IDE Vs Text Editor (Which Is Best For You?)

IDE vs Text Editor - Which is best for you?

Much of the work you will accomplish in the course of updating and maintaining websites can be made significantly easier through the use of a good text editor or integrated development environment (IDE). Who doesn’t want to work smarter instead of harder? If you are using some default text editor or web interface for editing system files, it’s like digging a hole with a spoon instead of a hydraulic-powered backhoe. It makes that much difference.

IDE Vs Text Editor

The battle of bugs and features rages on, moving on toward nothing in particular, but providing hours of entertainment.

I’ve been using Emacs for about five years now, while many of my contemporaries swear by Vim. These are both plain text editors with different “modes” of operation to afford the user with helpful features and commands.

Meanwhile, others have recommended Microsoft Visual Studio Code (VSC), which is an integrated development environment (IDE).

The differences between these two worlds of work amount to much more than features, but rather speak to radically different ways to approach one’s daily tasks.

The Benefits of Integrated Development Environments

The integrated development environment offers a few attractive perks over the plain text editor.

First of all, an IDE usually (but not always) centers around one programming language (or related languages). For example, a web IDE will offer special features relevant to HTML, PHP, CSS, and JavaScript. These languages are all a little different, but they work nicely together in building a website.

There are features that would be incredibly helpful to a web designer that would not be relevant for a C++ programmer. So much the better, to each of these there are multiple IDE options, and to each unique features.

Also, IDEs build in extra functionality that is complimentary to the task of coding a large project, such as version control. Most IDEs now offer integrations for popular version control systems like Git. With a few clicks, you can add files to version control, commit, and push to local or remote repositories.

If version control is not for you, many IDEs offer file transfer protocol (FTP) support, so you can upload your files right up to your server with a few clicks.

Because many IDEs offer high-level features and support, they come at a premium. Microsoft VSC is probably the most highly regarded free IDE. You also have NetBeans (from Apache) and Eclipse (from the Eclipse Foundation). JetBrains represents an entire class of paid IDEs, and for many the costs are easily justified.

The choice of whether to invest in a paid IDE or a free one depends on the user. For many, having paid support available can justify the costs. For others, who want to jump into something free with minimal investment, you just can’t argue with free.

The Benefits of Plain Text Editors

We can include a lot of different text editors in this category. Basically, anything that is not an IDE can be considered a plain text editor. As you read above, integrated development environments add multiple layers of complexity to your coding experience. They are designed to anticipate the work you need to do, so they can better assist you. For some users and some applications, this type of help is critical and saves a lot of time. But yet, for others, it can be a major hindrance, and it can get in the way.

On the flip side, starting with a plain text editor, and only adding complexity as needed, proves to be a worthy alternative to the integrated development environment.

Among the most popular of such plain text editors, you have (from least to most complex):

  • Gedit
  • Sublime
  • Nano
  • Vim
  • Emacs

There are many options to choose from. Many of these plain text editors have unique features that can be duplicated elsewhere. But the reverse is also true, some text editors, by their design, may include features that simply cannot be ported anywhere else.

This is why some prefer to put forth the many hours necessary in learning one of the more complex text editors and integrating features into them. For example, Sublime Text allows you to highlight multiple lines and edit them simultaneously. This feature can be easily duplicated in Vim and Emacs, but may require more customizing to get working in Gedit or Nano, which are newer and (based on personal observation) have smaller communities of active users.

No matter your preference, picking up and developing your skills with a text editor or IDE can save you a lot of time when completing otherwise mundane website tasks.

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