What is an IDE? – An Easy Guide For Beginners in 3 Points

  1. What is an IDE?
  2. What is a use case for IDE on cloud?
  3. What are the popular IDEs on cloud

Lets first look at what is an IDE or Integrated Development Environment.

1) What is an IDE?

In the good old days, coding used to be a text-only affair, with a lot more left to do after the coding itself, before you get to actually make the application you built, run on your machine. Over time these activities started to get baked into coding environments. As an example, in Windows, you could code a java program in a text file with a .java extension. Then you would have to create a class file by compiling the .java file with java compiler or javac.exe. Once you have the class file ready, you are good to go and run the application you built with an additional step.

You would have to run the class file using the java interpreter(java.exe). Now java came into existence when there were popular integrated development environments (going forward will mention as IDE) for programming languages like C, C even Pascal and BASIC. The example was taken for highlighting the activities that are involved after the coding process.

This series of activities to get an application running seemed to be something that could be automated or executed on the click of a few buttons, which spurred on the development of software programs that are used to develop other software programs.

So basically IDE or Integrated Development Environment is a software that provides you with a conducive environment for coding in a given programming language, checking for syntactical errors in the program, compile the code, build an executable file from the code, suggest enhancements and make adequate changes for an efficient run on the machine and finally run the code, all with the help of a few buttons pushes. Well, IDE’s do a lot more than that, like feeding in the environment settings, and the library settings for the programming language or SDK among a host of other functions.

IDE’s have come a long way since the days of text-based coding and text screen based IDEs. So what features do the current generation of IDEs pack together into their software bundle? Let’s take a look at each one of the features one would love to have in an IDE, in today’s cutting edge tech scenario.

  • Text Editing– This is a no brainer. Coding involves text and an IDE is expected to have an editor, but the point is how good of an editor can an IDE offer. The present generation of IDE’s are rich in this context and each one impresses you more than the other as you keep reviewing them. Language specific syntax highlighting is one of the must haves. Keywords should be highlighted in a distinct color. A similar treatment is accorded to comments, include or import statements , break points you name it.
  • Compilers– Nowadays there are various flavors of compilers, which read the code written in a specific version of a given programming language and convert it into a machine readable code. On the way, if there are any errors, the compiler should be able to highlight the error, or rather the IDE should take this information from the compiler and do the necessary on the text editor, so it becomes easier for the programmer to make those required changes.
  • Debugger-An important tool in the present generation, with several versions of a programming language available, it is easy for an error that is not syntactic in nature but gives you unexpected results, something that used to be called semantic error. A debugger executes your code line by line in slow motion, while you can check the values of the variables the program works with to understand what is really happening under the hood.
  • Code completion– One of the touted features of IDE is code completion. Some even allow you to type short forms of a standard required piece of code and you get the full form of the code typed in for you. A full line at the expense of typing just 3-4 characters.
  • Flexibility– In the early days, an IDE was dedicated to a single programming language, which is no longer the case. IDEs have grown to support multiple languages, compile code from different languages into a single code base and build cross platform applications that run or various architectures.
  • As integrated as can be– IDEs in todays world are expected to be able to support plugins from various vendors, incorporating additional capabilities as and when required.
  • Collaboration– One of the most important features of an IDE considering the global development teams and various styles of development that is brought to the development table.

There are a lot of popular IDEs in the market today, some of the most popular ones being IntelliJ IDEA, Visual Studio, Eclipse, RStudio, WebStorm, PyCharm among others.

That was a lengthy description about an IDE, but lets take this one more step closer to cutting edge, IDE on Cloud.

2) What is a use case for IDE on cloud?

Cloud IDEs are integrated development environments based in the cloud.

Research suggests, active collaboration in development helps deliver better quality software than otherwise. Collaborative activities like pair programming, code review, stand ups.

Some advantages of IDEs on cloud over the standalone ones are,

  • Cloud IDEs are shown to have better sharing and collaboration features than stand along IDEs.
  • When projects are on the cloud, they are updated on a regular basis and you see what others see, you don’t maintain a local copy of the development. Everybody is on the same page, well most of the time. Cloud might spur agile development too.
  • With cloud computing being the future of how the world goes about its daily computing business, it makes a great use case to have direct integration to cloud services. IDEs on cloud offer this integration as second nature.
  • Centralized control of development is a major flip offered by IDEs on cloud.
  • You don’t need a fat client to start coding. All you need is a browser and an internet connection, well maybe a license too.

A few popular IDEs on cloud are Cloud9 IDE, Eclipse Che, Paiza Cloud Cloud IDE among other great options.

In conclusion, IDEs on cloud provide for a light weight development infrastructure allowing you to stay focused on development activities leaving the rest for the cloud to handle efficiently.


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