Yet tools used in software development go far beyond code editors! They include debuggers, version control systems, automation tools, and tools used for communication between the team members. Yes, a videoconference app or a messenger can also be included in this category.
As a company specializing in programming help, we know all too well how numerous are apps and programs even in the bare minimum developer toolbox. As there are so many options out there, we’ve figured you need a brief introduction. Here is everything you need to know about software development tools as a student aspiring to a career in the industry.
What Are Software Development Tools?
Software development tools are programs, utilities, and components that developers use to create, test, debug, and maintain applications and systems. These tools are designed to streamline the development process, increase the efficiency of developers, and ensure the quality of code. There are many types of software development tools, each serving a specific purpose in the software development lifecycle. If we group them into categories based on their primary function, we get the following kinds:
- Integrated Development Environments (IDEs). This is what you may call a comprehensive software development platform. IDE is an integrated environment that includes code editors, debuggers, build automation tools, and features for version control. Examples: Visual Studio, Eclipse, IntelliJ IDEA.
- Code Editors. Code editors are much simpler than IDEs and are focused primarily on writing and editing the source code. They often have such handy features as syntax highlighting, code completion, and code navigation. Examples: Visual Studio Code, Sublime Text, Atom, Notepad++.
- Version Control Systems (VCS). These systems are created to track changes to the source code, enabling collaboration among developers. VCS makes it possible to revert to previous code versions if anything goes wrong. Examples: Git, Mercurial, SVN.
- Build Automation Tools. These tools automate the process of compiling the source code into executable binaries or other artifacts. Examples: Apache Maven, Gradle, Make.
- Debugging Tools. Debuggers help developers find and fix errors in their code by allowing them to inspect variables, set breakpoints, and step through code execution. Examples: GBD (GNU Debugger) and WinDbg.
- Testing frameworks. These tools are used for writing and executing unit tests, integration tests, and other forms of testing to ensure the correctness and reliability of software. Examples: JUnit (Java), NUnit (.NET), pytest (Python).
- Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) Tools. These tools automate building, testing, and deployment of changes to your software. Examples: Jenkins, Circle CI, Travis CI.
- Package Managers. These tools simplify the management of external libraries and dependencies in software projects. Examples: npm (Node.js), pip (Python), and NuGet (.NET).
- Code Quality and Analysis Tools. This category is used to analyze source code for potential issues, such as coding standards violations, security vulnerabilities, and performance bottlenecks. Examples: ESLint, SonarQube, ReSharper.
- Documentation Generators. Developers use these tools to create documentation for their codebase, making it easier for other developers to understand and use it. Examples: Doxygen, Javadoc.
- Containerization and Orchestration Tools. These are used for packaging and deployment of applications and their dependencies in isolated containers, thus providing consistency across different environments. Examples: Docker, Kubernetes.
- Collaboration Tools: These tools facilitate communication and project management among developer teams. Examples: Jira, Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams.
Choosing the right combination of tools for each task is vital, as it can make or break the project, greatly influencing the team’s efficiency and the software’s quality. Of course, it mostly depends on the programming languages, platforms, and development methodologies used in each particular project. Still, there is a place for personal preferences.
How to Choose Programming Tools: Main Criteria and Guidelines
Speaking of choice and preferences, here are some main criteria you should consider when curating your pool of software platform development tools for each particular project.
- Project Requirements. This one, unsurprisingly, comes first. You must make sure that the tools you choose are compatible with the specific project requirements, such as programming languages, frameworks, and platforms you must use.
- Costs and Licensing. Evaluate the cost of acquiring and maintaining the tools. While many free, open-source options exist, some tools require licensing fees. Search for options before committing to ensure the development costs align with your budget.
- Ease of Use. As a beginner, you should look for tools that are user-friendly and have an intuitive interface. This is also important for teams with varying skill levels.
- Community Support. An extensive and enthusiastic community can offer help, share knowledge, and offer solutions to someone new to the software. Check if the tool you consider has an active and supportive user community online.
- Performance. Speed, reliability, and resource usage of the tools should be assessed to prevent potential productivity issues.
- Customization. Find out if the tool you consider can be customized or extended to meet your specific requirements.
- Security Features. Prioritize tools with robust security features. This is especially important when you work on projects handling sensitive data.
- Vendor Reputation. Research the reputation of the tool’s vendor or developer. A well-established company is more likely to provide reliable products and adequate support.
- Integration Capabilities. Find out if the tool in question can integrate with your team’s other software and services, as seamless integration is vital for workflow and efficiency.
- Scalability. Consider whether the tool can scale to meet the needs of your project as it grows. This factor may not be as important for small short-term projects but is essential for long-term success.
Of course, if you are new to development, it’s hard to assess all these factors independently, but that shouldn’t stop you. Read user reviews and feedback, ask on professional forums, and learn about the experiences of others who have used the tools you are considering, especially for similar tasks. This can provide valuable insights into the tool’s unique strengths, weaknesses, and unexpected pitfalls associated with particular tasks. Also, whenever possible, get trial and free versions to test the tools and assess how well they meet your specific needs.
Software Development Tools List: Our Top Picks
Of course, there is no such thing as the universally acknowledged best software development tool. Each one can be useful in particular contexts. However, based on our own humble experience and some widely acclaimed community favorites, we have a list of top picks for every category of developer tools.
Integrated Development Environments (IDEs):
- Visual Studio (for .NET development)
- IntelliJ IDEA (for Java development)
- PyCharm (for Python development)
- Visual Studio Code (a versatile code editor with strong community support)
- Atom (free, open-source text and source code editor for macOS, Linux, and Windows)
- Visual Studio Code (course code editor by Microsoft for Windows, Linux, and macOS)
- GNU Emacs (the extensible, customizable, self-documenting, real-time display editor)
- Sublime Text (shareware text and source code editor available for Windows, macOS, and Linux)
- Brackets (free, open-source editor by Adobe Inc. licensed under the MIT license, with a primary focus on web development)
- Komodo Edit (free, open-source text editor for dynamic programming languages)
Version Control Systems (VCS):
- Git (widely used for distributed version control)
- GitHub (a popular platform for hosting Git repositories)
- GitLab (offers both Git repository hosting and CI/CD capabilities)
Build Automation Tools:
- Apache Maven (for Java projects)
- Gradle (flexible build automation for various languages)
- Jenkins (a widely used CI/CD tool)
- GDB (GNU Debugger for debugging C and C++ code)
- Visual Studio Debugger (for debugging .NET applications)
- Chrome DevTools (for debugging web applications)
- JUnit (for Java)
- pytest (for Python)
- Selenium (for web application testing)
Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) Tools:
- Travis CI
- npm (for Node.js)
- pip (for Python)
- NuGet (for .NET)
Code Quality and Analysis Tools:
- SonarQube (for code quality and security analysis)
- Pylint (for Python code linting)
- Doxygen (for C++, C#, and more)
- Sphinx (for Python)
Containerization and Orchestration Tools:
- Docker (for containerization)
- Kubernetes (for container orchestration)
Collaboration and Communication Tools:
- Slack (team communication)
- Jira (issue tracking and project management)
- Confluence (team collaboration and documentation)
Please note that the effectiveness of these tools can vary depending on the specific project requirements and personal preferences of yourself and your teammates. Moreover, software development is a highly dynamic field. The availability, effectiveness, and popularity of development tools change quickly, so we strongly recommend doing your homework on each instrument in these categories before committing.
Best Software Development Tools for Students
It should be mentioned here that our top picks for software development platform examples above are based on tools that are common in the industry and widely used for professional tasks. However, if you are still learning coding and development, you might appreciate other tools: ones that are free, user-friendly, easy to master, provide a supportive learning environment, and offer features conducive to the learning process. Here is the list of such tools for you:
- Top pick for IDE: Visual Studio Code
VS Code is a lightweight and highly customizable code editor with a rich ecosystem of extensions. We chose it for you because it’s beginner-friendly, supports multiple programming languages, and boasts excellent documentation.
- Top pick for code editor: Replit
Replit is an online code editor and development platform requiring no installation. It’s great for beginners, providing a collaborative coding environment and supporting various languages.
- Top pick for version control and collaboration: GitHub
This popular resource offers free repositories for students and is an excellent platform for learning version control, collaboration, and exploring various open-source projects.
- Top pick for build automation: Gradle
Gradle is a versatile build automation tool known for its flexibility and ease of use. It’s particularly suitable for Java projects but supports other languages, too. Gradle uses a Groovy-based DSL for configuration, making it relatively easy to learn and use.
- Top pick for debugging: Visual Studio Code
Excuse our repetitiveness, yet VS Code is indeed the best in many categories. It also includes robust debugging features for multiple programming languages. It provides an interactive debugging experience with features like breakpoints, variable inspection, and integrated debugging extensions.
- Top pick for testing: JUnit
JUnit is an excellent choice for Java developers. It’s a widely used testing framework for unit testing Java applications. JUnit provides annotations and assertions for writing and running tests effectively.
- Top pick for CI/CD: Jenkins
Jenkins is a popular choice for setting up continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines. It offers a wide range of plugins and integrations, making it adaptable to various project needs.
- Top pick for package management: npm (Node Package Manager)
- Top pick for code quality and analysis: SonarQube
SonarQube is an open-source platform for continuous inspection of code quality. It identifies issues, bugs, and security vulnerabilities in your code while supporting multiple languages and providing detailed reports.
- Top pick for documentation generator: Sphinx
Sphinx is a documentation generation tool commonly used in the Python community. It allows you to create well-structured and user-friendly documentation for your projects, including Python libraries and applications.
- Top pick for containerization and orchestration: Docker
Docker is the go-to choice for containerization. It simplifies the process of packaging applications and their dependencies into containers, ensuring consistency across different environments. Docker Compose helps with orchestration.
- Top pic for collaboration and communication: Slack
Slack is a popular team collaboration and communication platform. It offers channels, direct messaging, file sharing, and integrations with other tools used for team management.
Where to Learn More About Tools for Software Development
As this is only a short introductory guide, it shouldn’t be your only source of information on development software tools. Here is where you can learn more, practice, and get your questions about tools for particular developer tasks answered.
Online learning platforms:
- Scratch is a visual programming language designed for beginners to learn the basics of coding through creative projects.
- Codecademy offers interactive coding lessons for various programming languages, making it an excellent resource for beginners to learn coding step by step.
- Coursera offers a wide range of programming and development courses from top universities and institutions, with many being beginner-friendly.
- edX, similar to Coursera, offers courses and programs in coding, web development, and other tech-related fields.
- W3Schools provides beginner-friendly tutorials and references for web development technologies.
- YouTube hosts channels like “The Net Ninja,” “Travesty Media,” and “Academind,” which offer coding tutorials and web development courses.
Community forums and Q&A sites:
- Stack Overflow is a valuable resource for getting answers to coding questions and learning from the experience of other developers, including professionals with years of work in the field, to back their opinions.
- Dev.to is a community of developers who share knowledge, experiences, and tips, making it a supportive platform for learning and exploring.
- Reddit offers a host of topical subreddits where you can share your knowledge, ask questions, and engage with other community members. For example:
- r/developer (where professional developers talk about what it takes to be a great developer)
- r/DailyProgrammer (daily programming challenges labeled based on their difficulty level)
- r/softwaredevelopment (covering methodologies, techniques, and tools such as Agile, Waterfall, Scrum, Lean, Kanban, Crystal, Extreme Programming, etc.)
- r/ExperiencedDevs (for individuals who have gained some experience in software engineering; yet, it allows questions from newbies in the weekly Ask thread)
There are also language or area-specific subreddits, such as
- r/webdev (a community dedicated to all things web development)
- r/gamedev (covering various game development aspects)
Online coding challenges:
- Codeforces hosts competitive programming contests to help students like you practice coding skills.
- Project Euler offers a collection of challenging computational problems that require coding solutions.
- LeetCode provides coding challenges and student competitions to help improve your programming and problem-solving skills.
- HackerRank offers coding challenges, data structure practice, and coding competitions for learners on all levels.