Review: 6 Python IDEs go to the mat

See how IDLE, Komodo, LiClipse, PyCharm, Spyder, and Python Tools for Visual Studio stack up in capabilities and ease of use

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Of all the metrics you could use to gauge the popularity and success of a language, one surefire factor is the number of development environments available for it. Python’s rise in popularity over the last several years has brought with it a strong wave of IDE support, with tools aimed both at the general programmer and those who use Python for tasks like scientific work and analytical programming.

These six IDEs with Python support cover the gamut of use cases. Some are multilanguage IDEs that have Python support through an add-on or a repackaging of another product with Python-specific extensions. Each benefits a slightly different audience of Python developer, although many strive to be useful as universal solutions.

A good number of the IDEs today are frameworks outfitted with plugins for specific languages and tasks, rather than apps written from the inside out to foster development in a given language. To that end, your choice of IDE may be determined by whether or not you have experience with another IDE from the same family.

For those who don’t have such experience, PyCharm is one of the best places to start. It’s friendly to newcomers, but not hamstrung in its feature set. In fact, it sports some of the most useful features among all of the IDEs profiled here. Many of those features are available only in the for-pay version of the product, but there is plenty in the free version to help a fledgling developer get started.

LiClipse and the Python Tools for Visual Studio (PTVS) are good choices for developers already intimately familiar with Eclipse and Microsoft Visual Studio, respectively. Both are full-blown development environments -- as full-blown as you’re going to find -- that integrate Python quite nicely. However, they’re also sprawling, complex applications that come with a lot of cognitive overhead. If you’ve already mastered either of them, you’ll find it a great choice for Python work.

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