An IDE (Integrated Development Environment) is a single program that wraps everything you need to program with. An IDE usually consists of a code editor, debugger, and a compiler. A good IDE can make you more productive. Without a IDE you would be stuck writing all of your apps in notepad and compiling via command line – which is not bad for learning how to program. A good IDE has syntax highlighting which makes the code easier to read and error highlighting which makes finding that missing semi colon easier. Here is a list of three IDEs that work well for me.
Eclipse is a very popular programming IDE; however, it is harder to use than NetBeans. The largest benefit of Eclipse is that it has tons of templates for you to use. Eclipse also has a better GUI creation tool than NetBeans has.
I want to warn you that this is a old IDE. You hate yourself if you decide to use this program. The only reason I am putting this on my list is because I think it is great for teaching people how to program – it’s what my high school used. Unlike Eclipse and NetBeans, it gives you very little help when writing your code. There is no autocompletes or dropdowns when you are accessing members of an object. This does not even give you red highlights when you have a syntax error. What it instead shows you is the errors that you would receive in the command line when you compile this project. This is great for AP Computer Science students who have to memorize/learn what certain errors mean.
I have converted to a full time Intellij user since writing this article in 2015. This program is simply fantastic in every aspect – expect ram usage. If you have never heard of Intellij or any of the other JetBrains products I would highly recommend you check them out. The main reason I switched was because Intellij could scale nicely to 4k and NetBeans did not. The user experience overall feels nice.