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I know this has been asked..but I cant find a clear answer. Many advanced programmers prefer text editors, but for me IDE's make things much faster. I've been using eclipse for a year and using a text editor is a pain. I know what to do, but I need to look up import statements and all. Also, I find that having to go to the terminal and compiling and running is annoying. In what situations would a text editor be preferred or necessary.


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But do you know any good text editors? Specifically, do you know Emacs? There are a lot of tasks that are easy in Emacs and extremely painful in Eclipse. But Eclipse wins for refactoring Java. –  kevin cline Aug 1 '13 at 4:01
You're probably not using the full power of eclipse. You can make eclipse run external tools (such as terminal and compile commands) if you're not using one of its natively supported languages (e.g. Java). I use Eclipse for 3 different languages and don't have to leave it to do anything. –  Deco Aug 1 '13 at 4:09
recommended reading: Gorilla vs Shark –  gnat Aug 1 '13 at 4:48
@JaceBrowning Thats not really on-topic. As an aside the OP obviously didn't search very hard –  Lego Stormtroopr Aug 1 '13 at 6:25
"Many advanced programmers" - for example? It might be an age thing. –  Den Aug 1 '13 at 8:11
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marked as duplicate by gnat, BЈовић, Kilian Foth, Ozz, m3th0dman Aug 1 '13 at 8:06

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3 Answers

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It's almost always a matter of personal preference; use whatever makes you feel the most productive. However, if you're using an IDE it's still important to understand what commands it runs behind the scenes for built/test/etc.

Some advanced programmers preferred shell-based editors (vim, emacs, etc.) because their operations are fully-mapped to the keyboard and not having to touch the mouse makes their typing/navigation faster. Shell-based editors also integrate well with other shell utilities.

You may also find yourself in situations where the only available editor is shell-based, such as on an embedded system or headless server.

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IDE's and Text Editors are fundamentally different tools that each have their strengths and weaknesses. Some that immediately come to mind are:


  • Strengths
    • Integrated testing
    • Compilation
    • Breakpoints/stepping through code
    • Integration with other services (database views), automated class diagrams
  • Weaknesses
    • Large memory footprint
    • Cost

Text Editor

  • Strengths
    • Fast
    • Easy to extend (macros, plugins)
    • Text edit functions (Ex: sublime text 2 unending keyboard shortcuts)
  • Weaknesses
    • Need to use another service to compile
    • low support for code completion (intellisense features)

Because of the differences, one is usually the right choice over another for a certain project or language. For example: For a Asp.net web application, visual studio is probably the only choice in terms of code generation, debugging, connectivity with a SQLServer database, and version control. In a contrasting example: parsing huge log files seems more suited to a language like perl, which can be easily written in a tool like vim.

I'm sure there are many other reasons, but from experience using both, these seemed like some obvious reasons.

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by this definition I think you could say that emacs is an IDE –  jk. Aug 1 '13 at 15:28
@MichaelJasper..Thank You...so i will only know which one to use depending on the project? –  XcutionX Aug 1 '13 at 17:36
@jk. No no no, emacs is an OS :) I'm typing this from its browser –  jozefg Aug 1 '13 at 19:23
@jozefg: "Don't get me wrong: Emacs is a great operating system – it lacks a good editor, though." - Thomer M. Gil :) –  TommyA Aug 1 '13 at 21:14
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To be true I use both at once (NetBeans as IDE and jEdit as text editor).

For editing Java files an IDE has advantages as autocomplete and automatic compiling.

For editing auxilary files a text editor with rich editing features can have advantages.

I think that there is no clear answer towards one or the oher.

In programming tutorials you read often to use a text editor in the beginning as with this the beginner can learn the workflow behind the IDE an also get not confused by the IDEs features.

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