A code editor (as easily evident from its name) is a tool that is used to write and edit code. They are usually lightweight and can be great for beginners who are just starting their coding journey. However, once you start moving towards an intermediate level, your programs begin getting larger, too; that’s when you need a tool that provides you far more utilities than just letting you write mere text.
This is where IDE (Integrated Development Environment) comes in. Not only does it understands your code much better than a text editor, but it also usually provides features such as build automation, code linting, testing, and debugging. This can help you achieve quick deployment. The downside is that IDEs can be complicated to use.
So, just like any well-designed programming language, Python too has many tools specially built for it. Those include Python text editors and IDEs. However, as there are so many of them, how can you choose the right one? Well, in this article, I’ll provide you with an overview of the top Python IDEs to make it easier for you to decide.
Here are a list top six IDEs for Python, in no particular order.
Created by JetBrains (a company known for creating great software development tools), PyCharm is one of the widely used Python IDE.
It comes with pre-installed intelligent python assistance that gives smart assistance to the developers. You get smart code completion, code inspections, on-the-fly error highlighting, and quick fixes, along with automated code refactoring and a plethora of navigation capabilities.
It also offers Git integration, has an ssh terminal and version control. Highly customizable, you can choose between different themes, color schemes, and key-binding. Moreover, it comes with a powerful debugger with a UI.
There are two versions of PyCharm: Professional (paid, full-featured IDE) and Community (free, open-source lightweight version), both of which can be downloaded from the official JetBrains website. It is available for Windows, Linux, and Mac operating systems. All the features mentioned above come out of the box.
Although it works like a charm, this heavy-weight software is also very resource-intensive. So, if you have a computer with a low amount of RAM (usually less than four GB), your computer may lag.
Second, on the list is Spyder, a lightweight open-source IDE built mainly for data science practitioners to provide a powerful scientific environment for Python. The easiest way to get up and to run up with Spyder is by installing Anaconda (a popular distribution for data science and machine learning).
Since it was developed for the data science community, it is integrated with a hundred of essential data-centric libraries, including NumPy, Pandas, scikit-learn, matplotlib, and so on. The built-in capabilities can be extended further by plug-ins and APIs.
One of the best features that I personally love about this IDE is its Help toolbar, which lets you search a plethora of information related to libraries/modules.
Spyder has some great features such as auto-completion, debugging, static code analysis, and iPython shell. However, it lacks features compared to PyCharm.
As mentioned above, it is open-source, meaning it is free, and since it comes packaged with Anaconda, you will need to download Anaconda from its official website. Like other IDEs, Spyder is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux OSs.
IDLE (Integrated Development and Learning Environment)
IDLE is a default editor that comes with Python. This makes it easy to get started in Python. Its major features include the Python shell window (interactive interpreter), auto-completion, syntax highlighting, smart indentation, and a basic integrated debugger.
Lightweight and simple to use, this software helps a beginner to learn Python easily. It’s also called a disposable IDE as a developer moves to a more advance IDE after learning the basics since it’s not optimum for larger projects. The tool can be used on Windows, macOS, and UNIX.
Visual Studio Code (VS Code)
Created by Microsoft, VS Code is a free and open-source IDE developed mainly for the development and debugging of the latest web and cloud projects.
Highly customizable, VS Code allows users to change the theme, keyboard shortcuts, preferences, and install extensions that add additional functionality. You can add extensions to create a Python development environment as per your need in VS code. It provides features such as intelligent code completion, embedded Git control, debugging, syntax highlighting, and so forth.
With support for all three operating systems (Windows, Linux, and macOS), VS Code is lightweight and packed with powerful features, a reason why it’s one of the major choices for Python developers.
Visual Studio Code can be downloaded from here.
Atom is a free and open-source code editor developed by Github for OS X, Linux, & Windows and has a great deal of support from Facebook. Based on Electron (formerly known as Atom Shell), a framework, Atom provides support for plug-ins written in Node.js and embedded Git Control. A simplistic yet mighty text editor, the best thing about Atom is that it can also be used as an IDE.
A little similar to Sublime Text, Atom is preferred by developers mostly because of its simple interface compared to the other editors. Highly customizable, it allows you to install packages as per your need (even you can create your own). Some of the commonly used packages in Atom for Python development are autocomplete-python, linter-flake8, python-debugger, etc.
Personally, when it comes to Python development, I prefer Atom over Sublime Text.
You can easily download Atom from here.
PyDev is a 3rd-party Python editor for Eclipse. It enables Eclipse to be used as a Python IDE (also supporting Jython and IronPython).
It uses advanced type inference techniques, which allow it to provide things such as code completion and code analysis, besides providing a debugger, interactive console, refactoring, tokens browser, Django integration, etc. When it comes to open-source IDEs, it is one of the preferred IDE by the developers.
Visit here to get instructions on how to install it.
Which one is the Best IDE?
Well, there is no single answer to this question, it’ll vary from individual to individual, but it would still be a good idea to start with an IDE that is less convoluted if you are at a beginner level. Once you get to know to code a little better, you should then switch to a better IDE that has a lot of built-in features, the one that will allow you to code more efficiently.
The IDEs mentioned in this article are just a few among many; there are a plethora of IDEs in the market. I guess the best way forward for you will be to make a start here, by testing each one of’em out, as these are considered to be the best. Some of you might be inclined towards using Spyder, while some might like PyCharm more, it will be tough to pick one amongst the others.