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Choices, choices

Which are better for developers, IDEs or text editors?

Kayla Matthews
© Shutterstock / Sandra Matic

It’s always best to choose the right tool for the right job. For developers, sometimes that means making a decision between IDEs and text editors. In this article, Kayla Matthews goes over the differences between these two tools and explains how developers can choose the best one for their projects.

Regardless of if you’re starting out as a programmer or figuring out how to best tackle a specific project, you’ll inevitably have to decide whether it’s more appropriate to use an integrated development environment (IDE) or a text editor.

What’s the difference?

The first necessity to iron out involves understanding how an IDE and text editor differs from each other. After that, you can start weighing the pros and cons and make a well-informed conclusion.

An IDE has complementing features meant to help web developers accomplish tasks with higher productivity. For example, when using an IDE, programmers can access databases or automatically write code to create a graphical user interface (GUI). Furthermore, some IDEs provide suggested ways to complete strings of code. That means you don’t have to type the entire line and save time.

In contrast, a text editor only does as its name describes and allows writing and making changes to the text. Once a programmer creates code in a text editor, they can then input the content into command-line windows.

SEE ALSO: Top 5 IDEs and code editors for Python

Keep the complexity of the project in mind

One effective way to pick between an IDE and a text editor is to consider the project’s difficulty. When working on extensive development projects, an IDE’s built-in features would likely help you get things done in a more streamlined way that you otherwise might.

Be aware of your workflow

One of the most persuasive arguments for using an IDE instead of a text editor is that it supports unconscious competence. That phenomenon happens when you’re able to do something so well that you get engaged in it without thinking about the individual steps.

IDEs are built to eliminate things that cause pauses in your workflow. After using one for a short while, you’ll likely find your fingers flying across the keyboard and realize that — thanks to shortcuts — you scarcely touch a mouse.

On the other hand, you may be a programmer learning a new language with the intention of soon using your new knowledge to start a different career path. Python is one programming language that’s particularly useful for programmers with their sights set on cybersecurity careers.

Consider the programming language

When fueling the debate about IDEs versus text editors, experts also point out that the programming language used for a project may justify picking one over the other. People who often use PHP and Ruby feel text editors are better suited to those dynamic languages than IDEs. Then, individuals discussing the pros and cons of each type of tool point out how people who primarily work with Java tend to choose IDEs.

SEE ALSO: Top 5 IDEs and text editors for Kotlin

Text editors let you practice solely writing code

Programmers usually handle many jobs simultaneously. In addition to writing code, they’ll likely take care of debugging duties and test the system, too. However, if you want to become more adept at writing code and not worry about those other responsibilities for now, a text editor is an ideal choice.

Don’t forget OS requirements

Working with an IDE requires installing it on your system. That’s why many providers offer free trials that let you explore the available features before committing to products. When you choose an IDE or text editor, the decision-making process may be shorter than expected — at least that’s true if your computer already has a text editor on it.

You can use Notepad on a Windows machine or TextEdit on a Mac to immediately try out a text editor. If you find it falls short by not fulfilling your needs, it’s then simple to research the options for IDEs that work with your operating system.

Cost may be another concern

If you often code in multiple languages or plan to do so soon, be aware that not all text editors necessarily work well or with or even support the ones you use most frequently — and that goes for IDEs, too.

Find out which IDEs and text editors are most compatible with specific programming languages and go from there to keep your costs as low as possible. It’s smart to take this approach if you’re working on a one-off project requiring a language you don’t use otherwise.

SEE ALSO: Top 5 IDEs and text editors for Scala

Text editors download quickly and require less memory

Since text editors are simpler than IDEs, you can install them comparatively faster. Moreover, IDEs need more memory than text editors. If you’re on an older machine that lacks resources or are working on an unfamiliar computer that doesn’t have the tools you use, it’s possible to obtain and set up text editors swiftly.

Conclusion

The information here will guide your choices by helping you use critical thinking. However, the best solution for you is one that matches the scope of the job and makes you feel at ease while diving into the work. At the end of the day, you should pick the tool that suits the job and your comfort level.

IDEs

can he use a dexterity check?

Author

Kayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews is a technology writer, contributing to publications like VentureBeat, TechnoBuffalo, Fast Company and The Week. To read more posts by Kayla, check out her personal tech blog.


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