[Baypiggies] What am I missing using a text editor with some good Python features instead of an IDE?

Dirk Bergstrom dirk at otisbean.com
Tue Mar 6 20:14:31 CET 2012

On 03/06/2012 10:19 AM, Paul Hoffman wrote:
> However, I haven't used any of the free/paid Python IDEs, and I
> realized that I might be missing some Really Cool Features that would
> cause me to use an IDE for my Python work and my text editor for the
> rest of the text work (like the HTML files documenting the Python...).
> What useful features am I missing?

Here's a top-of-my-head list of what I like about using Eclipse with Pydev:

*) As-you-type highlighting of syntax errors, undefined variables, and a 
host of other showstopper bugs.  Almost eliminates the run-fail-edit-run 
loop of weeding out typos and other stupidities.

*) Integration with source control.  Changed code is highlighted in the 
margins and the scrollbar.  Hover to see diffs.  I use this to keep 
track of where I've been working in a file so I can easily scroll 
between different sections of code I'm munging.

*) Library-aware autocompletion, with parameters.  Various other snazzy 
autocompletion and autoindenting features.

*) Hover over a class/method/function name to see docstring and/or 
source code.  Hit F3 to go to source (even if it's in the standard library).

*) Interactive visual debugger.

*) There's an amazing set of Emacs keybindings for Eclipse 
(http://www.mulgasoft.com/).  Pretty much every feature I ever cared 
about when I was a daily Emacs user.  AFAIK there isn't a decent Vi mode 

*) Eclipse has similar support for Javascript, CSS, HTML, Java, C, etc.. 
  So I can get this sort of help for all the code in my web apps.

The downside is that with great power comes great resource consumption. 
  IDEs hoover up RAM and CPU like nobody's business.  Remember when 
people said of Emacs "Eight Megs And Constantly Swapping"?  Multiply 
that by 100 and you've got today's IDE.  They also, like any serious 
software ecosystem, require a certain amount of care and feeding.  I 
think the tradeoff is worthwhile, but it's definitely not a free lunch.

The particular IDE you choose is a matter of taste, but I believe most 
programmers will be more productive using an IDE.  IMNSHO anyone coding 
in Java without an IDE is certifiably insane.  For Python it's not so 
clear cut but I would certainly never go back to Emacs, powerful as it is.

> Yes, this could cause a "my IDE is best" war, but I think some of us
> on the sidelines would benefit. :-)

Holy War!  Raise the sword of Emacs and smite the Vi unbelievers!

I get the impression that Eclipse has been surpassed in ease of use and 
stability by other IDEs, but I've been using it for a decade now, and 
I'm not excited about climbing the learning curve on a different package.

Dirk Bergstrom
dirk at otisbean.com

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