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Are you a Python newbie? Meet the IDE for beginners

Sarah Schlothauer
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Are you learning Python? Whether you are taking a course or learning on your own, Thonny is an IDE for beginners that comes built-in with some tools to make your lessons easier. They should know, it was developed by a University!

While learning a new language, it is incredibly easy to become overwhelmed. Even seemingly simple choices such as which IDE to use opens up a can of worms that can easily confuse any beginner. For Python users, there’s a helpful tool that can help propel you to greatness. Thonny promotes itself as a “Python IDE for beginners”. What makes this IDE so useful for Python novices?

Previously, we’ve discussed our top picks for the top five Python IDEs and code editors, however Thonny was nowhere to be seen. Now, we are going back and giving this lightweight IDE some well-deserved love.

Study buddy

It’s no wonder that Thonny was primarily developed in the Institute of Computer Science of University of Tartu. Every feature is perfectly designed for students and focuses on learning. Thonny is the all-in-one scholarly companion that’s easy to pick up.

SEE ALSO: The battle of the IDEs

For absolute beginners, Thonny comes bundled with Python 3.7 so programmers in the making can just download and get started. As for students using a computer they do not have admin rights to, fear not. It requires no admin rights to install and run.

Compared to other Python IDEs such as PyCharm, Thonny’s UI is geared more towards simplicity. It’s clean, and self-explanatory.

Thonny features for helping beginners:

  • Learning while doing is easy thanks to the built-in debugger. To access the debugger, simply press Ctrl+F5. It will teach you, step-by-step (small steps or big steps) about your expressions and how Python evaluates them.
  • Want to install a third-party package? It has never been easy with the simple pip GUI. Package installation is just a few clicks away.
  • Syntax error? No problem! Thonny highlights all syntax errors so you can learn from your mistakes.
  • Functional calls can initially be difficult to understand, but Thonny has the key. From the main page: “Stepping into a function call opens a new window with separate local variables table and code pointer”.
  • Easily distinguish between local and global variables.

Teachers: Thonny should be on your radar. It might just save you and your class some headaches!

SEE ALSO: Which are better for developers, IDEs or text editors?

Graduating from Thonny

Are there any downsides to this IDE? What about Python experts, is it worth looking into for them?

The UI is a little limited. This makes sense for newbies who don’t need everything quite yet, but experts may find themselves craving more.

Especially for large projects, Thonny doesn’t have as much use as bigger IDEs such as Atom or PyCharm. If you have very specific IDE preferences, you might find yourself fighting with Thonny instead of working with it.

However, things that were not available in previous releases are now being added. Given time, Thonny itself might graduate to a higher level of education. Previously, Thonny did not support breakpoints however with Version 3.0.1, there is now finally breakpoint support! All you need to do is switch on line numbers under the tools option.

In short, novices will find a comfortable home but experts may find the pond too small.

Jumping aboard!

For those interested, Thonny is available on Windows, Mac, and Linux. The latest version is the first published stable release of 3.0 so there is no better time to hop on board.

It comes with some shiny new features:

  • Theming is now available, much to the celebration of those who were previously unhappy with the UI color scheme! (Yes finally you can use a dark theme. You’re welcome eyes.)
  • Breakpoint support has been added, as previously mentioned above.
  • Two debug modes! There is the “nicer” debug mode, as well as the new “faster” line-based version.
  • Various bug fixes, as always.
  • Check out all the new features and enhancements in the changelog.

What other beginner-focused IDEs have you used?

Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer

All Posts by Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer is the editor for She received her Bachelor's degree from Monmouth University, West Long Branch, New Jersey. She currently lives in Frankfurt, Germany with her husband and cat where she enjoys reading, writing, and medieval reenactment. She is also the editor for Conditio Humana, an online magazine about ethics, AI, and technology.

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No screenshot
No screenshot
3 years ago

Not one screenshot.
Did you just copy paste this text from somewhere and couldn’t be bothered to copy the images as well?

Gabriela Motroc
Gabriela Motroc
Reply to  No screenshot
3 years ago

I can assure you no such thing happened. The author simply chose not to include screenshots.

Reply to  No screenshot
3 years ago

What a frivolous lazy comment… click the first link, and you are greeted with loads of screen shots.

Adam Flores
Adam Flores
Reply to  No screenshot
3 years ago

If you want to see screenshots, Click on the Thonny link of the first Paragraph
there you will find download links and screenshots and a Demo video as well