Integrated Development Environments for App Development

Developer is working on laptop

Many app developers do not have the financial resources to employ a large team of programmers and rely on multitools known as Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) to develop an application. An IDE is a software program designed to ease web and app development. Though IDEs are not essential for app development, they are useful tools that can help developers create dynamic and vibrant mobile apps.

What does an IDE do?

There are four main components of an IDE: the source code editor, a compiler, an automation builder, and an debugger. The source code editor is basically a text editor, the environment where programmers write the source code. The compiler takes this source code and compiles it into an interpretable and executable program. The automation builder is a tool within the IDE that helps developers automate certain processes so that they are not all run by hand. Lastly, the debugger is a process that helps to identify errors and bugs in the source code that will gunk up the app or prevent it from running entirely. All together these tools help turn source code into an executable app and significantly reduce the amount of time needed for debugging.

When to use an IDE?

Developers will always have the option to write code by hand without the assistance of compilers or debuggers, and there is real merit in doing so when first learning a programming language. However, once they have learned the ins and outs of the language, this approach can be time-consuming. The IDE can be thought of as equivalent to a calculator; though we should all understand how to do multiplication by hand, sometimes it is nice to have a tool that automates the calculation and saves time. So when is it appropriate to use and IDE? The consensus among developers seems to be that the time is always right, with a few exceptions.

Not all IDEs are compatible with the language used for mobile app development, so if an app’s language does not match the IDE, it would not be prudent to continue using it. Also, some IDEs are free, but some can be quite expensive. Depending on the project’s budget, it may not be worth the expense to purchase to an IDE compatible with the app being developed. Mobile apps can certainly be developed without an IDE, but in general, they are useful and time-saving software.

What are some good IDEs to use?

Before choosing an IDE to use, it is important to verify that it can execute the language used to write the app. There are also IDEs specific to either iOS or Android apps.  Android Studio is the in-house IDE developed by Android for app development. Android Studio can be run on Windows, Mac, or Linux machines. XCode is the Apple IDE used for app development of iOS apps on iPhones and iPads. XCode was developed for use on a Mac and won’t run on Windows without a virtual machine.

Developing for iOS will usually require using the XCode IDE, but there are a plethora of options, both free and at cost, for Android IDEs. Android Studio is Google’s recommended IDE, but other IDEs like Terminal IDE, Eclipse, and IntelliJ all have devoted followings as well.