Making the decision to learn to code is both an overwhelming and exciting process! Since you’re researching your resources, you’ve most likely decided which programming language you want to use. If your decision is Python, then you’ve come to the right place!
Python is a very versatile language, easy to learn, fun to master, and extremely capable. It’s open source (meaning anyone can change and use the code), has a large array of modules and plugins for users to utilize, and it’s fast. All this together makes Python an ideal language to learn if your goal is to be able to work on large scale or commercial projects without overwhelming yourself in the learning process.
However, in order to learn Python, you need to have the necessary tools. Using either a well designed text editor or an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) is crucial to your coding experience. As you may have already reviewed, there are quite a few options on the market! A couple of the more popular options are Visual Studio (VS) Code and PyCharm.
Both PyCharm and VSCode are excellent resources for coding with Python, so making the decision between the two may be a difficult process! By the time you’re finished with this article, our hope is that you’ll have all the technical knowledge you need to make the right decision for yourself. Let’s begin with the basics.
What’s an IDE? (And what’s not?)
To understand a fundamental difference between PyCharm and VSCode, we must understand what each program is by nature. Pycharm is what’s called an IDE, otherwise known as an Integrated Development Environment. IDEs are a set of tools that work together. Typically, these tools include a text editor, compiler, and debugging tools that allow you to code, run, and debug the code all into one environment. IDEs are extremely versatile and capable, but they come with some disadvantages.
When it comes to coding, your computer is your office and your screen is your workspace. Most people tend to think more clearly when their workspace is clean. This is where IDEs can be rather cumbersome. IDEs are full of functional elements, but, as mentioned by Atomic Object, the vast amount of modules can actually take away from efficient text editing, making it difficult to work on larger scale projects. They also tend to only support one or two languages. In circumstances where you need a cleaner working space, or require using more than one language, a wonderfully put together text editor, like VSCode, is exactly the tool you need to complete your task efficiently.
At this point, you may be asking: “What’s the difference between an IDE and a text editor?” While an IDE does everything from text editing to compiling, a text editor just edits…well…text. Text editors are generally fairly straight forward programs streamlined for quick text editing in a clean format. Different text editors will have different plugins, extensions, and programming styles that you can adapt to how you think, and what you’re hoping to do with your code.
Deciding if you would rather have an IDE or a text editor will affect your decision between PyCharm and VSCode, but not as dramatically as you might think. Confused? Fret not! Keep reading and we’ll explain.
PyCharm as Your Python IDE
One of the top-rated IDEs for Python is PyCharm. The reason for this is that PyCharm was specifically created for Python; therefore, all plugins, extensions, and extra features are specifically targeted toward streamlining the process of coding with Python. PyCharm is pre-integrated with different series of Python libraries, and databases including Oracle (the entity that owns Java) and MySQL. It also has a very helpful auto-completion tool which, once you understand what you’re trying to do with your code, can accelerate the time you spend writing and editing your code.
PyCharm also features an excellent debugger that auto-fills fixes and recommends fixes. And, since the program is, in itself, a compiler, there’s no switching windows between editing and checking for bugs. This makes the entire process much more elegant, reducing the time spent on what is often considered the most annoying aspect of coding.
Seeing that PyCharm is so tailored to the Python experience, you might expect there to be no downsides. However, there are a few issues worth noting. As explained by Arbisoft, PyCharm runs heavy. It consumes as much as 1GB per minute simply sitting idle, not to mention a noticeable wait time as the software boots up. While losing speed and some power isn’t too great a price to pay, the fully equipped version of PyCharm is. Sitting at $199/year, the Unlimited Pro version of PyCharm is a hefty piece of software at an equally hefty price. There is a free version available on the market, but it basically reduces the program to a basic level Python IDE. You still get debugging and compiling, and, according to i-Programmer, even some of the auto-fill features remain. However, you lose access to some of the databases, and duplicate code detection offered in the Unlimited Pro Version.
Even with the intense price tag, PyCharm is an amazing program designed to handle Python in the most graceful manner possible. The goal of the software is to provide a platform for users to quickly and efficiently create and modify large amounts of Python code and maximize their time while programming. With the features implemented in PyCharm, we say they’ve done a pretty good job! But, how do PyCharm’s charming features line up with Visual Studio Code’s powerhouse of tools?
VSCode doing Virtually Anything
As mentioned earlier, VSCode is technically a text editor. However, the lines between its text editing functions and IDE-like capabilities are slightly blurred. VSCode is commonly mistaken as an IDE because, as stated by a helpful user on Stack Overflow, VSCode has a debugger, and it’s able to compile certain languages. However, Visual Studio Code’s compilation abilities rely on plugins. Therefore, since the compiler isn’t technically an integrated part of the system, and since VSCode supports a considerably wide variety of languages instead of specializing in just a couple, it is not technically an IDE.
All that being said, VSCode is surprisingly comparable to PyCharm. Both programs have code completion, Git integration, and highly useful debugging software. VSCode, while lacking some of the more specialized features of PyCharm (like Django support), VSCode is ready to go out of the box, but a far lighter program to run than PyCharm. And, while PyCharm has only around 1700 plugins, VSCode totals over 16,000 meaning there are nearly endless possibilities to play with.
Lastly, in comparison, is the price. Visual Studio Code is a completely free software, which means you have access to thousands of resources and a totally customizable experience without paying anything upfront or dealing with a recurring charge, as is the case of PyCharm.
So why wouldn’t you choose VSCode? Well, as stated from user experience, PyCharm is simply a more powerful and ready-to-go experience with database integration that VSCode simply doesn’t offer. As he described, the tools available for PyCharm simply feel more “mature” and better equipped to handle high-level Python programming compared to the plugins and extensions offered by VSCode.
Visual Studio Code or PyCharm: Picking for Python
Both PyCharm and VSCode are open source, meaning anyone can contribute ideas, plugins, and extensions to the programs for others to utilize. They offer easy to learn solutions and both have multi-platform support, meaning you can use either program no matter if your operating system is Windows, Mac, or Linux. So what will it be? Pycharm, with its high price tag but highly valuable tools, or VSCode for a free experience but a little less specialized functionality? The decision is yours, the power is in your hands. What do you want to do with your new skills?