Written by: Sam Travarca, Developer

An Integrated Development Environment (IDE) is a software environment used to write other programs using tools like an editor and compiler. This can prove to be an extremely useful tool when coding uses various languages for many reasons. Examples of different IDE’s include Eclipse, Visual Studios, and NetBeans. Each IDE has its own niche strengths and weaknesses.

While you don’t necessarily need an IDE to write a program the added features to using one are very useful. Code insight is one of the most helpful tools that an IDE can provide, which is the ability for the program to interpret what is typed out. The program can change text color to represent different classes, functions, and variables. Microsoft Visual Studios offers something called IntelliSense that can also predict what you are typing out and finish your words for you. Other IDE’s offer a similar tool called something proprietary to their program.

Another feature to IDE’s is the ability to debug your program. This is arguably one of the most important tools to deploying a successful program. Testing is crucial to make sure that your user does not experience an incident where the code does not handle a specific error and crash the program. Debugging provides you with the ability to run through the program, stopping the code at specified points to check values of variables or other interests as needed, to verify that the code and functions are running as intended.

Finally a few more tools that IDE’s offer can be resource management and the ability to compile your code. When writing a new program there are usually many different files that have been referenced in specific path locations so it is very important for the running of the program that these files are in the correct locations. Using an IDE makes it easy to see a visual representation of the location of these files and makes it more understandable for the user.

Advantages to IDEs:

  • Increased Efficiency – faster coding with less effort
  • Collaboration – A group of programmers can easily work together within an IDE
  • Project Management – Program resources are easily

Disadvantages to IDEs:

  • May be too complex for beginning programmers
  • Each IDE will have a unique learning curve requiring time to learn
  • Cannot automatically fix errors, still need knowledge to code efficiently

These are just a few of the tools and features that IDEs can provide for the programmer. Different IDE’s may offer a different collection of tools as well as proprietary tools only available to their environment. This is something to keep in mind when deciding which environment would work best for you.

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