An integrated development environment or IDE is defined as a software platform that facilitates the creation of other software applications by providing a space to write, compile, and debug code, sometimes with value-adding tools that reduce development efforts. This article explains IDE’s different types and benefits and the top 12 options you can use.
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What Is Integrated Development Environment (IDE)?
An integrated development environment or IDE is a software platform that facilitates the creation of other software applications by providing a space to write, compile, and debug code, sometimes with value-adding tools that reduce development efforts.
Before the rise of integrated development environments in the early 90s, software developers had to write their code in a text editor like Notepad and then run it in a separate compiler. They would then have to observe all the errors, return to the text editor, and make changes to the code. This made software development an extremely cumbersome process as coding, compiling, and debugging happened in disjointed workflows.
The introduction of IDEs in the late 1980s changed all of this. Softlab Munich launched the world’s first integrated development environment, Maestro I, which came to be installed by thousands of programmers worldwide. Eventually, Microsoft came up with its own IDE, Visual Basic (VB), which became enormously popular. With Visual Basic, IDEs entered the mainstream technical lexicon and became an indispensable part of the development and DevOps lifecycle.
Key IDE components
To fully answer the question, “what is an integrated development environment?” we need to look at the critical IDE components that make it work. These are:
- Code Editor: This is the core component of IDE, where a programmer will write the software code. On the surface, it looks similar to a text editor, but there are several functionalities underneath to simplify the process of writing code. For example, the editor component of IDE may predict what you are about to write and autocomplete a command.
- The compiling engine: IDEs have a built-in compiler that runs the code within the same environment to check if it works. Typically, the compilation results open in a separate interface within the same IDE platform, and one can switch between the code editor and the compiler seamlessly.
- Debugging tools: IDEs have essential testing tools that detect application errors and the source code level. Importantly, it may not be able to see logical flaws but can flag code-writing errors such as incorrect commands, missing variables, issues with syntax, etc. An integrated development environment highlights the precise location of the error so that the programmer may debug the code easily.
- Class and object browser: When using object-oriented programming (OOP), the IDE may include a tool for inspecting objects and object-oriented classes within the program. It may even visualize the hierarchy of classes and allow developers to reuse objects more efficiently.
- Build automation: Build automation is the process of preparing software code for execution. While one can have a separate build environment, some IDEs provide ready-to-use build automation tools. This helps to package the code for implementation after one finishes writing.
Using the IDE is a relatively simple process. It does not require any special skills from a developer apart from coding skills, knowledge of development systems, and a basic familiarity with the IDE platform’s features. Since every integrated development environment is slightly different (apart from offering the five essential components), one should know about the top applications in this segment.
Top 12 IDE Software
IDEs have existed for many years. Over time, IDEs have transformed from a simple platform for debugging and testing to an interconnected software package that functions as an extension of the developer. The “integrated” component distinguishes the finest IDE software from standard code-editing tools. Below are some of the best solutions available now for a coding experience that is simple and rich in features:
1. Microsoft Visual Studio
Microsoft Visual Studio is an integrated development environment (IDE) for creating programs with graphical user interfaces and consoles. It also supports websites, web apps, online services, and Windows Forms and WPF applications. Visual Studio has a code editor that supports IntelliSense (the component for code completion) and code refactoring. Additional installed tools include an integrated debugger, a code profiler, a GUI designer, a web developer, a class designer, and a database schema designer.
Eclipse is among the most well-known integrated development environments (IDEs) for Java. It is a desktop program that runs on several platforms. Eclipse’s user interface is among its most compelling features. It also supports drag-and-drop capabilities. One may also perform a static analysis on your code. Additionally, it supports debugging and profiling.
Netbeans is an open-source and free IDE. Ideal for tweaking existing projects or developing from scratch, NetBeans has an intuitive drag-and-drop interface and a multitude of helpful project templates. It is generally used for Java application development, although you may acquire packages that enable other languages.
4. Amethyst 2
Amethyst 2 is an integrated development environment (IDE) created by Huw Collingbourne and Dermot Hogan in 2006. Amethyst 2 is available in two editions: Amethyst Ultimate, a paid version, and Amethyst Personal, a free edition. Amethyst Ultimate offers several tools, such as Amethyst Designer, a debugger, code refactoring, etc.
5. Android Studio
Android Studio, the official Android IDE, offers the most straightforward tools for developing apps for all Android devices. Combining a configurable build system and a rapid build/deploy system enables developers to concentrate on creating feature-rich, high-quality applications and deliver promptly. Additionally, it offers an entirely free IDE.
BlueJ is intended for university course administration and operates on Mac OS X, Windows, Linux, and other Java-based systems. It allows newcomers to begin immediately without being overwhelmed by options. BlueJ is pre-installed on the Raspberry Pi image as part of the Raspbian distribution. It is most suitable for individual programmers or small-scale software development companies. Developers may evaluate their programs and interact with brand-new items.
Komodo is accessible to almost all programmers since it supports most prominent programming languages. The simplified UI facilitates complex editing. Komodo is a commonly used IDE for mobile and web development due to its Syntax Checker and one-step troubleshooting (or debugging) capabilities. It integrates with CVS, Bazaar, Mercurial, Git, Subversion, and Perforce version control systems.
C-Free is a free integrated development environment (IDE) for C and C++ development that may be used either as an editor or as a standalone programming environment. One may independently modify, develop, and debug applications using a single, consistent process with embedded tools and capabilities that increase your skills. C-Free is also compact, with a 14MB installation size and an unpacked size of 80MB.
9. IntelliJ IDEA
IntelliJ IDEA is a Java-based IDE for writing applications in Java, Kotlin, Groovy, and other JVM-based programming languages. It was created by JetBrains and is offered in two variants – the official commercial edition and the Apache 2 community edition. The Ultimate edition of the IDE offers connected versioning systems, database management systems, and build or packaging tools.
10. AWS Cloud9
11. Selenium IDE
Selenium IDE refers to Selenium Integrated Development Environment. This Firefox extension allows users to record their activities and export them as scripts in various computer languages. The recording function of Selenium IDE offers an intuitive interface for creating automated tests. The recording and replay function makes learning very simple with minimum programming language experience.
12. Eclipse Che
Numerous Java developers are acquainted with the local IDE Eclipse, which has been prominent for some time. It is the cloud-based edition that provides developers with a variety of capabilities. It is open-source, open to hosting on a user’s infrastructure, and compatible with public and private clouds and on-premises servers. Eclipse Che is consistent with a broad range of programming frameworks and languages. It is a Kubernetes-native IDE that facilitates centrally hosted workspaces with a single click.
See More: DevOps Roadmap: 7-Step Complete Guide
Types of IDE
The global market for IDEs is worth billions of dollars, and it includes a variety of IDEs. The most noteworthy are:
1. Cloud-based IDE
Cloud-based IDEs are beginning to gain popularity. The features of these web-first IDEs are fast expanding, and all large manufacturers will probably need to provide one to remain competitive. Cloud-based IDEs allow developers to access their work from any location. Nitrous and AWS Cloud9 are both cloud-based development environment platforms that support Ruby, Python, Node.js, and other languages.
2. Language-specific IDE
There are specialized IDEs for developers who work in a single language. CodeLite and C-Free for C/C++, Jikes and Jcreator for Java, Idle for Python, and RubyMine for Ruby/Rails are other instances. However, there has recently been a shift toward multilingual IDEs for their versatility. Sometimes, through plugins, developers may also get support for additional languages. Flycheck, for instance, is a syntax-checking plugin for GNU Emacs 24 that supports 39 different languages.
3. Multilingual IDEs
The multilanguage IDEs support many programming languages. Eclipse supports languages such as Perl, C, C++, Ruby, Python, Java, and PHP, among others. It is an open-source and free editor for several frameworks for software development. It started as a Java programming environment but has since grown by adding plugins. This integrated development environment is governed and supervised under the aegis of the Eclipse.org Consortium.
4. Environments for HTML app and website development
HTML application development environments are among the most prevalent IDEs available. For instance, DreamWeaver, HomeSite, and FrontPage automate several website development-related processes. These are crucial for building web-based software as a service (SaaS).
5. IDE for mobile app development
There are specialized IDEs for mobile development, such as Titanium Mobile from Appcelerator and PhoneGap. Numerous IDEs, particularly multilingual ones, include mobile-development plugins. Eclipse, for instance, has similar features. Xcode also enables the Swift and Objective-C programming languages and the Cocoa Touch and Cocoa APIs. This integrated development environment (IDE) is dedicated to creating Mac and iOS apps and contains an iPad/iPhone simulation creator and GUI designer.
See More: Top 10 DevOps Automation Tools in 2021
Importance of IDEs
Developers use various tools throughout the authoring, creation, and testing phases of software development. Text editors, code libraries, software for tracking bugs, compilers, and testing platforms are some of the most prevalent development tools. Without an IDE, a developer must independently select, install, connect, and manage these tools.
An integrated development environment incorporates multiple development-related technologies into a single framework. When all utilities are displayed on a single workbench, developers do not need to spend countless hours learning how to use each one independently. This is especially useful for novice developers who may utilize an IDE to discover a team’s essential processes and tools.
Integrated development environments (IDEs) are extremely important for DevOps teams for the following reasons:
1. Accelerates development and delivery
Without an IDE interface, programmers must configure numerous development tools individually. By combining an IDE, developers may access the identical list of capabilities in one location, eliminating the need to often transfer between tools. Integration of development responsibilities more tightly also increases developer efficiency. No longer must programmers move between applications to complete tasks. In addition, the IDE’s tools and features assist programmers in organizing resources, preventing errors, and implementing shortcuts.
2. Encourages standardization
A group of software developers and DevOps engineers will stick to a standardized method of operations by working within the same development environment. If the integrated development environment (IDE) provides preset templates or if code libraries are shared across multiple individuals or teams working on the same project, one may enforce standards further. It also governs the development process, making it easier for programmers to collaborate and enabling recruits to get prepped quickly so they can start as soon as possible.
3. Improves code accuracy
Instead of working like a code editor, the IDE will do additional checks to guarantee that the code is error-free and enable users to compile the code so that they may execute it instantly. Whether one is a language-specific developer or not, this may save time and reduce the number of intermediary stages in any process.
4. Integration opportunities, thanks to the cloud
Cloud-based IDEs may interface with several open-source management solutions through plugins and application programming interfaces (APIs). Numerous open-source code management systems are often compatible with cloud-based IDEs. GitHub is a cloud-based code-sharing and version control application that enables users to build their workflows. Bitbucket is an additional code collaboration platform that many developers use in their tech stack; it connects with developers’ preferred cloud IDEs and provides users with limitless private repositories. It is versatile because it can import across CodePlex, Git, and Google Code.
5. Automatically builds executables
Developers require a compiler to convert source code to an executable. The compiler turns source code into platform-specific machine code. Compilers and associated development tools, including debuggers and profilers, are generally included inside an integrated development environment (IDE). Most compilers are intended to operate with a particular IDE or editor.
When constructing via the command line, makefiles may supply the compiler with instructions on constructing the executable. Many programmers prefer utilizing an integrated development environment (IDE) rather than makefiles because it gives all the necessary tools in a single location and avoids incompatibility concerns between multiple compilers and target systems.
6. Drives efficiency
Integrated development environments (IDEs) boost developer productivity, decrease installation time and accelerate development activities by keeping developers informed of the most current threats, best practices, and standardizing the development cycle so everyone can participate. They enable programmers to consider their actions in terms of the complete software development life cycle (SDLC) instead of a number of different activities.
Considerations for IDE adoption
Despite these advantages that render integrated development environments highly essential to businesses, there are a few things to keep in mind. While application security is a top concern for developers, handling security testing in an IDE can be very difficult. In addition, it is difficult for young engineers to master an IDE in addition to coding. In addition, sometimes complex coding techniques and shortcuts obfuscate essential but everyday language nuances. When studying a new language, paying close attention to minor details is vital. Utilizing an IDE may make it more challenging to learn a new language.
Developers use integrated development environments to facilitate their job. They aid in streamlining and simplifying the coding process, particularly for complicated codes. The scale of the project and other criteria, like version control system, and programming languages, influence the selection of an IDE.
Integrated development environments (IDEs) are among the essential components of a DevOps toolkit. It helps you write code without errors and speeds up build processes. In recent years, IDEs have evolved in leaps and bounds, allowing you to develop apps for multiple devices – even for IoT, such as smart cars. IDE adoption has become easier, thanks to the cloud and IDE-as-a-Service. In short, there is no shortage of options to choose from when selecting the best IDE for your needs.
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