👀 What is an IDE?

Before we begin coding it’s important to get you set up with an IDE. What exactly is this I D E you ask? IDE stands for Integrated Development Environment. To put it simply, it's a programming text editor (intensified). You may be thinking, Microsoft Word? Google Docs? Pages? Like those types of word editors? Well… it’s possible to write code in those but trust us when we tell you, that would be brutal. Why struggle through that incomprehensible jumble of characters when there are solutions to write cleaner, faster and better code. Here are the key capabilities within an IDE that provide reason for you to install one ASAP!

🔎 Why use it?

Your "environment" is the setting that you create your projects in! It's all the things that come together to help your projects run smoothly. 🌴

  • Syntax Highlighting and Autoformatting - One word: READABILITY, the most beneficial aspect of using a code editor! With built-in colour coding for different elements in a language and automatic indentation each line break, any programmer can easily read and refer back to any piece of code. Additionally, most code editors have built-in syntax checkers where errors will be underlined in a red squiggly line, halting your program from running until it's fixed!

Let’s take a look, text editor 🤩 vs. word editor 🤢


via VSCode


via Google Docs

Notice how easy it is to spot each component of the program in a coding environment whereas on a regular word editor you might easily glance past any comments amongst the code. In addition, the default nature of applications such as Google Docs may lead you to face compile errors due to case sensitivity.

  • Autocompletion - Predicts and fills in code as you write, streamlining your coding workflow!


IDE in use: IntelliJ IDEA

  • Debugging - When you find yourself faced with command line errors, an unrunnable program or one that doesn't perform correctly, IDEs provide tools to help you examine and trace your code. The environment will notify you of pre compilation syntax errors or allow you to set breakpoints for trickier bugs. Learn more from our debugging guide!

  • Unit Testing - Once you dive deeper into your software career you’ll learn about the importance of test driven design. Does your program pass all possible cases that it should? Your IDE can support testing frameworks for quality assurance purposes. Once again we'll be diving deeper into the world of testing later in our guide!

  • Version Control - Soon you’ll find many opportunities to collaborate with others on code, most IDEs can facilitate necessary commands (push, pull/update, commit, history, etc.) that allow you to keep up to date with your team without having to run another tool. Don’t worry if these terms are unfamiliar, we’ll cover them in our git guide!

The actual makeup of an IDE will vary from language to language and software to software. Overall, IDEs are an all-in-one editor where you can write, compile and debug code all in one place. With flexibility for add ons, the integration should be so seamless that you don’t need to leave your IDE to perform tasks. There are so many features to discover as you advance through your tech journey! ✨

🚀 How do I set up an environment?

OK, now out of the long list of IDEs you just googled for, which one do you download?? Here are some of our favourites, they’re versatile and flexible for all levels of experience!

Text editor suggestions:

Text editors are IDEs without the extra fluff. They may not be as “integrated” but are perfect development environment options as well. It’s a great place to start as they are easily accessible and quick to navigate. A quick download of your desired plugins and extension packs will leave the editor open to many functionalities. They’re not limited to a single language and still provide the beautiful colour coded formats and layouts. Your trusty text editor paired with the command line will accompany you throughout your whole CS career.

IDE suggestions:


As you can see, JetBrains offers a large list of IDEs for a variety of languages. Students can sign up to access the tools for free otherwise their products do come with a price tag so here are some free IDE alternatives:

Don’t be afraid to test each out, play around and see which one you’re most comfortable with! Welcome to the start of your programming journey! 🎉

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