What is an Integrated Development Environment?

By Barry Burd

In the olden days, writing and running a Java program involved opening several windows — a window for typing the program, another window for running the program, and maybe a third window to keep track of all the code that you’ve written.

“An integrated development environment helps you manage your Java code and provides convenient ways for you to write, compile, and run your code.”

— Barry Burd, Java For Dummies, 6th Edition

Developing code without an integrated development environment.

Developing code without an integrated development environment.

An integrated development environment seamlessly combines all this functionality into one well-organized application.

Developing code with the Eclipse integrated development environment.

Developing code with the Eclipse integrated development environment.

Java has its share of integrated development environments. Some of the more popular products include Eclipse, IntelliJ IDEA, and NetBeans. Some fancy environments even have drag-and-drop components so that you can design your graphical interface visually.

To run a program, you might click a toolbar button or choose Run from a menu. To compile a program, you might not have to do anything at all. (You might not even have to issue a command. Some IDEs compile your code automatically while you type it.)

Using the drag-and-drop Swing GUI Builder in the NetBeans IDE.

Using the drag-and-drop Swing GUI Builder in the NetBeans IDE.