New to python, do I need an IDE or is vim still good enough?

Steven D'Aprano steve+comp.lang.python at
Fri Dec 28 05:15:10 CET 2012

On Thu, 27 Dec 2012 12:01:16 -0800, mogul wrote:

> 'Aloha!
> I'm new to python, got 10-20 years perl and C experience, all gained on
> unix alike machines hacking happily in vi, and later on in vim.
> Now it's python, and currently mainly on my kubuntu desktop.
> Do I really need a real IDE, as the windows guys around me say I do, or
> will vim, git, make and other standalone tools make it the next 20 years
> too for me?

You only *need* an IDE when your environment has feeble stand-alone 
tools, like Windows. As far as I am concerned, Unix (including Linux) is 
itself the ultimate in hot-plug IDEs.

My own preferred IDE is:

* The KDE editor Kate[1];

* For preference, KDE's Konsole with multiple tabs, although any decent 
terminal app will do:

- one tab for file system operations (e.g. renaming files) and source code
  control using hg or git;
- one for running the script or stand-alone application I am writing,
  e.g. "python", or if a library, for running unittests
  or doctests, e.g. "python -m doctest"
- at least one for running an interactive Python shell for testing code,
  reading documentation ("help(some_object)") etc.
- anything else needed e.g. monitoring system load with top, etc.

* A browser for searching the web and accessing the Python docs.

I've never really got into automatic refactoring tools, but if I needed 
something more powerful than my editor's Find And Replace, I would 
investigate Bicycle Repair Man, or Rope. At a pinch, there's always sed, 
although I'm not a sed expert. (I can just about spell it... *wink*)

I'm sure that IDEs have their good points, but in my experience whatever 
good points they have are overshadowed by the negatives (e.g. a clunky 
editor that doesn't respond instantly when you type). A Swiss Army Knife 
might be the best Swiss Army Knife money can buy, but in general it is no 
substitute for a toolbox filled with independent tools.

In sports, it is said that "a champion team will beat a team of 
champions", but in software the opposite is the case: a set of excellent 
single-purpose tools is usually more powerful than a single tool that 
tries to do it all.

Having said all that, if somebody has a personal preference for a 
specific IDE, then good for them, I certainly wouldn't tell them that 
they shouldn't use it.

[1] KDE 3 only. KDE 4 is unspeakable. Gedit from Gnome 2 is almost a good 


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