I love the Python programming language. I could spend hours explaining why it’s generally my go to language when coding something new but that’s not what I really want to touch on today. Today it’s about IDEs and editors.
IDE or editor selection is almost a cultish exercise. Developers break out into small societies around coding tools and banish those exhibiting wandering eyes towards tool lust. In some cases I’ve fallen into those patterns when I find a tool that I enjoy. It can be frustrating to have to uproot your development workflow to accommodate a new tool even when it’s obvious that after the initial learning curve the tool will make life easier. With all that said I am not stuck to any IDE or editor. I’m an IDE/editor swinger.
There are plenty of choices for Python, many of which I’ve used throughout the years. My problem is that all of those I’ve tried I always end up moving away from to one of the default editors: vim or emacs (in my case vim). For the heck of it this post is to go through the main reasons for the most recent movements back to vim.
IDEs and Editors
I used to joke that every 6 months I’d give Eclipse a try. It’s very popular in the Java programming world and has a great Python plugin called PyDev. However, Eclipse itself always feels sluggish even when I’m writing Java. Keep in mind I’m not on some old hardware which is limiting the IDE nor am I doing some corner case kind of usage. The sluggishness is not terrible either, but it’s noticeable reminding me that I’m using a very large piece of software. One of my thoughts is that if I notice the IDE/editor for anything other than a helpful feature then there is likely a problem.
NetBeans is not all that different than Eclipse in my mind. It’s a Java IDE which is extendable to other languages. Last time I tried NetBeans it was less sluggish than Eclipse. My main issue with NetBeans is I can never tell what is going one with the IDE. There was a pretty big push for first class Python support in NetBeans. I played with that IDE version for a while and, overall, liked it. Now searching python on the NetBeans site returns nothing. It seems like there are random community efforts to bring Python back into NetBeans but I want something that works well right now (no offense to any of the efforts!).
Another similar IDE is PyCharm. I have at least one fellow Python developer which swears by PyCharm and I can see why. It doesn’t seem sluggish even though it’s pretty large. It has a good feature set. But it has confusing proprietary licensing and the IDE is specific to the language. If you need to get some Ruby coding done then it’s a different JetBrains IDE and, I assume, another purchase and license agreement. That’s a bit frustrating!
Komodo IDE was one of the earlier Python IDEs I tried. I have to admit not trying it in a while, but last time I played with it I felt it was sluggish in a similar way to Eclipse. Like Eclipse it has a lot of plugins/add-ons available which is great but, then again, it’s proprietary and costs $382. Sort of a long term deal breaker right there.
The younger brother of Komodo IDE, Komodo Edit actually feels more useable to me. I believe it’s just the basic core of Komodo IDE, but that works in it’s favor. It seemed faster and kept out of my way. The initial start screen always feels clunky. However, the license is weird and is not listed on the FSF or OSI list. I guess it’s proprietary? Confusion is not a good thing.
This one kills me. Sublime Text is a fantastic editor. I really like it! The editor is very fast and has some unique features. It’s available on all three major computer platforms (Linux, Windows and OS X). The license is proprietary but is simple, understandable. I believe this may be a first. Though the fact it’s proprietary makes it a harder editor to make my default. If Sublime Text was Free Software or Open Source it would be my programming default editor.
This was a nice editor. I say was for Scribes because it looks like it is no longer actively developed. It’s a shame because it was a powerful and fast editor with an Open license. Even though it’s an older editor than Sublime Text I liked it for a lot of the same reasons. If this was still being worked on it would be my default programming editor.
PIDA was my default IDE for a while. If I was using an IDE it was likely to be PIDA. It was Open, had good plugins, fast, embedded Vim as the editor, said it loved me, etc.. However, the PIDA web site has disappeared and the last stable release was about 3 years ago. It seems like a8 may be the replacement but I’ve not had time to run with it yet.
Others To Look At
As I stated before I’d like to spend some time with a8. It looks like it’s X based only (Linux, BSD, etc..) which is fine for me since most all of my dev is on Linux. I’ve also seen a lot of talk about Ninja IDE and it looks promising though I’m generally not a fan of specific language IDEs since I am not always using the same language.
What Do You Use?
Seriously. If you are doing Python development regularly what are you using and why? What features have you found to be amazing and which ones are overrated marketing dribble? Am I the only guy who continues to go back to vim in this day and age?
2 thoughts on “Python IDE Woes”
I use [ahem] Spyder a lot. It is more meant to be like a Matlab terminal. It is great for data analysis and scripting. Not specifically suited for web development. Liking it so far. Was considering purchasing PyCharm.
I still use vim with a few plugins, namely vim-nerdtree and vim-jedi (provides rudimentary Python syntax and library lookups). Granted I am not a pure developer I just write small tools and programs to make running lots of large systems and infrastructure easier and more automated. I might need something more in the future but that’s gotten me along just fine.