If you are just starting out in your coding/programming career then this article is for you. This is not a top 10 list of text editors and IDEs. By the end of this you will have the knowledge on how to choose the right text editor or IDE to fit your needs.

To do this we’ll discuss the following questions:

  1. What is a text editor and IDE?
  2. Are Paid text editors better than free editors?
  3. Am I mostly working by myself or on a team?
  4. Will I use a variety of languages or focus on one?
  5. How to choose the right text editor or IDE based on the field you want to enter.

Let’s get started with the first question.

 

What Is a Text Editor? What Is an IDE?

 

A Text Editor

A text editor is a type of program that edits plain text and can handle many different languages, i.e HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP. Examples of such programs are Sublime, Notepad++ or Atom.

Learn To Code explains in further detail what a text editor is on their blog.

 

An IDE

An Integrated Development Environment (IDE) increases programmer productivity by combining common activities of writing software into a single application: editing source code, building executables, and debugging. They mainly focus on just one language like Python or Java, however many have cross-language capabilities.

G2 has a great explanation diving deeper into what an IDE is on their Learn page.

Should I Choose A Paid Or Free Text Editor & IDE?

Today, the majority of apps and programs offer free versions of their products. However, if you want all the features of that program or app you need to pay for it. Or you’ll find 2 similar products but the free version is terrible when compared to the paid version.

Is this true about text editors or IDEs? No. While there are some text editors you need to pay for, the majority are completely free. Those editors that are free are actually just as good if not better in many cases when compared to a paid text editor or IDE.

Also, a lot of professional web & software developers will use free editors because they’re very versatile and allow for extensions to be added.

So unlike a lot of industries where you have to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars to get good quality tools with the right functionality you need, when it comes to text editors and IDEs free is often better.

Working By Myself Or On A Team?

Another important factor you need to consider is, will you be working on a team or will you be working freelance? If you know that you will always be working on your own then there’s no need to worry, any editor will do.

However, if at some point in the future you begin working on a team with other developers than you’ll need the right editor.

So what is the right editor? The answer to this is not a specific editor, it’s more of a feature you’ll want to look for. To expound, I started out with TextWrangler and it was a great editor to begin my career with. That being said, at that time there were no extensions available for the program so eventually I switched to Atom and then to VS Code. These editors had the option to install extensions that allowed me to connect to GitHub and other version control systems to share my code.

Should you find yourself working with other developers at some point in your career you’ll want to look for a text editor or IDE that will allow you to install extensions; in specific extensions that will allow you to conveniently share your code with your team members, by connecting to GitHub or other version control systems.

Will You Use A Variety Of Languages?

How does this apply to your topic how to choose the right text editor or IDE to fit your needs?

If you’re getting into web development you’ll most likely use HTML, CSS, JS and probably a backend language like PHP and so on. In this case you’ll want to look for a text editor that will support a variety of programming and scripting languages (which is the majority of them).

But let’s say for example, that you’re looking to get into software development or app development, then you may want to look for an IDE that is specifically geared towards one language. PyCharm for example is an IDE specifically for the Python language. IntelliJ IDEA is another example of an IDE that is geared towards one language. It is used primarily for developing programs in Java.

This ties in nicely with our next question, choosing the right text editor or IDE based on the field you want to enter.

Text Editor or IDE Based On Your Field

The last factor that we will consider is how to choose the right text editor or IDE based on the field you want to enter.

Let’s say for example you want to get into web development. Then you’ll want to choose an editor that will support a variety of languages. Some IDEs will have an extension to easily create a local host right from the IDE as opposed to having to use another program for that.

Or if you want to get into app development for Apple products then you’ll want to use Xcode as it’s built by Apple for that specific field. Android uses Android Studio for their apps. These IDEs have built-in auto code completions and simulators to easily build apps specific for all their products, thus it wouldn’t make sense to try and build a website with either of them and vice versa.

If you’re a windows user and want to build programs for that operating system then you’ll want to get an IDE that is specific or at least supports .net languages. Visual Studio, .NET 4.5 and Rider are examples of IDEs geared towards Microsoft and Windows applications.

Concluding Thoughts

Remember these key points when looking for the right text editor or IDE.  
  1. A paid text editor or IDE does not necessarily mean that it’s better. Many of the pros use a free text editor or IDE.

  2. Ask yourself ‘Will I be working on my own or on a team’? If you know that at some point you may collaborate with other developers, choose a text editor or IDE that allows you to easily share your work.

  3. Will you use a variety of languages or just one? While the majority of text editors or IDE’s support multiple programming and scripting languages, some of them are geared toward one specific language. Thus that may work better for you.

  4. Choosing a text editor or IDE based on your field. There are certain text editors or IDE’s that depending on your field of work are built especially for that field. If you’re wanting to get into web development or developing programs for Windows, Apple or Android products then get a text editor or IDE geared toward that specific field.

  5. Do research. Just because it’s popular or has good reviews does not mean it will work for you or on your computer. Some text editor or IDE are not universal for every operating system.

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