Rating the 7 Top Python IDE’s in 2020

PyCharm has Competition

Jun 16 ·9min read

Photo by Hybrid on Unsplash

The IDE you use can completely change your experience when programming. Especially in the early days when you’re learning, you can find it quite challenging if the IDE you use isn’t geared towards solving the problem that you face.

At its best, programming is an expression of creativity because us, as researchers, we’re trying to solve big problems. And it’s that expression of creativity which keeps us wanting to solve problems, so we need good tools to do so.

An IDE (integrated development environment) is a software application that provides facilities to programmers for software development.

It’s what Microsoft Word is to Writers. It’s what Adobe Photoshop is to Creators. It’s where we do our work.

My own journey in programming started with the use of IDLE for years and years, before moving into Sublime Text Editor, then PyCharm and then Notebooks. However, there are a number of other IDE’s that we list below and are worth exploring.

In the following article, I’ll cover the following IDE’s for which I’ve given each a score based on my opinion. If you disagree with any, let me know!

  1. IDLE (5/10)
  2. Jupyter Notebooks (7/10)
  3. PyCharm (9/10)
  4. Sublime (6/10)
  5. Spyder (4/10 )
  6. Atom (7/10)
  7. Eric (8/10)

Photo by 青 晨 on Unsplash


IDLE was my first development environment when I started programming. I favoured it for a long time because partly, it was already installed on my computer, and also it was just easy to use.

My local Python IDLE IDE

As a beginner, you want to be able to see the fruits of your labour quite quickly, and the command line interface allows for just that. By using the IDE as a quasi calculator and quasi script runner meant that I could physically see what I was creating and I could see how every line of my code was important.

Now IDLE stands for “Integrated Development and Learning Environment”. It’s coded in 100% pure Python (using tkinter ), and is cross-platform: working mostly the same on Windows, Unix, and macOS. Its functionalities are as basic as they come, but include:

  • Colorising of code input, output, and error messages
  • multi-window text editor with multiple undo, smart indent, call tips, auto-completion, and other features
  • debugger with persistent breakpoints, stepping, and viewing of global and local namespaces

If you’re starting off on your journey into programming, I’d highly recommend using IDLE because you see the fruits of your labour quite quickly and as a beginner, you just want to be able to build quick, fail quick and iterate.

However, if you want to build anything substantive, it’s just a bit limited in what it offers. You’ll see later that your IDE should be geared towards the type of project you have (I’d split general coding into either scientific computing or production software) and IDLE is somewhere in between. Code debugging, project management, quick-searching, visual displays (and more) are all tasks that we regularly complete when coding and IDLE just doesn’t provide much in the way of these.

Given that, I give it a low score of 5/10. Easy to use, but not that expansive.