HomeComputer BasicsWhat is an Integrated Development Environment (IDE)

What is an Integrated Development Environment (IDE)

IDE or Integrated Development Environment is a collection of programs that help programmers code more efficiently. It’s a suite of different tools programmers need, packaged into one program. To better understand what is an IDE we need to breakdown the words that make up the name.

Integrated: This is when various parts/components are combined into one functioning whole.

Development: The process of growth/progress of something to a more advanced state.

Environment: The surroundings or system in which an element lives or operates.

From these definitions put together, we can gather that an IDE is a stand-alone and digitally created environment that helps programmers write code that works.

We also understand that it consists of several components combined into one functioning program. Additionally, we know that it helps programmers develop other software.

What is Integrated Development Environment (IDE) used for?

An IDE gives users the ability to create software with the support of a wide array of useful tools and extensions. Programmers and other professionals within the software industry mainly use it in software development.

An IDE provides software developers with all the tools they need to create programs from the beginning until the end.

How an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) Works?

Some IDEs can only support one programming language. Whereas other IDEs can support several programming languages. The choice depends on the vendors’ purpose for their IDE.

Although there is no official list of tools that an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) must have. They typically consist of a code editor, a compiler/interpreter, and a debugger.

We are going to look at some of the features and tools found in most IDEs.

What is inside an Integrated Development Environment (IDE)?

We now know an IDE is a sum of its parts, therefore, we have to look at these parts to better understand what is an Integrated Development Environment or IDE.

Source Code Editor

A text editor that is built inside an IDE. Text editors enable users to write or edit the source code of a program. The Code Editor is one of the most essential tools needed in an IDE. Without it, you cannot write code.


A debugger is another essential tool that an IDE must have. It’s a piece of software that helps programmers detect errors/bugs in their code.

The debugger executes the user’s code under controlled circumstances so that it can easily point out malfunctioning parts of the code.


A useful program that converts source code in one programming language into another language. In IDEs, compilers help the users translate their source code into code that the computer can understand.

Without a Complier, your code is just gibberish to a computer. Therefore a compiler is a necessary tool in any IDEs toolkit.

Another thing to note is that a compiler converts all your code at once before the program even runs.


An interpreter is a program that directly converts source code line by line into machine-understandable code. An interpreter converts source code as the program runs whereas a compiler completes its conversion before the program even runs.

Comparing between the execution speeds of compiled code versus interpreted code, compiled code usually runs faster.

Code Completion and Correction

The IDE also comes packed with features that enable it to suggest the latter parts of code that a user is typing. They also correct coding errors, if the IDE is familiar with the coding language.

This saves the user a lot of time and brings convenience to the coding process.

Syntax Highlighting

The text editors of IDEs have this feature where different parts of the source code are displayed in different colors. This feature helps users identify different segments of the code visually.

Types of Integrated Development Environment (IDE) Software

IDEs are programs, hence they fall under the different categories that classify the commercial inclinations of all software.


Open-Source software is a category of computer software whose source code is freely shared with the public. Many developers share their source code for reputation and to contribute to the community.

Well-known examples of open-source IDEs include Android Studio, Code Blocks, NetBeans, and Eclipse.


Freeware software is a category of software where the source code rights are exclusively managed by the publisher. However, users can use the software without any monetary cost.

Popular examples of Freeware IDEs are Microsoft Visual Studio and Oracle Developer Studio.


Retail software is a class of software whose source code is wholly owned by the publisher. Users of the software must make a certain payment, either through subscription or once-off payments. Examples of retail IDEs are C++ Builder and Jetbrains IntelliJ IDEA.

Advantages of Integrated Development Environment (IDE)

Enhanced Developer Productivity

IDEs were built to help improve the programming experience. Before IDEs, you would have to use multiple applications to build software.

IDEs also give users features like Code Completion that cut down the time needed to write code. Debugging tools also come in handy for developers so that they write error-free code.

Pre-configured Software Development Tools in ONE Application

Without the integration of multiple tools into a single application, programmers have to use multiple applications to develop software.

This would result in more costs and hassles to be associated with developing software.

Easier Project Documentation

Many IDEs come with documentation tools that assist the developer with documenting the coding process. This documentation comes in handy in the future and for new members.

Standardized Development Environment

Companies can make their programmers use uniform software so that there will not be any incompatibility issues with the software.

Some IDEs also have predefined templates that help standardize a development team’s coding style.

Auto-Completion of Code

Some IDEs suggest possible endings of code that the user is typing. This will save the user’s time by not having to type all of it manually.

Robust Debugging Utility

The Debugger is essential in an IDE. They help developers discover and correct errors in their code. This feature is one you will not find in simple text editors.

Disadvantages of Integrated Development Environment (IDE)

IDEs are Advanced Tools

Beginners find the interfaces of IDEs overwhelming because of the vast array of menus and options. Therefore, most IDEs present a challenge to newcomers because of the huge learning curve associated with IDEs.

Couple that with having to learn coding simultaneously as the IDE, then you understand why some falter during the beginning.

Regular Use of IDEs might handicap users

IDEs make programmers skip many of the necessary due processes, which might reduce the in-depth understanding of programming for some developers.

Also, once you get used to using a particular IDE, you might not be comfortable working in a different environment.

Popular Integrated Development Environments (IDEs)

This is a list of 8 well-known IDEs and the languages they support.

Microsoft Visual Studio: ASP.NET, DHTML, JavaScript, JScript, Visual Basic, Visual C#, Visual C++, Visual F#, XAML, etc.

NetBeans : Java, HTML, HTML 5, C, C++ PHP, etc.

IntelliJ IDEA : AngularJS, CoffeeScript, CS, HTML, JavaScript, LESS, Node JS, PHP, Python, Ruby, Sass, TypeScript,etc.

Eclipse: C, C++, Java, Perl, PHP, Python, Ruby, etc.

Code:: Blocks : C, C++, Fortran

Pycharm: AngularJS, Coffee Script, CSS, Cython, HTML, JavaScript, Node.js, Python, TypeScript, and template languages

Aptana Studio 3: HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, Ruby, Rails, PHP, and Python

Xcode : AppleScript, C, C++, Java, Objective-C, Swift



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