This post introduces PyCharm, which is software designed to help users analyze data in Python. PyCharm is an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) primarily used for Python. Its user interface is designed to help Python programmers with their code, project management, library management, version control, and other useful features. I am coming to Python from R, and this IDE has been widely recommended to me for such a transition.
NOTE: PyCharm offers a free pro version to students and faculty. Register for a free educational license here.
What is an IDE?
An IDE, or Integrated Development Environment, is a software suite that consolidates basic tools required for software development. It typically includes a code editor, debugger, and build automation tools. IDEs are designed to maximize programmers’ ability to create bigger projects with less time, effort, and coding requirements.
Why Use IDEs?
- Efficiency: IDEs help you do more with fewer resources
- Code Quality: They often include features like syntax highlighting and code completion, which help reduce errors and improve code quality.
- Debugging Tools: Built-in debuggers facilitate the identification and correction of bugs in the code.
- Project Management: IDEs assist in organizing and managing different aspects of a software project.
- Code Editor: PyCharm’s editor offers syntax highlighting, which makes different elements of the code (like keywords, variables, etc.) easily distinguishable by color and font style. Code completion suggests possible continuations of your code, speeding up the coding process. The editor also checks your code on-the-fly for errors and suggests quick fixes.
- Project Navigator: This is a panel for easy navigation and management of all the files and folders in your project. It allows beginners to understand the structure of their application and manage their resources more efficiently.
- Integrated Python Debugger: The debugger helps in diagnosing and fixing code errors. It allows you to set breakpoints, step through your code, and inspect variables without leaving the IDE.
- Version Control Integration: PyCharm integrates with popular version control systems like Git, allowing beginners to manage version control of their projects directly from the IDE, which includes committing changes, reviewing differences, and merging branches.
- Integrated Terminal: This feature offers direct access to the system shell within the IDE. It is convenient for running Python scripts, installing packages, and performing other command-line tasks.
You can download PyCharm here. PyCharm is a commercial program that offers a free and pro version. However, the company offers free pro version licenses to university students. When you install it, be sure to read any introductory material given to you by the program. Reading software instructions is extremely helpful.
Note that you will also need to install Python separately on your device. Download Python here. I use version 3.10 as of November 2023.
The User Interface
- Menu Bar: Where you can find all the menus that contain commands for various actions in PyCharm, such as file operations, editing, viewing different panels, navigating code, etc. This is where you might do things like create new project files, access version control settings, configure your project’s interpreter, or customize the IDE settings.
- Project Window: This panel displays the structure of your project, showing all the files and folders that are part of it. You can browse through your project’s structure here. Here, you can do things like navigate your project’s directory structure, open files for editing, or manage your project’s resources.
- Editor Window: The main area where you can write and edit your code. It has features like syntax highlighting and code completion to facilitate coding. This is where you code. At the top of the window, there are buttons to run and help debug the script.
- Run Window: Here you can see the output of your program when you run or debug it. It will show the results, errors, and messages that your program generates. This is where you might do things like execute your code, view the console output, debug, and monitor the runtime processes and performance.
- Status Bar: Located at the bottom of the window. It gives basic information on the script with which you are working (left), the location of your cursor in the script on which you are working (middle right), and which version of Python you are using (right).