, and code folding, which makes it easier to manage the overall project.
  • Saving plenty of time and Effort:  IDEs often include a variety of tools that can not only assist you in organizing your code but also quickly highlight the error in your code. They also include a flexible combination of tools for compiling, building, testing, and deploying your code, through which you can automate these tasks eliminating the need to manually run each task.
  • Productivity:  IDEs can increase your productivity by providing a centralized location for all of your development needs, from writing and editing code to debugging and deploying. Some of the functionality provided by IDEs can also be accomplished with a text editor and command-line tools, but IDEs usually make the process more convenient and user-friendly.

Disadvantages of using IDE

Some of common disadvantages of IDEs or Integrated Development Environments are as follows:

  • Not beginner Friendly: IDEs are complex tools and generally provide quite an intimidating UI, which can be a little tough to comprehend for a beginner. Maximizing their benefit generally needs a dedicated effort.
  • Frequent Updates: It’s difficult to keep up with constant updates, such as new samples, templates, and features.
  • Only Assist in writing code: As a tool, IDEs (Integrated Development Environments) are limited to being an assistant. They can’t write code or automatically fix errors, one still needs the knowledge to write clean code.
  • Cost: Some IDE is Expensive or needs additional costs to unlock some add-ons, which can be a barrier for small-scale companies or learning Individuals.


Choosing an IDE is usually determined by the type of project you’re working on, as well as various environmental requirements; offering a variety of features such as code editing, debugging, and version control that can streamline and increase productivity in the software development process. Of course, you still must consider your budget and personal preferences. Overall, the use of IDEs can assist individuals or businesses in improving their software development process, resulting in shorter time-to-market, cost savings, and higher software quality. 

Now that you have gone through the explanation and examples above, hopefully, you will find an IDE that is best suited for you. Visual Studio, JetBrains’ PyCharm,  and Android Studio are some of the popular IDEs. It’s always a good idea to experiment with a few different IDEs to see which one you prefer. If you have a favorite, do share which one!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is an IDE (Integrated Development Environment) with an example

An IDE is software for building applications that combine together in a single graphical user interface (GUI) & is also a combination of source code, local build automation, and a debugger.

2. What are the differences between IDE (Integrated Development Environment) vs Code-Editor?

The basic difference between a code editor and an IDE is that a code editor offers easy syntax highlighting, multi-viewing, and previewing windows whereas an IDE allows users to debug, text editor, unit testing, code completion, etc.

3. What are the most popular IDEs?

Below are some of the most popular IDEs that every developer should consider using while coding:

  1. Visual Studio
  2. IntelliJ IDEA
  3. PyCharm
  4. Eclipse
  5. WebStorm
  6. PhpStorm, etc.

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