We know and we’re sure you do too, that if you’re new to software development you’ll come across a lot of strange acronyms, abbreviations and unfamiliar terms which at first seem a little impenetrable and yet those in the know let them roll off their tongues in a way which makes you feel a little excluded. One of those terms you’ll hear often are developers talking about IDE software. IDE software, or more commonly just “IDE” is an important set of tools used daily by software engineers and it’s an intrinsic part of their working processes. We’re here to help. Let’s answer the question “What is an IDE?”.
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What is an IDE?
An IDE, or Integrated Development Environment, is a software application that provides various tools to assist software developers in writing and testing their code. IDE software typically provides a code editor, a compiler or interpreter, and a debugger, as well as other tools that may be specific to a particular programming language.
An IDE is much more than a text editor. A fully fledged IDE is often the main environment in which a developer works; writing their code, debugging it, organizing it into managed projects, designing screens and even deploying the finished apps to their final destinations such as download servers and app stores. Many professional developers spend many hours interacting with their IDE of choice and because of that they often have very strong opinions about which one is their favorite and why. This close working relationship also means the software developer’s efficiency is directly affected by the IDE that they use. Slow IDE software or one lacking in a required feature can be a serious frustration.
What did programmers do before IDE software?
Before the evolution of the integrated development environment computer programmers had to use several often-unconnected tools to edit, compile and deploy their code and programs. For example, early programmers would have multiple files which they would need to manually keep together and edit one by one. There was no ‘intelligence’ to the code editing software, in fact it was nearly always simple text editing software. When the time came to compile or assemble the programs into something their users could actually… use… the software developer would often need to type in a series of long, complicated ‘command lines’ for each of the individual steps. One tiny mistake could mean starting the process again.
The simple code editors of that era also did the developer no favors. There was no helpful automation, no corralling of files and assets into manageable packages – just simple file editing with almost no assistance to the developer who was pretty much on their own. It required the programmer to have a lot of knowledge of how things like the compiler and linker worked and it could be very error prone.
Does using IDE software make it easier to be a software developer?
In fact, many would argue that the reason why programming is perhaps a little easier and more accessible today is thanks to innovations and evolution in IDE software which has contributed towards making the increasingly complex task of writing computer programs much more straightforward through things like intelligent code completion and drop-down automated aide memoires for parameters, methods and functions.
Good IDE software can make coding easier in several ways. First, they can provide unique features which can help you write code faster by automatically completing coding constructs as you type them which helps offload some of the need to remember the order and specific attributes of keywords, methods and parameters. Second, they can make coding simpler with syntax and error highlighting, making your code easier to quickly scan at a glance by differentiating between elements, blocks of logic and the overall structure. With syntax highlighting you can easily distinguish between keywords, variables, and comments. Finally, good IDE software provides debugging tools that can help you identify and fix errors in your code.
Let’s dive deeper into the reasons why you should choose to use IDE software over older simple file editors which are more suited to editing plain text.
Why use IDE software?
Modern IDEs offer a number of assistive features and benefits that can make coding easier and more efficient.
IDE software can save you time
IDE software can save you time in several ways. Features like code completion can help you write code faster by automatically completing coding constructs as you type them. The better IDEs come with built-in tools that can help automate various tasks, such as compiling and automatically testing code. This can help you save even more time by eliminating the need to manually perform these tasks and helps find errors ahead of the compilation and deployment process. This kind of automation helps offload some of the effort of remembering complicated code constructs and ensure all the necessary steps for going from code to releasable app are carried out in the correct sequence. A good IDE may even have the capability to host a series of plug-ins and extensions which add additional functionality specific to your needs such as specialized code refactoring, reformatting, symbol parsing, integration with external services and even useful helpers like todo lists.
IDEs can improve your productivity
In addition to saving you time, IDEs can also improve your overall productivity. This is because good IDE software can provide ways to enhance your workflow and automate steps you previously had to complete manually. For example, many IDEs come with built-in task runners that can automatically launch various tasks, such as compiling code and resources, linking or manipulating non-code artifacts such as font files and databases, or running code quality tests. This can help you avoid having to manually run these tasks where you run the risk of potentially missing a required step or performing it out of sequence, which can save you a lot of time in the long run.
IDEs can improve your code quality and readability
In addition to saving time and improving your productivity, IDE software can also help improve the quality of your code. This is because IDEs typically come with built-in features that can help you identify and fix errors in your code. For example, many IDEs come with built-in debuggers that can help you find and fix errors in your code.
Additionally, the better IDEs often have built-in code refactoring tools that can help contribute to both overall quality and readability by assisting with tasks like renaming methods, promoting class members and other such improvements in a way which is far better than the simple rename/copy/paste functionality of simple text editors.
Features like automatic code reformatting can automatically apply a standard set of layout rules so that the program code’s blocks, conditional statements and so on adhere to an agreed convention
IDEs can help you work with teams
If you’re working on a project with others, an IDE can be a helpful tool. This is because the best IDEs come with built-in collaboration tools such as source code control and code formatting standards that can help you work with others. For example, RAD Studio comes with built-in version control integration for the extremely popular Git, Mercurial and Subversion source code control systems that can help you track and manage changes to your code.
What are the types of IDE Software?
So far, we’ve covered the reasons why you should use IDE software. Let’s now take a look at the different types of IDEs and code editing environments that are available.
A complete Integrated Development Environment (IDE)
This is true IDE software which provides a complete coding environment, meaning that it includes all of the necessary tools required to write and test code. In addition to the standard tools like a compiler and debugger, an IDE will often include features and tools we’ve discussed above that improve your productivity, such as code completion.
Standalone code editor
A standalone code editor is a type of software that provides a basic coding environment. This means that a standalone code editor typically includes the basic tools required to write and edit code, but it doesn’t have a compiler or a debugger. Usually, a standalone code editor lacks features and tools found in a complete IDE like RAD Studio, like code completion and task runners. UltraEdit is an example of an excellent standalone code editor which is particularly good at opening and dealing with very large files such as an SQL database dump. UltraEdit can be a useful additional tool to a full IDE.
An online IDE is a type of software that allows you to write and edit code online. This means that an online IDE typically includes all of the same features and tools as an IDE, but it also allows you to access your code from anywhere with an internet connection. Additionally, many online IDEs also allow you to collaborate with others in real-time.
What are a few popular IDEs?
RAD Studio is a truly full-package IDE. It’s widely regarded as the best “complete app development suite” that can be used for software development on multiple platforms, as it was originally built to contain Delphi and C++ Builder. With it, you can develop native apps for Windows, Linux, Android, Mac, and iOS all from one codebase. It’s truly a complete IDE software. The source code for its Visual Component Library – the VCL and FMX frameworks is provided too (depending on the version) and this allows you to learn from the professional developers who work on the product itself.
Visual Studio Code
Eclipse is a Java based IDE that’s often used for developing Android apps although the competing Android Studio has gained ground against it. In addition to Android apps, it can also be used for developing applications on other platforms like Windows.
The current version of Eclipse can be a little confusing for new and novice developers since choosing the right ‘flavor’ of the Eclipse IDE is a slightly non-obvious as there is an extensive array of choices such as “Eclipse IDE for Java Developers”, “Eclipse IDE for Enterprise Java and Web Developers” and so on.
Once installed the IDE works well but generally there are additional choices and packages to install, each with their own set of differing configuration options which I’ve found confusing in the past and can be tricky to match up with what you’re actually trying to achieve compared to IDEs such as RAD Studio which are a homogenized all-in-one system with all the components and elements designed to work in harmony with one another.
PyScripter is a free and open-source Python Integrated Development Environment (IDE) created with the ambition to become competitive in functionality with commercial Windows-based IDEs available for other languages.
PyScripter is an IDE which is focused entirely on enabling and assisting developers in producing apps and programs written in the Python scripting language. PyScripter does an excellent job of this – such a good job, in fact, the project is sponsored and supported by Embarcadero.
You can read a lot more about the PyScripter Python IDE at the PythonGUI.org website. That same website also has dozens of articles on the DelphiVCL and DelphiFMX libraries which add powerful visual frameworks to Python programs to create Python GUI apps which go far beyond many other Python GUI libraries such as the default Tkinter.
What is our pick for a great all-round software development IDE?
There are a lot of great choices but we think the best all round IDE for producing apps for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS and Android is RAD Studio IDE from Embarcadero. RAD Studio has an impressive array of polished power-user features to satisfy the most demanding professional software developers but where it scores hands-down is how fast applications can be developed.
Why do people love using RAD Studio IDE?
The ‘RAD’ in RAD Studio stands for Rapid Application Development and it’s this focus on fast, efficient software development right from the very first release when it took over the reins from the much-loved Turbo Pascal and Turbo C environments from Borland. It’s this history and pedigree that Embarcadero tries to live up to and it’s still a fact, for example, that Delphi developers can be significantly more productive that coders using alternate languages, frameworks and environments.
RAD Studio is particularly strong in every area we’ve covered in this article. It can create applications using the “rapid application development” paradigm for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS and Android.
RAD Studio is an IDE that provides a complete coding environment
RAD Studio is an IDE that provides a complete coding environment, meaning that it includes all the necessary tools required to write code. In addition to the standard tools like a compiler and debugger, it also includes features and tools that improve your productivity. For example, it includes features like advanced code completion and task runners.
The RAD Studio IDE has all the must-have features and more necessary for a professional developer
Apart from all the “must-have” features of a great IDE such as powerful code editing functionality, error insight, pre and post build events, code insight, single location project management for multi-platform apps, and the ability to use a single set of program source code to target any of the supported desktop and mobile platforms RAD Studio builds on top of this with a best-in-class database toolset called FireDAC which can easily connect to all sorts of desktop and enterprise databases such as MySQL, MS SQL Server, Access, SQLite, Oracle and many more. It also comes loaded with elements that take your apps to a professional level with app templates and samples, a low code wizard to create a full cross-platform app with a few clicks, hundreds of professionally designed app visual themes and many more. It’s a pretty extensive answer to any developer’s needs and wish list.
RAD Studio is easy to use
One of the reasons why people love using RAD Studio is despite the fact it is immensely powerful, it is still easy to use. RAD Studio comes with a user-friendly modern interface that makes it easy to find the tools and features you need. Additionally, RAD Studio also includes a number of helpful tutorials and guides that can help you get started with using the IDE and yes, RAD Studio supports high DPI for those huge 4K screens along with a light and dark mode plus customizable colors and edit fonts so you can really make the IDE your own.
RAD Studio is constantly being updated
The team behind RAD Studio constantly updates it with new features and improvements. This means that you can always expect to find the latest and greatest features in RAD Studio.
Are you ready to get started building powerful cross-platform apps using a really great IDE?
If you’re looking for an IDE that can provide a complete coding environment, ticks all the boxes in our article, is easy to use, and is constantly being updated, then RAD Studio is the IDE for you. It offers truly everything you can expect from an IDE software. RAD Studio it will make your coding experience easier, improve your productivity, and save you a lot of time. Download your own copy of RAD Studio today and start enjoying all of the benefits that it has to offer.