An integrated development environment, or IDE, is a kind of application used by software developers to write code. It provides numerous facilities and tools to consolidate various processes involved in developing, testing, and deploying software. The USP of IDEs is that they provide all the essential utilities in a cohesive easy-to-setup package. This bundling reduces the time to set up and increases productivity.
As the IDE features depend heavily on paradigms and idioms of the language, most IDEs are language-specific. However, some IDEs can be language agnostic while offering language-specific features via plugins.
What does an IDE include?
IDEs include many powerful features that span the software development cycle. Some of the essential ones are:
- Editor: The editor is the part of the IDE where developers write code. IDEs offer syntax highlighting, code completion, jump to source, and several other features as a part of the editor. The editor is such a vital part of the IDE that the distinguishing line between an IDE and an advanced editor is quite blurry.
- Debugger: Most IDEs include a debugger to connect to the code during execution and allow line-by-line traversal of the code to understand the program's state. Debuggers are very helpful in finding and resolving bugs.
What does an IDE integrate?
IDEs also integrate with external software to provide additional features without having to switch between multiple applications. These include:
- Compiler: IDEs either include or integrate with external compilers to enable the code execution from within the IDE itself.
- Terminal: Most IDEs provide access to the OS shell via a CLI terminal built into their UI, allowing developers to perform many system-wide operations from the IDE.
- Version control: IDEs can integrate with version control software to show file history within the UI. They can also connect with remotes to keep work in sync.
- Task management: IDEs can also integrate with task management software such as GitHub Issues, GitHub Projects, and Jira to associate code changes with issues and tickets.