11 Python IDEs Developers Should Consider
Python is one of the most popular programming languages available for software and application development today. Indeed, nearly 50% of developers worldwide use Python for their projects. Because it is also easy to learn, it’s a natural starting point for beginning developers.
While all beginning Python developers will probably start coding using Python’s Integrated Development and Learning Environment (IDLE), it won’t take long before they realize this approach has its limits. So, after some experience with IDLE, most will look to tools that help them more efficiently build code.
More advanced code editors like GNU/Emacs are the natural next step as they provide added functionality over the basic shell while maintaining coding and debugging speed. But most developers will want to move to full-featured integrated development environments (IDEs) quickly. IDEs include code editing, compiling/interpreting, debugging, code profiling, and version control features, among others.
Here are some of the best Python IDEs in the market today that even the most novice developer can use to enhance their development experience. Many offer both free and paid versions, allowing developers to expand their capabilities as they learn.
There are a few choices that are ideally suited for those just starting out with Python programming. These IDEs focus on fundamental features and structures to help beginners learn to program effectively and use best practices. They point out to new developers where they have potential problems in their code and help them quickly and easily identify errors.
The default editor that is bundled with Python, IDLE has basic text editing and development capabilities. It gives users an introduction to basic IDE features such as syntax highlighting and smart indenting. It also includes a basic yet functional debugger. IDLE is a good starting point for those who do not want to be overwhelmed with large feature sets.
Among third-party IDEs, one targets itself specifically towards beginning developers. Thonny is a free, open-source, basic application that lets novices get a good grasp on working with an IDE. It has a simple, uncluttered interface that makes users focus on the code rather than other features. It also trains new developers on features like code completion and syntax highlighting.
Thonny has a basic debugger that again is intended for educational purposes. While more advanced third-party code analysis and error handling products are available, beginners should stick with the basics while using Thonny. Once they move to more advanced IDEs, developers are more likely to benefit from these tools.
Thonny is a great starting point for new Python developers, but it is intentionally limited. As developers advance in experience, they will want to transition to one of the other packages below.
As skills develop, developers will have access to more powerful features. There are a few options that offer excellent versions for beginners and then scale (both in feature sets and costs) as the user’s experience and needs increase.
There are many outstanding editing products that, while officially considered code editors, have so much additional functionality that they verge on being IDEs. Among the packages new developers might want to consider, especially as an interim step between code editing and IDE development are:
PyCharm from JetBrains is a powerful cross-platform IDE specific to Python. PyCharm is widely used and has developed a large community to help support new developers find their footings. It comes in both a free basic and paid professional version ($199/year).
PyCharm has some of the most advanced feature sets among Python IDEs. The free (Community) version has useful tools for beginners, including code completion, syntax highlighting, and code verification, that make it easy to spot potential coding errors. It also includes helpful debugging and testing tools.
PyCharm also offers access to numerous plugins and extensions, including critical security plugins. These help new developers understand that it is not just ransomware that poses a threat; instead, it is vulnerabilities in their own code that give hackers a clear attack vector.
As developers advance, they will likely want to move to the professional version, which adds profiling, and remote development tools, along with integrations with frameworks like Django. PyCharm Professional also includes powerful scientific tools that are handy for data scientists.
For a product that truly scales with a developer’s experience and needs, consider Wing. Wing is a Python-specific IDE that comes in three flavors: Wing 101, a simple, lightweight IDE for those just starting out; Wing Personal, an intermediate-level version for hobbyists; and Wing Pro for full-fledged developers.
Wing Pro has a high-end, powerful code editor and includes strong debugging tools, integrated unit testing, and remote development features. And it integrates with frameworks like Django.
Wing offers a 30-day free trial for the Pro version. Developers may choose from an annual ($179) or lifetime license for the current version ($245) that comes with one year of free upgrades.
Visual Studio Code is Microsoft’s free entry into the Python IDE market. Although it is officially cross-platform, it is (not surprisingly) perhaps most effective for use in Windows. Because it is a Microsoft product, it has a large and active community.
The strength of Visual Studio Code is its lightweight code editor, which is an excellent starting point for beginners. In addition, it offers an intelligent auto-completion feature, which will benefit new developers. Additional tools such as syntax highlighting, and auto-indentation increase coding efficiency. More advanced developers can take advantage of the thousands of available extensions and libraries.
Visual Studio Code includes a native debugger, but developers should consider third-party tools for more advanced error identification and correction.
As their experience continues to grow, developers may want to consider additional options that have powerful features focused on specific needs such as data science.
PyDev and Eclipse may be the IDE of choice for developers looking to do double duty when learning languages. The Eclipse IDE initially focused on Java, but further development led to several plugins allowing Eclipse to work with other languages. The PyDev plugin in Eclipse’s Python IDE product.
PyDev is open source, making it an economical choice for beginners. However, PyDev requests that users donate through PayPal or Patreon to support continued development.
PyDev’s code completion tools are useful as novice developers begin to memorize Python syntax. In addition, code analysis and code coverage tools help developers build code quickly and with fewer errors that require debugging. PyDev also integrates with the Django Python framework, making development even simpler.
Learning PyDev and Eclipse will help more advanced developers easily transfer between languages. Those who have spent time with PyDev should find no problems jumping into Java programming with Eclipse.
While PyDev does have a native debugger, beginners may want to consider more fully-featured third-party debugging, error-tracking, and performance monitoring tools.
Because of its extensive environment, large feature set, and multi-language support, Eclipse will require a bit more effort to learn to use well than other IDEs.
Spyder is a powerful, cross-platform, Python-specific IDE with a dedicated focus. Specifically, Spyder is built for scientific applications, that is, applications with extensive data science needs. While Spyder is a free, open-source IDE, they request donations to help fund future development.
Spyder has helpful code editing features such as auto-completion, syntax highlighting, and static code analysis. But where it stands out is with its more advanced features. For example, it has built-in integrations with many scientific packages - NumPy, SciPy, iPython, and matplotlib, just to name a few. In addition, Spyder offers a variable explorer that makes it easy to view data within the IDE.
Spyder has powerful debugging capabilities and is known for its efficiency in identifying and eliminating bottlenecks.
Spyder is also the choice for developers more concerned with online privacy as, unlike most of the other IDEs, it does not collect or maintain personal developer information.
Another IDE targeting data scientists, Jupyter Notebook is a free, open-source, cross-platform app that works with Python as well as other languages. Jupyter has a clean, easy-to-use interface that simplifies coding for new developers.
Jupyter is particularly well-suited for data-intensive applications such as numerical simulation, statistical modeling, and machine learning.
IDEs are great (and even necessary) for Python developers writing and compiling their code. But once it’s time to ship to production, using a monitoring platform like Sentry will let them know how well (or not well) their code is performing.
Python IDEs do more than just help beginning developers learn good coding practices and build error-free code. They also serve as an introduction to a range of products that streamline and secure the application development lifecycle.
For instance, while Python IDEs often have outstanding debugging capabilities, they generally are not as useful for monitoring code health once a product is shipped. That is where more focused products, like Sentry’s Python SDK, come into play.
Sentry has a number of advanced features that reduce the time spent in identifying and correcting errors. It provides deep inspection of runtime errors and allows users to quickly group exceptions by type to prioritize remediation efforts. Sentry also identifies issues that negatively impact application performance and highlights code errors associated with performance problems. SDK users can optimize their code health and build high-performing applications to help meet every customer performance demand.
Because of Python’s popularity, the number of learning and development tools available to new developers is exceptional. IDEs are one such tool. Coupled with performance monitoring products like the Sentry, IDEs can quickly turn the newest of developers into efficient, accomplished ones.