This article is the first in a series of articles on the development of Python IDEs and Python code editors. The goal of this article is to discuss the technical aspects that contribute to a good editor. I will explain what an IDE (integrated development environment) is, how they work, and how to compare one to the other. Finally, I will explain why I think IDEs are better than code writers. By the time you have finished reading this article, you will know how to select the best IDEs for your own projects.
What are IDE’s? An IDE, or Integrated Development Environment is software that allows a user to build, debug, and run programs. There are currently ten major IDE’s available, as well as many more smaller compilers for hobbyist programmers. Microsoft Visual Studio, Eclipse, and NetBeans are the most popular IDE’s. Apple’s Xcode and Linux’s Open Office code editor both fall into the category of being a “full-featured” IDE.
Why are IDEs better than a program that a programmer writes directly into the computer? A program that a programmer writes directly into the computer has access to all the internal information and memory of the operating system. This means that a programmer writing a program is potentially losing functionality (and potential revenues) if the information stored inside the program is not properly restored when the computer is restarted. By writing a program to be run with an IDEA, a programmer can rest assured that any changes made to the program will be saved and remain effective even after the operating system and hardware are updated.
What makes one IDEA better than the next? There are a variety of factors that contribute to each IDEA’s ability to create a superior user experience. Perhaps the most important factor is the ability of the IDEA to detect and resolve issues as they arise. The ten IDEs I tested all exhibited some ability to detect errors and correct them. Only two IDEs, namely the IBM and Sun IDEA, were not capable of doing this.
How do IDEs differ from their stand-alone counterparts? Python IDEs were designed to be easy for the programmer to insert into the IDB file. However, they are not limited to being stand-alone IDEs. They can also be integrated with other programs such as ColdFusion and JSP. This ability to interlink applications allows the programmer to create more dynamic, flexible, and customizable UML programs.
What makes a Python IDE superior to a Java based user interface program? The primary difference between a Python IDE and a Java based user interface program comes down to the programming model used. In a Java program, a class is required and all types of code written to operate on the program must be contained within the class itself. In a Python program, all code is contained within the module or application and the programmer can freely move the modules around without modifying any other code. As you can imagine, this makes Python programming far more flexible and maintainable. While the Java user may be stuck writing their program purely in Java, a Python programmer can modify the source code to fit their needs.
How many programming languages are there? There are actually dozens of programming languages available for use with Python. However, because Python is so simple to learn and use, many programs written in C++ are converted to Python and placed directly into an IDE. A large percentage of projects that involve designing and building complex programs will include some form of C++ along with Python. In fact, for some projects a full-featured C++ library may be required to leverage Python’s incredible power and versatility.
So, what is the final score when it comes to rating the top ten Python IDEs? The overall rating of each IDEs is based upon several different factors. These factors include the amount of code the program contains, how user friendly the IDEs are, and the amount of support the IDEs provide. While the first two considerations are certainly important, they pale in comparison to the final factor, which is simply how well an IDE graphically represents a Python program.