Skip to main content

My Thoughts on VS Code vs. WebStorm, PyCharm, IntelliJ, etc.

I spend a lot of time futzing with editors and IDEs. To be honest, I'm pretty compulsive obsessive about the whole thing. I can watch YouTube videos for hours studying how each works and why people like them. One question that I really wanted to tackle is "Are there ways in which VS Code is actually better (i.e. more productive) than WebStorm, PyCharm, IntelliJ, etc."

I think this video Moving from WebStorm to VSCode does a pretty good job tackling this question, but I remain unconvinced.

I think there are three things I miss the most in VS Code compared to PyCharm, WebStorm, IntelliJ, etc.:

1. The Find window is much better in PyCharm. I can search for something in order to do a cross-project refactor. As I go through each entry, I don't lose my place in the find results, even if I have to edit the code for a few minutes. (Trying to do the same in VS Code is a fairly frustrating experience.) If I need to search for something else, I can save the results in a new tab without losing the original search. This is really important if the refactor takes me a few days, and I need to leave the results open the whole time. I can have a whole "stack" of completely different search results in different tabs.

2. The Git support in PyCharm is far more complete and advanced. The rebase flow is incredibly well done, especially when dealing with conflicts.

3. When I went to go rename a variable in Python in VS Code, it complained that I hadn't installed rope. It's well known that rope isn't nearly as good as what PyCharm has built in. My point is that VS Code works really well for TypeScript and JavaScript, but I think IntelliJ's "infrastructure" makes it better for a whole range of languages. An extension written by a third-party developer is no match for something done very well by the company itself at a foundational level. I'll admit that the guy who wrote the Python extension for VS Code just got hired by Microsoft, which is good, but I think my point still stands.

These arguments in favor of VS Code are not very persuasive to me:

1. I don't really care that it starts fast. So does Vi. I rarely restart PyCharm, so waiting, let's say, 15 seconds once a week or so is irrelevant when I consider all the time it saves me throughout the day.

2. I don't get excited by VS Code's themes. One good light theme and one good dark theme is really all that matters to me. Anything more is an invitation to yak shave--which, as you can see, I'm already prone to :-P

3. I don't buy the fact that VS Code is an "editor with a few features from an IDE". It's an IDE. It has an editor, an integrated shell, integrated version control, an integrated debugger, integrated linting, etc. Calling it anything other than an IDE just doesn't make sense to me. Nor does saying that it's lightweight make sense since it's based on Electron which is itself based on millions of lines of C++.

4. Saying that it can do a lot of the things PyCharm does doesn't convince me that it's better than PyCharm.

5. It's a little frustrating to me that people are prejudiced against PyCharm because it's written in Java. VS Code runs on top of Electron (i.e. a browser engine). Java and JavaScript are both based on VMs written in C++. And here's the kicker: they were both written by a lot of the same people. V8 was written by a bunch of ex-Sun people working at Google :-P

At the end of the day, after very careful consideration, the only irrefutable arguments in favor of VS Code, in my mind, compared to PyCharm, WebStorm, IntelliJ, etc. are that:

1. It's free and open source.

2. It's hot right now.

So here are my thoughts:

1. Don't be afraid to learn new things. Don't let prejudices like "it's an IDE", "it's written in Java", "it's written by Microsoft", or "it'll take longer than an hour to learn it" hold you back.

2. If you work with a large team, there may be a benefit to using what other people around you are using, especially if they've set it up really nicely and committed the configuration to the repo.

3. In general, for very large codebases that you're getting paid to work on, there are a lot of benefits to using WebStorm, PyCharm, IntelliJ, etc. If you spend a fair amount of time doing very large refactors, the cost of PyCharm in terms of learning curve and money will be more than justified.

4. If you just want something to use for a small project or you want people at a workshop you're teaching to have something sensible, VS Code makes a lot of sense.


jjinux said…
This was syndicated to DZone:
Unknown said…
nice, but as an FYI to readers, IntelliJ Community Edition is Open Source, really all you're doing is paying for some awesome plugins. If the community wanted to write community editions of say, the spring plugin, I'm sure they could. I use the Ignore plugin and it's not provided by jetbrains. Found this wondering if it was worth it to look into VSCode for Java, and sounds like "not yet".
jjinux said…
I wouldn't use VS Code over IntelliJ for Java.

I wouldn't use the community edition of IntelliJ unless I really couldn't afford the commercial version.

Popular posts from this blog

Drawing Sierpinski's Triangle in Minecraft Using Python

In his keynote at PyCon, Eben Upton, the Executive Director of the Rasberry Pi Foundation, mentioned that not only has Minecraft been ported to the Rasberry Pi, but you can even control it with Python . Since four of my kids are avid Minecraft fans, I figured this might be a good time to teach them to program using Python. So I started yesterday with the goal of programming something cool for Minecraft and then showing it off at the San Francisco Python Meetup in the evening. The first problem that I faced was that I didn't have a Rasberry Pi. You can't hack Minecraft by just installing the Minecraft client. Speaking of which, I didn't have the Minecraft client installed either ;) My kids always play it on their Nexus 7s. I found an open source Minecraft server called Bukkit that "provides the means to extend the popular Minecraft multiplayer server." Then I found a plugin called RaspberryJuice that implements a subset of the Minecraft Pi modding API for B

Ubuntu 20.04 on a 2015 15" MacBook Pro

I decided to give Ubuntu 20.04 a try on my 2015 15" MacBook Pro. I didn't actually install it; I just live booted from a USB thumb drive which was enough to try out everything I wanted. In summary, it's not perfect, and issues with my camera would prevent me from switching, but given the right hardware, I think it's a really viable option. The first thing I wanted to try was what would happen if I plugged in a non-HiDPI screen given that my laptop has a HiDPI screen. Without sub-pixel scaling, whatever scale rate I picked for one screen would apply to the other. However, once I turned on sub-pixel scaling, I was able to pick different scale rates for the internal and external displays. That looked ok. I tried plugging in and unplugging multiple times, and it didn't crash. I doubt it'd work with my Thunderbolt display at work, but it worked fine for my HDMI displays at home. I even plugged it into my TV, and it stuck to the 100% scaling I picked for the othe

Creating Windows 10 Boot Media for a Lenovo Thinkpad T410 Using Only a Mac and a Linux Machine

TL;DR: Giovanni and I struggled trying to get Windows 10 installed on the Lenovo Thinkpad T410. We struggled a lot trying to create the installation media because we only had a Mac and a Linux machine to work with. Everytime we tried to boot the USB thumb drive, it just showed us a blinking cursor. At the end, we finally realized that Windows 10 wasn't supported on this laptop :-/ I've heard that it took Thomas Edison 100 tries to figure out the right material to use as a lightbulb filament. Well, I'm no Thomas Edison, but I thought it might be noteworthy to document our attempts at getting it to boot off a USB thumb drive: Download the ISO. Attempt 1: Use Etcher. Etcher says it doesn't work for Windows. Attempt 2: Use Boot Camp Assistant. It doesn't have that feature anymore. Attempt 3: Use Disk Utility on a Mac. Erase a USB thumb drive: Format: ExFAT Scheme: GUID Partition Map Mount the ISO. Copy everything from