Top 10 Python IDEs: Our Picks for Every Use Case
Increase your productivity by learning which IDE or code editor best suits your needs
Hey Grokking Python readers!
It’s true that you can write Python with a simple text editor, but a code editor (CE) or an integrated development environment (IDE) can do wonders for efficiency and general ease of use. However, it can be difficult to know which one is right for you: Which features are important? Which is best for your particular use case? Is it worth paying for one, or will a free one be just as good?
To help you find some clarity, this issue of Grokking Python will cover and compare 10 IDEs and code editors for everyone from the Python beginner to the seasoned veteran.
We’ll break down each entry with:
a quick synopsis
a list of pros and cons
an ideal use case.
At the end, you should hopefully be able to judge for yourself the right tool for the job!
IDES typically have larger downloads, greater hardware requirements, and more features. CEs, on the other hand, are more minimal and aim to streamline the process of writing code itself.
Best Python IDEs and CEs in 2022
The following list runs through our favorite Python IDEs and code editors. Some are Python exclusive, and others are compatible with multiple languages. Be sure to check out our top picks toward the bottom!
Before we jump into the list, some helpful features to look out for in both IDEs and CEs are code autocompletion, an integrated compiler, syntax highlighting, a built-in debugger, and the ability to save and reload your code.
10. IDLE (IDE)
IDLE is the default IDE installed with Python. It is lightweight and does not feature much customization to avoid overwhelming new users. It still includes the core features like a Python shell window, autocompletion, highlighting, smart indentation, and a basic debugging tool.
As a result of its bare-bones nature, IDLE does not have plugin support, meaning it can’t be expanded to meet changing needs. Additionally, cracks begin to show in IDLE’s performance when you start developing larger projects.
Included with Python
All essential tools are standard
Simple to pick up and use
No visual customization
No plugin support
Poor performance on large projects
Use case: You’re new to Python development and want to practice basic projects without setting anything up.
9. Atom (CE)
The main drawback of Atom is that it is unpolished. Unfortunately, updates have slowed since Microsoft acquired Github in 2018. Compared to some other CEs on this list Atom has a slow startup time and some occasional performance issues.
Usable out of the box
Easily customizable through plugins
Slow startup time
Some essential features (debugger, code building, etc) must be added via plugin
Use case: You want a free CE with plenty of customization options without spending too much time fine-tuning them.
8. VIM (CE)
Vim is a classic code editor built as a successor to VI. It is known for having a steep learning curve but serious payoffs. It is readily updated but rarely sees glaring changes.
Vim has nearly no UI by default and is operated entirely through the keyboard. This means you can use VIMscripts to customize anything in the tool from appearance to keyboard shortcuts.
Fully customizable with VIMscripts
Efficient keyboard controls
Notoriously difficult to learn for beginners
Individualization is a highly involved process
Use case: You’re familiar with VI and keyboard controls or you want the most efficient and customizable code editor regardless of the learning curve.
7. PyDev (IDE)
PyDev is an open-source, Python-exclusive IDE plugin available for the Java IDE, Eclipse. PyDev comes with all of Eclipse’s built-in features and adds support for Python autocompletion, an interactive console, and debugging.
Quick to pick up for current Eclipse users
Optimized for Django web dev
Supports Jython and Cython
Limited functionality as a plugin
Noticeable learning curve if not familiar with Eclipse
Use case: You have some experience with Eclipse already and intend to use Python as a secondary language for web development or open-source contributions.
Now it’s time for all of our top picks! Each of the following IDEs or CEs demonstrate at least one quality that set them apart.
6. Visual Studio (IDE) - best autocomplete
Visual Studio is a general IDE that supports Python as well as a range of other programming languages. It has an extension marketplace similar to Atom. You can even add plugins to allow support for web dev tools like Flask or Django. Visual Studio comes out of the box with some extensive features like built-in support for Git, a built-in terminal, and comprehensive unit test tools.
One of Visual Studio’s most popular features is IntelliCode, an incredibly helpful, AI-powered autocomplete tool. The download is quite large, but it is definitely worth it, especially if you code in multiple languages.
Visual studio also has a popular lightweight and versatile CE called Visual Studio Code (VS Code)
Full of initial features
Usable for many platforms and languages
Extra perks (DevOps tools, customer support) behind a paywall
Steep computing consumption for use with just Python
Use case: You’re a dedicated developer who changes languages regularly, wants one tool for all your programming needs, and isn’t dissuaded by having extra features locked behind a paywall.
5. Codespaces (CE) - best for team projects
Codespaces is a relatively new cloud-based cross-platform CE. It runs the previously mentioned code editor, Visual Studio Code (VS Code), entirely in your browser. Codespaces includes a browser-based text editor and support for Git repositories, extensions, and a built-in command-line interface.
The browser-based approach of Codespaces makes it perfect for team projects and collaborative coding efforts. It eliminates the need for passing around file copies or a secondary shared tool. You can even work offline and Codespaces will update when a connection is reestablished.
With no install or setup, and unmatched usability on any device, Codespaces is extremely convenient and efficient. However, it has limited customization options and is a relatively new software that may be going through changes like a future added paywall to certain features.
Great for team projects
Usable on any device
Integrated with Github
5 workspaces limit
Use case: You’re a developer that often works on team projects and doesn’t mind limited customization options.
4. Sublime Text 3 (CE) - best performance
Sublime text is a highly responsive code editor that supports multiple versions of Python and allows you to set your version for each project. Sublime is nearly unbeatable in speed, loading all but the largest files instantly.
Sublime’s other claim to fame is its extensive customization through user-built plug-in packages.
These plugins let you change nearly everything about the code editor from appearance to error finding, code completion, and even additional language support.
Great for multitasking
High degree of customization
Complicated to add plugins
Vanilla version missing key features
Use case: You’re a developer who values performance and personalization, and is not afraid to take the time to set it all up.
3. Spyder (IDE) - best for data science
Spyder is a Python specific IDE designed for data scientists and machine learning engineers. It is included with software distribution, Anaconda, along with popular Python libraries like Scikit-learn, Mumpy, Matplotlib, Scipy, and Pandas.
It includes great standard features like: autocompletion, a powerful debugger, iPython shell, and limited data visualization tools. Spyder is specifically optimized for data science and therefore interfaces perfectly with all the top tools. It has fewer tools than more extensive IDEs like PyDev and instead provides a straightforward, easy to use tool for non-developers
Helpful debugging tools for non-developers
Simple to install and integrate with top libraries
Tailored data science tools
Few customization options
Limited functionality outside of data science application
Use case: You use Python solely for data science or machine learning and want an IDE specifically tailored to your needs.
2. Thonny (IDE) - most beginner friendly
Thonny is a free Python-exclusive IDE designed as the ideal environment for beginners. It has a simple UI and comes with highlighting, autocompletion, debugging, and auto-formatting. Thonny also has unique beginner-focused features like a variable value tracker displayed next to the main editor.
The main downside of Thonny is that it lacks features of more advanced IDEs like PyCharm. Consequently, you’ll have to transition to another IDE once your programs become more complicated.
Optimized for beginners with all the best features
Customizable through menus
Missing more specialized tools
Doesn’t perform as well when compared to advanced IDEs
Use case: You’re a newer Python developer that wants more features than those offered by IDLE, but still don’t want to jump into a more involved IDE yet.
1. PyCharm (IDE) - best ready-to-use IDE
PyCharm is one of the most popular cross-platform IDEs built exclusively for Python. It is developed and regularly updated by the trusted company, Jetbrains.
PyCharm comes out of the box with all the best tools: version control, code refactoring, and of course, error-highlighting and autocompletion. The code suggestions especially are widely regarded as some of the most helpful when compared to other IDEs.
The main tradeoff when it comes to PyCharm is price and program weight. PyCharm has a free, pared-down option that is optimized for data science. The paid option ($100-200 per year) includes heavier tools for web development and other Python applications. PyCharm is a heavy download that uses a lot of VRAM to function, so some older machines may struggle to run it.
No setup required
Tools for all types of Python development as standard
Hefty price tag for the fully featured version
Performance is heavily dependent on hardware
Use case: You’re a Python developer that’s willing to pay for access to the best tools available without setup or installing plugins.
So you picked the right Python IDE for you. Now what?
Hopefully this newsletter helped you determine your ideal Python environment. Now the best thing you can do is start learning!
It is important to have your IDE of choice, but when it comes to learning Python on Educative everything is executable right in your browser, so you don’t have to worry about hopping back and forth from a coding course to third party software.
If you’re looking for comprehensive instruction in Python, Educative has created the Python for Programmers learning path to help you pick up Python quickly and easily. This path features everything Python from fundamentals and OOP designs, to advanced concepts like SQL integrates, asyncio, and web API implementation.
By the end of the path you’ll have all the coding experience you need to ace a Python interview!
If you’re looking for Python content that isn’t developer focused you can check out the course Practical Guide to Python for Scientists and Engineers.
As always, happy learning!