- What’s an IDE?
- Web development before and after IDE
- What tools are included in IDEs, and what’s their exact role and impact on software development?
- Which IDE is the best?
- The future of IDEs and AI-supported development
Before you say anything, I’ll admit that I might be exaggerating a little. I’ll admit that integrated development environments (IDEs) might not have such an immense impact on humanity, but for us programmers, they’re invaluable.
Just as the printing press revolutionized the way people communicated and disseminated information, IDEs completely changed how programmers work and collaborate.
In this article, I’ll talk about all the ways in how IDEs make everyday work easier and more efficient, including:
- How has the development process changed thanks to IDEs?
- What are the essential tools and features in modern IDEs?
- What are the best IDEs?
- How can modern AI tools revolutionize IDEs even further?
What’s an IDE?
The shortest answer would be “Integrated Development Environment is software for writing software.”
More specifically, it’s a set of writing, testing, debugging tools and many more programming-related tasks. The exact contents and capabilities of an IDE depend on the type of IDE and its specific purpose.
Generally, it’s fair to say that IDE’s role is to make development and collaboration between programmers as efficient as possible.
Web development before and after IDE
When I was finishing university around 2014, it was probably the last time when I used a text editor for a complex project. I remember it as a cumbersome trial-and-error process that was anything but efficient. We had to do it as a part of the curriculum, but once we were done with it, I knew I probably wouldn’t return to that at any point in my professional life.
In order to understand how IDEs changed software development, it’s best to talk about the specific tools and features. Let’s move on then!
What tools are included in IDEs, and what’s their exact role and impact on software development?
We can divide all the capabilities of IDEs into three groups.
Quality control and keeping standards
First, we have all the tools and features that help with code quality control. Those tools are there to ensure we don’t write any syntax errors, typos, etc. They also help developers make sure that they stick to the coding standards established in the organization.
A vast majority of mistakes that programmers make have nothing to do with their skills, knowledge, or experience. They’re typographical errors, and IDEs are there to help us avoid them. So, especially if a new developer is learning the company's standards, those tools make the adjustment period significantly easier.
From a larger perspective and the collaborative work of many developers, IDEs are absolutely crucial. They make standardized coding manageable, which then makes communication and cooperation between all stakeholders much more efficient. Everyone uses the same tools, writes in the same style, and speaks the same technological language. The more extensive the project, the more significant this aspect is.
And last but not least, it’s worth mentioning that software written in such a clean way is much easier and cheaper to maintain.
Anyone who ever tried to simply use the command line interface (CLI) to upload commits to Git knows how cumbersome it is. It’s easy to misplace or forget files, and the entire process takes far too much time.
IDEs simply do that for you. They can include tools for committing changes, resolving conflicts, and pushing changes to the remote repository. They simplify the process immensely and save hours of time. And most importantly, they make sure to do it correctly and avoid easy mistakes.
Modern IDEs usually include a built-in compiler or allow integration with a compiler, making it easier to do without having to switch to a different tool. On top of that, they can automatically detect errors and provide feedback during the process, which includes highlighting syntax errors, missing dependencies, or anything else that can disrupt the compilation process.
I can’t stress enough how valuable that is. It can literally save you hours of work by finding the most trivial mistakes. And if that’s not enough, there are also tools for fine-tuning the compilation process to improve performance and reduce the size of the compiled code.
Some IDEs have the tools to help you understand how exactly your code will affect the data in real time. It can help you ensure you’re on the right track and avoid potentially costly mistakes.
AI-supported code writing
GitHub Copilot is an AI tool designed by GitHub and OpenAI to support programmers through real-time assistance. It’s still in its infancy, but it’s becoming more and more widely utilized. Most developers agree that it will become a standard sooner or later, especially with the upcoming Copilot X.
Which IDE is the best?
To be perfectly honest, we might as well ask, “Which shoe is the best?”. There are many IDEs with different purposes, and it’s impossible to pinpoint one as a clear favorite.
As a developer that mostly writes in Python, I spend most of my time using PyCharm by JetBrains. It might be pretty bulky and drops a little in performance in massive projects, but it has pretty much all the tools I need in my daily work. At this point, if you’re writing in Python, it’s basically your only choice, as it has become an industry standard.
However, for other languages, I would use VS Code for its flexibility, speed, and ease of use.
The point is, there’s no clear winner. IDEs, just like the programming language, should be chosen according to the programming team's preferences and the project's requirements. The key aspects that need to be considered in the decision-making include:
- Programming language for a given project
- Key features and tools that you need
- Possible integrations with other tools you use
- The popularity of an IDE (larger community = better support, more resources, etc.)
The future of IDEs and AI-supported development
There’s no high-quality and efficient development without the use of good IDEs. Here’s why:
- They reduce the risk of committing mistakes, help developers keep code quality high and in line with the established standards.
- They improve communication between team members and other stakeholders. They help ensure everyone is on the same page.
- They make the entire development process much safer and faster (and cheaper).
There’s certainly much more potential in IDEs, especially with the emergence of tools like Copilot X. I’m here for it, and I’m sure the entire world of software development will only benefit from it.
And for now, we’ll focus on creating the best possible software using the most efficient tools available.
If you’re looking for a team that will develop your project in such a way, let us know.