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4 sweet Python IDEs you might have missed

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The current state of IDEs built for Python is an embarrassment of riches. Seven products made the cut for our big Python IDE rundown, but many more were worth noting. Available IDEs range from sophisticated efforts that provide a full-blown development system to modest projects suited to first-time Pythonistas. 

Here are four more Python IDEs, from the minimal to the maximal, that you probably want on your radar.

Eric7

Like Python’s own native IDE IDLE, Eric7 is a Python IDE written in Python, although it uses the Qt6 UI framework to provide a far more sophisticated UI than IDLE. Because the source is all Python, that makes it quite hackable for Python developers who want control over their IDE from the inside out.

Getting started with Eric7 requires some assembly, because it isn’t deployed like a conventional platform-native application. It’s essentially a large Python package with several weighty dependencies, such as the Python bindings for Qt6. Because getting started with Eric7 means understanding Python package management, it isn’t likely to appeal to beginners. That said, the installer script provides feedback, so you know which packages—like PyQt6 and QScintilla—need to be fetched and installed to finish the setup process.

Install process aside, Eric7 is remarkably well-equipped. It has the usual utilities included in modern IDEs, such as class browsing and version control, but it also integrates support for Python-specific features like unittest or pytest (if installed), PyLint, the PyInstaller and cx_freeze application distribution system, and a built-in PyPI/pip package-management browser. Press Ctrl-Space to bring up autocompletion suggestions as you type, and you can also summon calltip suggestions with a keystroke.

New projects created in Eric7 can also be built as PyQT5/6 GUIs or console applications, because the underlying libraries are already installed, although additional development tools like the Qt form designer aren’t included by default. The biggest downside to Eric7 is the documentation, which mostly focuses on how to expand the IDE rather than guidance for its end-user experience.

The Eric7 IDE overflows with useful Python features. IDG

Eric7 is written in Python, using the Qt UI framework, and overflows with useful Python features.

Wing IDE

Billed as “the intelligent development environment for Python programmers,” Wing IDE emphasizes feature integrations specifically designed for Python users. This goes beyond native support for virtual environments or working with multiple Python interpreters. It also includes detailed integrations with popular Python frameworks like Django and Flask, UI packages such as PyQT, WXPython, and PyGTK, and third-party apps like Maya, Blender, and Unreal Engine. Raspberry Pi users can also use Wing IDE for development.

Wing has been updated consistently to keep pace with Python. Version 9 adds support for versions of Python up to 3.11, import organization and management features, faster unit test handling (including code coverage analysis), and better debugging for multithreaded applications.

Wing is a commercial product, but it has two free editions with concessions to independent developers and beginners. The Wing IDE 101 edition lacks most of the suite’s advanced features, including day-to-day things a developer might use (bookmarks, module browsing, refactoring), but it’s a good way for a fledgling Python developer to get started without struggling with the underpowered IDLE.

The Personal version, also free, restores many, but not all, pro-level features. The Pro version comes with both perpetual and annual licensing options, starting at $179 per user. There’s also a 30-day trial version.

Wing IDE offers free and paid editions. IDG

Wing IDE offers a rich feature set, but the full complement is available only in its paid edition.

Pyzo

Sometimes you only need so much. Pyzo is a small IDE aimed mainly at scientific computing users. It offers a small tool set consisting of an editor, interactive shell, file browser, source structure browser, and a few other amenities. This IDE is largely intended for on-the-fly interactions with libraries, where you type commands into Python’s REPL or execute individual files rather than do formal application development. In that sense, it’s less suited to those who want to create applications and is more for people who want to use Python as a workbench environment.

To make it easy to unpack and get going, Pyzo’s delivered as platform-native executables—no need to cobble together the runtime. It works with existing CPython runtimes, including larger distributions like Anaconda (or its little cousin Miniconda). Pyzo can also autodetect interpreters set up with pipenv.

Pyzo's minimal interface is useful for simple scripts and tasks. IDG

Pyzo’s minimal interface is a step up from the likes of Python’s own IDLE, but useful enough for simple scripts and basic scientific computing tasks.

Thonny

Beginners looking to get their feet wet with Python are often steered toward IDLE, but Thonny, a small IDE geared to beginners, is substantially more hassle-free. Available on Windows, Mac, and Linux, Thonny saves the user from having to download or configure a Python interpreter. A recent version of Python (currently, 3.10) is bundled right in, and the IDE works with it by default out of the box. That said, you can always swap in another Python runtime.

By default, Thonny installs itself in the user’s profile directory, so it doesn’t require elevated permissions to set up or use—handy for people using someone else’s computer or one where they don’t have admin rights.

Menu commands let you open a command-line session, and Thonny’s interpreter and package manager are available as the default choices when you type python or pip. (This is a great idea.) Other nice features include a tree viewer for a script’s AST, a sidebar note-taking section, and inspectors for objects, stack, heap, and variables in debug mode. There’s even a built-in plotter for quick-and-dirty visualization of variables printed to the console.

Thonny offers a handy way to work with Python on the go. IDG

A step up from IDLE, Thonny can run in a self-contained directory with its own copy of the Python interpreter—a handy way to work with Python on the go.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

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