What IDE Means and How Programmers Use It to Build Web Apps

Using an Integrated Development Environment

IDE screenshot

 Diego Sarmentero CC 3.0/Wikimedia 

An IDE or Integrated Development Environment is a software program that is designed to help programmers and developers build software. Most IDEs include:

  • a source code editor
    A source code editor is similar to an HTML text editor. It is where programmers write the source code for their programs.
  • a compiler and/or an interpreter
    A compiler compiles the source code into an executable program and an interpreter runs programs and scripts that don't need to be compiled.
  • build automation tools
    Build automation tools help automate the processes that need to happen with most software development like compiling, debugging, and deployment.
  • a debugger
    Debuggers help pinpoint the exact spot where there is a problem in the source code.

If all you build are static websites (HTML, CSS, and perhaps some JavaScript) you may be thinking “I don’t need any of that!” And you would be right. An IDE is overkill for web developers that only build static websites.

But if you do or want to build web applications, or convert your applications to mobile applications, you might want to think again before dismissing the idea of an IDE out of hand.

How to Find a Good IDE

Since you are building web pages, the first thing you should find out is if the IDE you are considering supports HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. If you are trying to build a web application, you will need some HTML and CSS. You might be able to get by without JavaScript, but that is unlikely. Then you should think about the language you need the IDE for, this might be:

  • Java
  • C/C++/C#
  • Perl
  • Ruby
  • Python

And there are many others. The IDE should be able to compile or interpret the language you prefer to use as well as debug it.

Do Web Application Developers Need an IDE?

Ultimately, no. In most cases, you can build a web application in standard web design software, or even a plain text editor without any trouble. And for most designers, an IDE will add more complexity without adding a lot of value. The fact is that most web pages and even most web applications are built using programming languages that don’t need to be compiled.

So a compiler is unnecessary. And unless the IDE can debug JavaScript the debugger isn’t going to be much use either. Build automation tools rely on the debugger and compiler so they don’t add much value. So the only thing that most web designers would use in an IDE is the source code editor—for writing HTML. And in most cases, there are text HTML editors that provide more features and are more useful.

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Kyrnin, Jennifer. "What IDE Means and How Programmers Use It to Build Web Apps." ThoughtCo, May. 25, 2021, thoughtco.com/what-is-an-ide-3471199. Kyrnin, Jennifer. (2021, May 25). What IDE Means and How Programmers Use It to Build Web Apps. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-an-ide-3471199 Kyrnin, Jennifer. "What IDE Means and How Programmers Use It to Build Web Apps." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-an-ide-3471199 (accessed March 28, 2023).