Integrated development environment

Last updated
Anjuta is an IDE for C and C++ programming in the GNOME desktop environment. Anjuta-2.0.0-2.png
Anjuta is an IDE for C and C++ programming in the GNOME desktop environment.

An integrated development environment (IDE) is a software application that provides comprehensive facilities to computer programmers for software development. An IDE normally consists of at least a source code editor, build automation tools, and a debugger. Most modern IDEs have intelligent code completion. Some IDEs, such as NetBeans and Eclipse, contain the necessary compiler, interpreter, or both; others, such as SharpDevelop and Lazarus, do not.

Application software computer software designed to perform a group of coordinated functions, tasks, or activities for the benefit of the user

Application software is software designed to perform a group of coordinated functions, tasks, or activities for the benefit of the user. Examples of an application include a word processor, a spreadsheet, an accounting application, a web browser, an email client,a media player, a file viewer, an aeronautical flight simulator, a console game or a photo editor. The collective noun application software refers to all applications collectively. This contrasts with system software, which is mainly involved with running the computer.

Software development is the process of conceiving, specifying, designing, programming, documenting, testing, and bug fixing involved in creating and maintaining applications, frameworks, or other software components. Software development is a process of writing and maintaining the source code, but in a broader sense, it includes all that is involved between the conception of the desired software through to the final manifestation of the software, sometimes in a planned and structured process. Therefore, software development may include research, new development, prototyping, modification, reuse, re-engineering, maintenance, or any other activities that result in software products.

Build automation is the process of automating the creation of a software build and the associated processes including: compiling computer source code into binary code, packaging binary code, and running automated tests.


The boundary between an IDE and other parts of the broader software development environment is not well-defined; sometimes a version control system or various tools to simplify the construction of a graphical user interface (GUI) are integrated. Many modern IDEs also have a class browser, an object browser, and a class hierarchy diagram for use in object-oriented software development.

Graphical user interface user interface allowing interaction through graphical icons and visual indicators

The graphical user interface is a form of user interface that allows users to interact with electronic devices through graphical icons and visual indicators such as secondary notation, instead of text-based user interfaces, typed command labels or text navigation. GUIs were introduced in reaction to the perceived steep learning curve of command-line interfaces (CLIs), which require commands to be typed on a computer keyboard.

Class browser

A class browser is a feature of an integrated development environment (IDE) that allows the programmer to browse, navigate, or visualize the structure of object-oriented programming code.

Object browser

An Object Browser is tool that allows a user to examine the components involved in a software package, such as Microsoft Word or software development packages.


Integrated development environments are designed to maximize programmer productivity by providing tight-knit components with similar user interfaces. IDEs present a single program in which all development is done. This program typically provides many features for authoring, modifying, compiling, deploying and debugging software. This contrasts with software development using unrelated tools, such as vi, GCC or make.

User interface means by which a user interacts with and controls a machine

The user interface (UI), in the industrial design field of human–computer interaction, is the space where interactions between humans and machines occur. The goal of this interaction is to allow effective operation and control of the machine from the human end, whilst the machine simultaneously feeds back information that aids the operators' decision-making process. Examples of this broad concept of user interfaces include the interactive aspects of computer operating systems, hand tools, heavy machinery operator controls, and process controls. The design considerations applicable when creating user interfaces are related to or involve such disciplines as ergonomics and psychology.

vi Keyboard-oriented text editor

vi is a screen-oriented text editor originally created for the Unix operating system. The portable subset of the behavior of vi and programs based on it, and the ex editor language supported within these programs, is described by the Single Unix Specification and POSIX.

The GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) is a compiler system produced by the GNU Project supporting various programming languages. GCC is a key component of the GNU toolchain and the standard compiler for most Unix-like operating systems. The Free Software Foundation (FSF) distributes GCC under the GNU General Public License. GCC has played an important role in the growth of free software, as both a tool and an example.

One aim of the IDE is to reduce the configuration necessary to piece together multiple development utilities, instead it provides the same set of capabilities as one cohesive unit. Reducing setup time can increase developer productivity, especially in cases where learning to use the IDE is faster than manually integrating and learning all of the individual tools. Tighter integration of all development tasks has the potential to improve overall productivity beyond just helping with setup tasks. For example, code can be continuously parsed while it is being edited, providing instant feedback when syntax errors are introduced. Allowing developers to debug code much faster and easier with an IDE.

Some IDEs are dedicated to a specific programming language, allowing a feature set that most closely matches the programming paradigms of the language. However, there are many multiple-language IDEs.

Programming language language designed to communicate instructions to a machine

A programming language is a formal language, which comprises a set of instructions that produce various kinds of output. Programming languages are used in computer programming to implement algorithms.

Programming paradigms are a way to classify programming languages based on their features. Languages can be classified into multiple paradigms.

While most modern IDEs are graphical, text-based IDEs such as Turbo Pascal were in popular use before the widespread availability of windowing systems like Microsoft Windows and the X Window System (X11). They commonly use function keys or hotkeys to execute frequently used commands or macros.

Turbo Pascal programming language

Turbo Pascal is a software development system that includes a compiler and an integrated development environment (IDE) for the Pascal programming language running on CP/M, CP/M-86, and MS-DOS. It was originally developed by Anders Hejlsberg at Borland, and was notable for its extremely fast compiling times. Turbo Pascal, and the later but similar Turbo C, made Borland a leader in PC-based development.

Microsoft Windows is a group of several graphical operating system families, all of which are developed, marketed, and sold by Microsoft. Each family caters to a certain sector of the computing industry. Active Windows families include Windows NT and Windows Embedded; these may encompass subfamilies, e.g. Windows Embedded Compact or Windows Server. Defunct Windows families include Windows 9x, Windows Mobile and Windows Phone.

X Window System windowing system for bitmap displays on UNIX-like systems

The X Window System is a windowing system for bitmap displays, common on Unix-like operating systems.


GNU Emacs, an extensible editor that is commonly used as an IDE on Unix-like systems Emacs-screenshot.png
GNU Emacs, an extensible editor that is commonly used as an IDE on Unix-like systems

IDEs initially became possible when developing via a console or terminal. Early systems could not support one, since programs were prepared using flowcharts, entering programs with punched cards (or paper tape, etc.) before submitting them to a compiler. Dartmouth BASIC was the first language to be created with an IDE (and was also the first to be designed for use while sitting in front of a console or terminal).[ citation needed ] Its IDE (part of the Dartmouth Time Sharing System) was command-based, and therefore did not look much like the menu-driven, graphical IDEs popular after the advent of the Graphical User Interface. However it integrated editing, file management, compilation, debugging and execution in a manner consistent with a modern IDE.

System console in early computers, unit used to control the machine

The system console, computer console, root console, operator's console, or simply console is the text entry and display device for system administration messages, particularly those from the BIOS or boot loader, the kernel, from the init system and from the system logger. It is a physical device consisting of a keyboard and a screen, and traditionally is a text terminal, but may also be a graphical terminal. System consoles are generalized to computer terminals, which are abstracted respectively by virtual consoles and terminal emulators. Today communication with system consoles is generally done abstractly, via the standard streams, but there may be system-specific interfaces, for example those used by the system kernel.

Computer terminal computer input/output device; an electronic or electromechanical hardware device that is used for entering data into, and displaying data from, a computer or a computing system

A computer terminal is an electronic or electromechanical hardware device that is used for entering data into, and displaying or printing data from, a computer or a computing system. The teletype was an example of an early day hardcopy terminal, and predated the use of a computer screen by decades.

Punched card recording medium

A punched card or punch card is a piece of stiff paper that can be used to contain digital data represented by the presence or absence of holes in predefined positions. Digital data can be used for data processing applications or, in earlier examples, used to directly control automated machinery.

Maestro I is a product from Softlab Munich and was the world's first integrated development environment [1] for software. Maestro I was installed for 22,000 programmers worldwide. Until 1989, 6,000 installations existed in the Federal Republic of Germany. Maestro was arguably the world leader in this field during the 1970s and 1980s. Today one of the last Maestro I can be found in the Museum of Information Technology at Arlington.

One of the first IDEs with a plug-in concept was Softbench. In 1995 Computerwoche commented that the use of an IDE was not well received by developers since it would fence in their creativity.

As of March 2015, the most popular IDEs are Eclipse and Visual Studio. [2]


Syntax highlighting

The IDE editor usually provides syntax highlighting, it can show both the structures, the language keywords and the syntax errors with visually distinct colors and font effects. [3]


Advanced IDEs provide support for automated refactoring. [3]

Version control

An IDE is expected to provide integrated version control, in order to interact with source repositories. [3]


IDEs are also used for debugging, using an integrated debugger, with support for setting breakpoints in the editor, visual rendering of steps, etc. [4]

IDEs may provide advanced support for code search: in order to find class and function declarations, usages, variable and field read/write, etc. IDEs can use different kinds of user interface for code search, for example form-based widgets [5] and natural-language based interfaces. [6]

Visual programming

Visual programming is a usage scenario in which an IDE is generally required. Visual Basic allows users to create new applications by moving programming, building blocks, or code nodes to create flowcharts or structure diagrams that are then compiled or interpreted. These flowcharts often are based on the Unified Modeling Language.

This interface has been popularized with the Lego Mindstorms system, and is being actively pursued by a number of companies wishing to capitalize on the power of custom browsers like those found at Mozilla. KTechlab supports flowcode and is a popular opensource IDE and Simulator for developing software for microcontrollers. Visual programming is also responsible for the power of distributed programming (cf. LabVIEW and EICASLAB software). An early visual programming system, Max, was modeled after analog synthesizer design and has been used to develop real-time music performance software since the 1980s. Another early example was Prograph, a dataflow-based system originally developed for the Macintosh. The graphical programming environment "Grape" is used to program qfix robot kits.

This approach is also used in specialist software such as Openlab, where the end users want the flexibility of a full programming language, without the traditional learning curve associated with one.

Language support

Some IDEs support multiple languages, such as GNU Emacs based on C and Emacs Lisp, and IntelliJ IDEA, Eclipse, MyEclipse or NetBeans, all based on Java, or MonoDevelop, based on C#, or PlayCode.

Support for alternative languages is often provided by plugins, allowing them to be installed on the same IDE at the same time. For example, Flycheck is a modern on-the-fly syntax checking extension for GNU Emacs 24 with support for 39 languages. [7] Eclipse, and Netbeans have plugins for C/C++, Ada, GNAT (for example AdaGIDE), Perl, Python, Ruby, and PHP, which are selected between automatically based on file extension, environment or project settings.

Attitudes across different computing platforms

Unix programmers can combine command-line POSIX tools into a complete development environment, capable of developing large programs such as the Linux kernel and its environment. [8] In this sense, the entire Unix system functions as an IDE. [9] The free software GNU tools (GNU Compiler Collection (GCC), GNU Debugger (gdb), and GNU make) are available on many platforms, including Windows. [10] The pervasive Unix philosophy of "everything is a text stream" enables developers who favor command-line oriented tools to use editors with support for many of the standard Unix and GNU build tools, building an IDE with programs like Emacs [11] [12] [13] or Vim. Data Display Debugger is intended to be an advanced graphical front-end for many text-based debugger standard tools. Some programmers prefer managing makefiles and their derivatives to the similar code building tools included in a full IDE. For example, most contributors to the PostgreSQL database use make and gdb directly to develop new features. [14] Even when building PostgreSQL for Microsoft Windows using Visual C++, Perl scripts are used as a replacement for make rather than relying on any IDE features. [15] Some Linux IDEs such as Geany attempt to provide a graphical front end to traditional build operations.

On the various Microsoft Windows platforms, command-line tools for development are seldom used. Accordingly, there are many commercial and non-commercial products. However, each has a different design commonly creating incompatibilities. Most major compiler vendors for Windows still provide free copies of their command-line tools, including Microsoft (Visual C++, Platform SDK, .NET Framework SDK, nmake utility).

IDEs have always been popular on the Apple Macintosh's classic Mac OS and macOS, dating back to Macintosh Programmer's Workshop, Turbo Pascal, THINK Pascal and THINK C environments of the mid-1980s. Currently macOS programmers can choose between native IDEs like Xcode and open-source tools such as Eclipse and Netbeans. ActiveState Komodo is a proprietary multilanguage IDE supported on macOS.

Artificial intelligence

Some features of IDEs can benefit from advances in AI. [16] In particular, one can collect information from IDE actions across developers in order to augment IDE features. [17] For instance, a data-driven approach to code completion results in intelligent code completion.

Web integrated development environment

A web integrated development environment (Web IDE or WIDE), also known as cloud IDE, is a browser based IDE that allows for software development or web development. [18] A web IDE can be accessed from a web browser, such as Google Chrome or Internet Explorer, allowing for a portable work environment. A web IDE does not usually contain all of the same features as a traditional, or desktop, IDE, although all of the basic IDE features, such as syntax highlighting, are typically present.

A web IDE, like most websites, is usually composed of two pieces: a frontend and a backend. The frontend is usually written in Javascript, using AJAX methods to communicate with the backend using a HTTP API, although in some cases, a browser extension or desktop application serves as the frontend and communicates with the backend without the need for a browser. The backend takes care of creating, saving, and opening files, as well as running any terminal commands if the IDE supports it. This setup allows for portability and continuity. The state of the IDE can be saved and reopened on another machine. This also allows for compiling or running programs to continue while the user is away.

Many web IDEs support several programming languages, while others only support a specific language. Most web IDEs allow access to a Command-line interface (CLI) that allows the user to install or run any software that is needed for development, allowing "full" control over the development environment. Open source web IDEs allow for installation on local servers or machines and can be used to give the developer more control over the development environment.

Most Web IDEs also include real time collaboration features, allowing multiple users to simultaneously work with other developers around the world (or locally) in real time.



Notable Web IDEs:

See also

Related Research Articles

GNU Debugger source-level debugger

The GNU Debugger (GDB) is a portable debugger that runs on many Unix-like systems and works for many programming languages, including Ada, C, C++, Objective-C, Free Pascal, Fortran, Go and partially others.

Debugger A computer program

A debugger or debugging tool is a computer program that is used to test and debug other programs. The code to be examined might alternatively be running on an instruction set simulator (ISS), a technique that allows great power in its ability to halt when specific conditions are encountered, but which will typically be somewhat slower than executing the code directly on the appropriate processor. Some debuggers offer two modes of operation, full or partial simulation, to limit this impact.

Eclipse (software) Java software development environment

Eclipse is an integrated development environment (IDE) used in computer programming, and is the most widely used Java IDE. It contains a base workspace and an extensible plug-in system for customizing the environment. Eclipse is written mostly in Java and its primary use is for developing Java applications, but it may also be used to develop applications in other programming languages via plug-ins, including Ada, ABAP, C, C++, C#, Clojure, COBOL, D, Erlang, Fortran, Groovy, Haskell, JavaScript, Julia, Lasso, Lua, NATURAL, Perl, PHP, Prolog, Python, R, Ruby, Rust, Scala, and Scheme. It can also be used to develop documents with LaTeX and packages for the software Mathematica. Development environments include the Eclipse Java development tools (JDT) for Java and Scala, Eclipse CDT for C/C++, and Eclipse PDT for PHP, among others.

Delphi is an integrated development environment (IDE) for rapid application development of desktop, mobile, web, and console software, developed by Embarcadero Technologies. It is also an event-driven language. Delphi's compilers use their own Object Pascal dialect of Pascal and generate native code for Microsoft Windows, macOS, iOS, Android and Linux. Since 2016, there have been new releases of Delphi every six months, with new platforms being added approximately every second release.

A programming tool or software development tool is a computer program that software developers use to create, debug, maintain, or otherwise support other programs and applications. The term usually refers to relatively simple programs, that can be combined together to accomplish a task, much as one might use multiple hand tools to fix a physical object. The most basic tools are a source code editor and a compiler or interpreter, which are used ubiquitously and continuously. Other tools are used more or less depending on the language, development methodology, and individual engineer, and are often used for a discrete task, like a debugger or profiler. Tools may be discrete programs, executed separately – often from the command line – or may be parts of a single large program, called an integrated development environment (IDE). In many cases, particularly for simpler use, simple ad hoc techniques are used instead of a tool, such as print debugging instead of using a debugger, manual timing instead of a profiler, or tracking bugs in a text file or spreadsheet instead of a bug tracking system.

Macintosh Programmers Workshop

Macintosh Programmer's Workshop or MPW, is a software development environment for the Classic Mac OS operating system, written by Apple Computer. For Macintosh developers, it was one of the primary tools for building applications for System 7.x and Mac OS 8.x and 9.x. Initially MPW was available for purchase as part of Apple's professional developers program, but Apple made it a free download after it was superseded by CodeWarrior. On Mac OS X it was replaced by the Project Builder IDE, which eventually became Xcode.

A source-code editor is a text editor program designed specifically for editing source code of computer programs. It may be a standalone application or it may be built into an integrated development environment (IDE) or web browser. Source-code editors are a fundamental programming tool, as the fundamental job of programmers is to write and edit source code.

Komodo Edit

Komodo Edit is a free text editor for dynamic programming languages. It was introduced in January 2007 to complement ActiveState's commercial Komodo IDE. As of version 4.3, Komodo Edit is built atop the Open Komodo project.

The following tables list notable software packages that are nominal IDEs; standalone tools such as source code editors and GUI builders are not included. These IDEs are listed in alphabetical order of the supported language.

Apple Dylan was the implementation of the Dylan programming language produced by Apple Computer. Apple Dylan was originally developed as the toolbox and application language for the Apple Newton, but later released as a stand-alone development environment for the classic Mac OS, only to be abandoned shortly thereafter.

TypeScript is an open-source programming language developed and maintained by Microsoft. It is a strict syntactical superset of JavaScript, and adds optional static typing to the language.

Rational Business Developer

Rational Business Developer (RBD) provides a workbench for Enterprise Generation Language (EGL) development, an end-to-end rapid development approach.

MonoDevelop integrated development environment

MonoDevelop is an open-source integrated development environment for Linux, macOS, and Windows. Its primary focus is development of projects that use Mono and .NET frameworks. MonoDevelop integrates features similar to those of NetBeans and Microsoft Visual Studio, such as automatic code completion, source control, a graphical user interface (GUI) and Web designer. MonoDevelop integrates a Gtk# GUI designer called Stetic. It supports Boo, C, C++, C#, CIL, D, F#, Java, Oxygene, Vala, JavaScript, TypeScript and Visual Basic.NET.

Microsoft Visual Studio integrated development environment

Microsoft Visual Studio is an integrated development environment (IDE) from Microsoft. It is used to develop computer programs, as well as websites, web apps, web services and mobile apps. Visual Studio uses Microsoft software development platforms such as Windows API, Windows Forms, Windows Presentation Foundation, Windows Store and Microsoft Silverlight. It can produce both native code and managed code.

Qt Creator QT development environment

Qt Creator is a cross-platform C++, JavaScript and QML integrated development environment which is part of the SDK for the Qt GUI application development framework. It includes a visual debugger and an integrated GUI layout and forms designer. The editor's features include syntax highlighting and autocompletion. Qt Creator uses the C++ compiler from the GNU Compiler Collection on Linux and FreeBSD. On Windows it can use MinGW or MSVC with the default install and can also use Microsoft Console Debugger when compiled from source code. Clang is also supported.

The Wing Python IDE family of integrated development environments (IDEs) from Wingware was created specifically for the Python programming language. These lightweight but full-featured Python IDEs are designed to speed up writing, debugging, and testing code, to reduce the incidence of coding errors, and to make it easier to understand and navigate Python code.

JetBrains Czech software company

JetBrains s.r.o. is a software development company whose tools are targeted towards software developers and project managers.

Architect (software)

Architect is an open-source integrated development environment (IDE), based on Eclipse. It serves as a multi-purpose workbench for data scientists, by providing support for various programming languages and technologies.


  1. "Interaktives Programmieren als Systems-Schlager" from Computerwoche (German)
  2. Top IDE index
  3. 1 2 3 "Course CS350 Integrated Development Environments". Old Dominion University. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  4. "Programming software and the IDE". BBC Bitesize. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  5. "Eclipse Cookbook - Searching Code". O’Reilly.
  6. Kimmig, Markus; Monperrus, Martin; Mezini, Mira (2011). "Querying source code with natural language". doi:10.1109/ASE.2011.6100076.
  7. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 10 March 2014. Retrieved 10 March 2014.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  8. Rehman, Christopher Paul, Christopher R. Paul. "The Linux Development Platform: Configuring, Using and Maintaining a Complete Programming Environment". 2002. ISBN   0-13-009115-4
  9. "UnixIsAnIde".
  10. "Use Emacs with Microsoft Visual C++ ... use Emacs as an IDE" Archived 4 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  11. "Emacs: the Free Software IDE"
  12. "Using Emacs as a Lisp IDE"
  13. "Emacs as a Perl IDE"
  14. PostgreSQL Developer FAQ
  15. PostgreSQL Installation from Source Code on Windows
  16. Williams, Christina Mercer & Hannah. "AI tools all developers need to try". Techworld.
  17. Bruch, Marcel; Bodden, Eric; Monperrus, Martin; Mezini, Mira. "IDE 2.0: collective intelligence in software development". doi:10.1145/1882362.1882374.
  18. "Web-based vs. desktop-based Tools – EclipseSource".