Programming tool

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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 (of overall program or section of code) instead of a profiler, or tracking bugs in a text file or spreadsheet instead of a bug tracking system.

Computer program Instructions to be executed by a computer

A computer program is a collection of instructions that performs a specific task when executed by a computer. A computer requires programs to function.

A software developer is a person concerned with facets of the software development process, including the research, design, programming, and testing of computer software. Other job titles which are often used with similar meanings are programmer, software analyst, and software engineer.

Tool physical item that can be used to achieve a goal

A tool is an object used to extend the ability of an individual to modify features of the surrounding environment. Although many animals use simple tools, only human beings, whose use of stone tools dates back hundreds of millennia, use tools to make other tools. The set of tools needed to perform different tasks that are part of the same activity is called gear or equipment.


The distinction between tools and applications is murky. For example, developers use simple databases (such as a file containing a list of important values) all the time as tools.[ dubious ] However a full-blown database is usually thought of as an application or software in its own right. For many years, computer-assisted software engineering (CASE) tools were sought after. Successful tools have proven elusive.In one sense, CASE tools emphasized design and architecture support, such as for UML. But the most successful of these tools are IDEs.

Computer-aided software engineering type of software tools

Computer-aided software engineering (CASE) is the domain of software tools used to design and implement applications. CASE tools are similar to and were partly inspired by computer-aided design (CAD) tools used for designing hardware products. CASE tools are used for developing high-quality, defect-free, and maintainable software. CASE software is often associated with methods for the development of information systems together with automated tools that can be used in the software development process.

Uses of programming tools

Translating from human to computer language

Modern computers are very complex and in order to productively program them, various abstractions are needed. For example, rather than writing down a program's binary representation a programmer will write a program in a programming language like C, Java or Python. Programming tools like assemblers, compilers and linkers translate a program from a human write-able and readable source language into the bits and bytes that can be executed by a computer. Interpreters interpret the program on the fly to produce the desired behavior.

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.

A compiler is a computer program that transforms computer code written in one programming language into another programming language. Compilers are a type of translator that support digital devices, primarily computers. The name compiler is primarily used for programs that translate source code from a high-level programming language to a lower level language to create an executable program.

Linker (computing) computer program producing executable programs

In computing, a linker or link editor is a computer utility program that takes one or more object files generated by a compiler and combines them into a single executable file, library file, or another 'object' file.

These programs perform many well defined and repetitive tasks that would nonetheless be time consuming and error-prone when performed by a human, like laying out parts of a program in memory and fixing up the references between parts of a program as a linker does. Optimizing compilers on the other hand can perform complex transformations on the source code in order to improve the execution speed or other characteristics of a program. This allows a programmer to focus more on higher level, conceptual aspects of a program without worrying about the details of the machine it is running on.

Making program information available for humans

Because of the high complexity of software, it is not possible to understand most programs at a single glance even for the most experienced software developer. The abstractions provided by high-level programming languages also make it harder to understand the connection between the source code written by a programmer and the actual program's behaviour. In order to find bugs in programs and to prevent creating new bugs when extending a program, a software developer uses some programming tools to visualize all kinds of information about programs.

A software bug is an error, flaw, failure or fault in a computer program or system that causes it to produce an incorrect or unexpected result, or to behave in unintended ways. The process of finding and fixing bugs is termed "debugging" and often uses formal techniques or tools to pinpoint bugs, and since the 1950s, some computer systems have been designed to also deter, detect or auto-correct various computer bugs during operations.

For example, a debugger allows a programmer to extract information about a running program in terms of the source language used to program it. The debugger can compute the value of a variable in the source program from the state of the concrete machine by using information stored by the compiler. Memory debuggers can directly point out questionable or outright wrong memory accesses of running programs which may otherwise remain undetected and are a common source of program failures.

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.

List of tools

Software tools come in many forms:

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.

Call graph

A call graph is a control flow graph, which represents calling relationships between subroutines in a computer program. Each node represents a procedure and each edge (f, g) indicates that procedure f calls procedure g. Thus, a cycle in the graph indicates recursive procedure calls.

In computer science, test coverage is a measure used to describe the degree to which the source code of a program is executed when a particular test suite runs. A program with high test coverage, measured as a percentage, has had more of its source code executed during testing, which suggests it has a lower chance of containing undetected software bugs compared to a program with low test coverage. Many different metrics can be used to calculate test coverage; some of the most basic are the percentage of program subroutines and the percentage of program statements called during execution of the test suite.


Integrated development environments combine the features of many tools into one package. They for example make it easier to do specific tasks, such as searching for content only in files in a particular project. IDEs may for example be used for development of enterprise-level applications.

Different aspects of IDEs for specific programming languages can be found in this comparison of integrated development environments.

See also

Related Research Articles

Computer programming process that leads from an original formulation of a computing problem to executable computer programs

Computer programming is the process of designing and building an executable computer program for accomplishing a specific computing task. Programming involves tasks such as: analysis, generating algorithms, profiling algorithms' accuracy and resource consumption, and the implementation of algorithms in a chosen programming language. The source code of a program is written in one or more languages. The purpose of programming is to find a sequence of instructions that will automate the performance of a task on a computer, often for solving a given problem. The process of programming thus often requires expertise in several different subjects, including knowledge of the application domain, specialized algorithms, and formal logic.

Integrated development environment software application used to develop software

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

In computer science, lexical analysis, lexing or tokenization is the process of converting a sequence of characters into a sequence of tokens. A program that performs lexical analysis may be termed a lexer, tokenizer, or scanner, though scanner is also a term for the first stage of a lexer. A lexer is generally combined with a parser, which together analyze the syntax of programming languages, web pages, and so forth.

In computing, code generation is the process by which a compiler's code generator converts some intermediate representation of source code into a form that can be readily executed by a machine.

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.

Syntax highlighting Tool of editors for programming, scripting and markup

Syntax highlighting is a feature of text editors that are used for programming, scripting, or markup languages, such as HTML. The feature displays text, especially source code, in different colors and fonts according to the category of terms. This feature facilitates writing in a structured language such as a programming language or a markup language as both structures and syntax errors are visually distinct. Highlighting does not affect the meaning of the text itself; it is intended only for human readers.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to software engineering:

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.

PurifyPlus is a memory debugger program used by software developers to detect memory access errors in programs, especially those written in C or C++. It was originally written by Reed Hastings of Pure Software. Pure Software later merged with Atria Software to form Pure Atria Software, which in turn was later acquired by Rational Software, which in turn was acquired by IBM, and then divested to UNICOM Systems, Inc. on Dec 31, 2014. It is functionally similar to other memory debuggers, such as Insure++, Valgrind and BoundsChecker.

In computer science, the term automatic programming identifies a type of computer programming in which some mechanism generates a computer program to allow human programmers to write the code at a higher abstraction level.

Open-source software development is the process by which open-source software, or similar software whose source code is publicly available, is developed by an open-source software project. These are software products available with its source code under an open-source license to study, change, and improve its design. Examples of some popular open-source software products are Mozilla Firefox, Google Chromium, Android, LibreOffice and the VLC media player. Open-source software development has been a large part of the creation of the World Wide Web as we know it, with Tim Berners-Lee contributing his HTML code development as the original platform upon which the internet is now built.

In computer programming jargon, a heisenbug is a software bug that seems to disappear or alter its behavior when one attempts to study it. The term is a pun on the name of Werner Heisenberg, the physicist who first asserted the observer effect of quantum mechanics, which states that the act of observing a system inevitably alters its state. In electronics the traditional term is probe effect, where attaching a test probe to a device changes its behavior.

Google Web Toolkit software

Google Web Toolkit, or GWT Web Toolkit, is an open-source set of tools that allows web developers to create and maintain complex JavaScript front-end applications in Java. Other than a few native libraries, everything is Java source that can be built on any supported platform with the included GWT Ant build files. It is licensed under the Apache License version 2.0.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to computer programming:

CodeLite integrated development environment

CodeLite is a free and open-source IDE for the C, C++, PHP, and JavaScript (Node.js) programming languages.

Debugging is the process of finding and resolving defects or problems within a computer program that prevent correct operation of computer software or a system.


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