What is PyCharm? Features, Advantages & Disadvantages

Posted in Python
What is PyCharm? Features, Advantages & Disadvantages

PyCharm is one of the most popular Python IDEs. There is a multitude of reasons for this, including the fact that it is developed by JetBrains, the developer behind the popular IntelliJ IDEA IDE that is one of the big 3 of Java IDEs and the “smartest JavaScript IDE” WebStorm. Having the support for web development by leveraging Django is yet another credible reason.

There are a galore of factors that make PyCharm one of the most complete and comprehensive integrated development environments for working with the Python programming language.

Before proceeding further into exploring the know-how of PyCharm i.e., features, installation, and pros & cons, let’s first get a brief introduction to PyCharm.

What is PyCharm?

Available as a cross-platform application, PyCharm is compatible with Linux, macOS, and Windows platforms. Sitting gracefully among the best Python IDEs, PyCharm provides support for both Python 2 (2.7) and Python 3 (3.5 and above) versions.

PyCharm comes with a plethora of modules, packages, and tools to hasten Python development while cutting-down the effort required to do the same to a great extent, simultaneously. Further, PyCharm can be customized as per the development requirements, and personal preferences call for. It was released to the public for the very first time back in February of 2010. In addition to offering code analysis, PyCharm features:

  • A graphical debugger
  • An integrated unit tester
  • Integration support for version control systems (VCSs)
  • Support for data science with Anaconda

What is an IDE?

PyCharm is an extremely popular Python IDE. An Integrated Development Environment or IDE features a code editor and a compiler for writing and compiling programs in one or many programming languages.

Furthermore, an IDE comes with a galore of features that facilitate comprehensive software development. As an IDE allocates different colors to different programming entities, typically known as syntax highlighting, it becomes more accessible to:

  • Differentiate between various programming entities, such as a class and a function, and to spot them.
  • Look for the wrong keywords.
  • Read and comprehend the code.

Most IDEs feature an auto-complete feature that produces suggestions when writing code. This makes writing code more efficient, quick, and less prone to errors and typos. Other standard features offered by a modern IDE are:

  • Project editor window for efficiently managing and organizing files necessary for a program/project.
  • Inspecting the output of the code written using the output window
  • Suggestions for resolving errors and warnings
  • A range of modules and packages readily available at a single place

PyCharm Pricing Model

PyCharm is offered in three variants:

  • A freemium version dubbed The Community Edition available under the Apache License.
  • A commercial version labeled Professional Edition available under a proprietary license.
  • A free-to-use educational version dubbed the Edu Edition, aimed for students and professionals interested in learning Python, available under the Apache License.

Features of PyCharm

1. Intelligent Code Editor

PyCharm comes with a smart code editor that facilitates writing high-quality Python code. It offers an enhanced level of code comprehension and readability by means of distinct color schemes for keywords, classes, and functions, i.e., syntax and error highlighting.

In addition to offering the smart code completion feature, the code editor generates instructions for completing the current code. Identifying errors and issues is much more comfortable, along with linter integration and quick fixes.

2. Availability of Integration Tools

PyCharm provides support for integrating a range of tools. These tools vary from helping in enhancing the code productivity to facilitate dealing with data science projects. Some of the most essential integration tools available for PyCharm include:

  • Anaconda - A free and open-source Python distribution geared towards scientific computing with simplified package management and deployment.
  • IPython - A robust command shell for interactive computing.
  • Kite - An AI-powered autocomplete plugin.
  • Pylint - A source-code, bug, and quality checker.
  • pytest - A framework for writing small tests for Python code.
  • WakaTime - A developer dashboard with productivity metrics and automatic time tracking

3. Data Science and Machine Learning [Professional Edition Only]

PyCharm comes with support for scientific libraries, such as Matplotlib and SciPy, to help Python developers accomplish data science and machine learning projects.

4. Google App Engine [Professional Edition Only]

Google App Engine, or directly App Engine, is a PaaS and cloud computing platform targeted towards developing and hosting web applications. It offers automatic scaling for web applications. The professional edition of PyCharm provides support for Google App Engine.

5. Integrated Debugging and Testing

An IDE comes with support for debugging and testing programs. To accomplish the same, PyCharm features an integrated Python debugger and integrated unit testing with line-by-line code coverage.

6. Multi-technology Development [Professional Edition Only]

Python developers can also use PyCharm for creating web applications. As such, the Python IDE provides support for popular web technologies, including CoffeeScript, CSS, HTML, JavaScript, TypeScript. Additionally, it also includes support for Cython, template languages, and SQL.

Live editing is also available in PyCharm, i.e., developers can create/modify a web page while pushing it live simultaneously. Hence, changes can be followed directly on a web browser. Building web applications using AngularJS or NodeJS is also available.

7. Project and Code Navigation

The code navigation feature makes it much easier for developers to navigate to a class, function, or file. It also helps in significantly cutting-down effort and time required to edit and enhance the Python code. File structure views and specialized project views are readily available.

The lens mode allows a developer to inspect and debug the entire Python source code thoroughly. With code navigation, locating an element, variable, etc. is done in almost no time. Developers can quickly jump between classes, files, and methods.

8. Refactoring

The refactoring feature in PyCharm helps in improving the internal structure of a Python program without affecting the external performance of the same. Making changes to both local and global variables is efficient and fast.

The extract method is also there to split up extended classes and functions. Other useful code refactoring features include:

  • Introduce constant
  • Introduce variable
  • Pull up
  • Push down
  • Rename

9. Remote Development

PyCharm allows running, debugging, testing, and deploying applications on remote hosts or virtual machines. For the purpose, the Python IDE offers:

  • An integrated SSH terminal
  • Docker and Vagrant integration
  • Remote interpreters

PyCharm lets developers leverage Django in their Python development projects. The Python IDE offers the autocomplete feature and generates suggestions for Django.

Debugging code written using Django is also available. PyCharm also provides support for other popular Python frameworks, namely Flask, Pyramid, and web2py.

11. Version Control Systems (VCSs) Integration

In its simplicity, a version control system (VCS) keeps track of the changes made to files, applications, and other sources of information. It can be considered as a database of changes.

PyCharm provides a unified user interface for CVS, Git, Mercurial, Perforce, and Subversion.

Other Pycharm Features

Other than the aforementioned features, PyCharm offers the following capabilities:

  • Code generation for generating language-specific code constructs.
  • Code reference information for instantly accessing API documentation, hints on using various programming entities, etc
  • File templates for creating scripts, stub classes, etc
  • Import assistance for importing missing libraries
  • Intention actions and quick fixes for optimizing code
  • Language-specific tools for developing, running, testing, and deploying applications
  • Language injections to work with supported languages inside attributes, tags, or string literals
  • Live templates for expanding abbreviations into complicated code constructs

Installing and Setting Up PyCharm

Minimum System Requirements

Memory - 4GB
Storage Space - 2.5GB (main) + 1GB (caches)
Resolution - 1024x768
OS - 64-bit version of macOS 10.11/Microsoft Windows 7 SP1/any Linux distribution supporting Gnome, KDE, or Unity DE

Memory - 8GB
Storage Space - 5GB of SSD
Resolution - 1920x1080
OS - Any latest 64-bit version of macOS/Microsoft Windows/Linux

One of the significant advantages is that PyCharm brings to the Python development table is easy installation and less setup time. There are three modes of installation available for PyCharm:

1. Standalone Installation

Here is how to install the popular Python IDE in the traditional way:

  • Step #01 - Go to https://www.jetbrains.com/pycharm/download.
  • Step #02 - Choose a platform among Windows, Mac, and Linux.

For Windows

  • Step #03 - Choose the PyCharm edition; Professional (paid), or Community (free).
  • Step #04 - Hit the Download button to start downloading the .exe installer.
  • Step #05 - Once downloaded, successfully run the installer and follow the setup wizard steps.

For macOS

  • Step #03 - Choose the PyCharm edition; Professional (paid), or Community (free).
  • Step #04 - Hit the Download button to start downloading the .dmg disk image.
  • Step #05 - Mount the disk image and drag the PyCharm app to the Applications folder.

For Linux

Step #03 - For creating a desktop entry, either:

  • Click Configure | Create Desktop Entry on the Welcome screen

OR

  • Click Tools | Create Desktop Entry from the main menu
  • Using Snap Packages - Snap packages can be used to install PyCharm for Ubuntu 16.04 and later. As such, two channels, stable and edge, are available for distributing PyCharm:

(Stable channel)

Step #04 - Run the following command to install the latest stable release of PyCharm:

sudo snap install pycharm-community --classic (Community Edition)
sudo snap install pycharm-education --classic (Edu Edition)
sudo snap install pycharm-professional --classic (Professional Edition)

(Edge channel)

Step #04 - Run the following command to install the latest EAP (Early Access Program) release of PyCharm:

sudo snap install pycharm-community --classic --edge
sudo snap install pycharm-educational --classic --edge
sudo snap install pycharm-professional --classic --edge

Step #05 - Run pycharm-community/pycharm-educational/pycharm-professional in the Terminal.

Using Tar Archives

Step #04 - Unpack the pycharm-community/educational/professional.tar.gz file to a new_folder using the command:

tar xfz pycharm-community/educational/professional.tar.gz -C <new_folder>

For unpacking PyCharm in the recommended /opt installation location, use:

tar xfz pycharm-community/educational/professional.tar.gz -C /opt/

Step #05 - Use the following command to switch to the bin subdirectory:

cd <new_folder>/pycharm-*/bin

* = Either community or professional or educational

Step #06 - Finally, use this command to run PyCharm:

sh pycharm.sh

Notes:

  • To use the PyCharm Edu edition, you can either download it (or install edutools plugin if you already have installed PyCharm Community or Professional edition) from here:
    • https://www.jetbrains.com/pycharm-edu/download/index.html#section=mac (For macOS)
    • https://www.jetbrains.com/pycharm-edu/download/index.html#section=linux (For Linux)
    • https://www.jetbrains.com/pycharm-edu/download/index.html#section=windows (For Windows)
  • Verify the integrity of the archive/downloaded disk image/installer using the SHA checksum linked from the https://www.jetbrains.com/pycharm/download/download-thanks.html page.

2. Silent Installation (Available only for Microsoft Windows)

Silent installation is the preferred method for installing PyCharm when network admins need to do it for several machines without interrupting other users. To do so, first, download the PyCharm installer and then run the installer with the following switches:

/S - Enables silent installation
/CONFIG - Specifies the path to the silent configuration file
/D - Specifies the path to the installation directory

Download the silent configuration file from: 

  • https://download.jetbrains.com/python/silent.config (For Community and Professional editions)
  • https://download.jetbrains.com/python/edu_silent.config (For the Edu edition)

If you’ve downloaded the silent configuration file to the Downloads folder, the user name is some user and would like to install PyCharm in C drive to a PyCharm folder then the command will be:

pycharm.exe /S /CONFIG=c:\users\someuser\silent.config(or edu_silent.config) /D=c:\PyCharm

3. Using the JetBrains TOOLBOX App

Download the JetBrains TOOLBOX App to easily download PyCharm and stay in the loop with the future updates for the same.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using PyCharm

When it comes to Python development, PyCharm is a sure shot. Though it has a range of advantages, it doesn’t mean that the popular Python IDE is flawless. Therefore, before picking it up, ensure that you ultimately benefit from it. Here are the important feats and flaws of PyCharm to consider:

Advantages

  • A plethora of productive shortcuts
  • Ability to view the entire Python source code with a single click
  • Availability of an array of plugins
  • Easy-to-use
  • Excellent community support
  • Facilitates faster code development
  • More powerful, commercial version available
  • Straightforward installation process

Disadvantages

  • Costly paid version
  • May pose issues when trying to fixing tools like venv
  • Not suitable for Python beginners
  • Resource-intensive application, i.e., requires plenty of memory and storage space

Who Uses PyCharm?

PyCharm serves as the go-to Python IDE for several big names, including:

  • Amazon
  • Facebook
  • Lyft
  • Meltwater
  • Pinterest
  • Twitter
  • Uploadcare

Competitors of PyCharm

PyCharm is, obviously, not the only efficient Python IDE. There are several others. Each one of them is preferred over the rest by virtue of their respective abilities and features. Top competitors of PyCharm are:

  • Cloud9 IDE
  • Codenvy
  • Eclipse + PyDev
  • Komodo IDE
  • The Jupyter Notebook
  • Wind Python IDE

Conclusion

PyCharm is, undoubtedly, one of the most efficient and powerful IDEs for tackling Python development. The continuously rising popularity of Python ensures that the Python IDE will continue to be developed for the better over time and will attract new Python developers.

What do you think about PyCharm? Absolutely love it or don’t like it at all? Let us know in the comments. If you are preparing for a Python-based job interview, then check out these best Python interview questions.

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Simran Kaur Arora

Simran Kaur Arora

Simran works at Hackr as a technical writer. The graduate in MS Computer Science from the well known CS hub, aka Silicon Valley, is also an editor of the website. She enjoys writing about any tech topic, including programming, algorithms, cloud, data science, and AI. Traveling, sketching, and gardening are the hobbies that interest her. View all posts by the Author

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