Never use an IDE…

Okay, that’s quite overstated. Actually I have to admit that I love working with good, fast and intelligent IDEs. But as much help as IDEs are, I’ve written several thousand lines of code without one and I think that can be a good idea. Let me explain.

Any time I learn a new language, I don’t use a full-blown IDE but just use a decent text editor.1 While the IDE gives instant feedback on compiler errors, a text editor at most draws your attention to syntax errors. That way I quickly gain intuition about whether my code will compile as I’m forced to check for errors mentally before compiling. On the other hand, IDEs usually offer quick fixes which – while a great help – don’t challenge you to write correct code in the first place.

Another reason to use only a text editor is code architecture. With an IDE you can quickly jump to method definitions, view module hierarchies or show function usages. But with a text editor you’re mostly on your own. In my experience this results in a clearer code architecture because you have to remember where you placed that class and what this function you’re calling does.

Of course, all of this comes with a cost attached. You’ll spend more time looking up method definitions and correcting simple mistakes every now and then. Still, the understanding of the language and of code architecture are worth enough to at the very least consider using just a text editor on your next hobby project.

What’s your stance on IDEs vs text editors? I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments below!

  1. Something like Sublime Text.

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