Choosing a Development Environment That Works for Multiple Languages

Choosing a Development Environment That Works for Multiple Languages
Photo by Joan Gamell / Unsplash

If you are a developer who regularly works in more than one language, setting up your development environment can be challenging. Many tools will help with this process, but it's essential to ensure you have the right set of tools for each task. This blog post will cover choosing an environment for Java, Python, Rust, Golang, and Julia.

What is an IDE?

An Integrated Development Environment, or IDE, is a programming environment designed to simplify writing software for developers. Some IDEs are specific to one language, but several multi-language IDEs are also available, allowing you to work with multiple languages from the same interface.

What options are available?

The two major multi-language IDEs are JetBrains IntelliJ and Microsoft Visual Studio Code. Both IDEs have support for the languages that I am interested in, either natively or via plugins.

JetBrains IntelliJ

JetBrains is the creator of IntelliJ. There are two versions of IntelliJ: Community and Ultimate. The Community edition has fewer features that assist in the development process, and both editions support macOS, Linux, and Windows.

Although IntelliJ was initially designed as a Java IDE, it also has excellent support for other JVM-based languages. You can work with other languages via its growing library of plugins, which adds nice features, like syntax checking, code completion, and documentation.

JetBrains also markets IDEs specific to other languages (like Golang for Go and PyCharm for Python). So, these versions may be an option for you if you do not plan to work with a JVM-based language as they remove a lot of the code analysis functions specific to the JVM languages.

Visual Studio Code

VS Code is a great editor developed by the folks at Microsoft, and like IntelliJ, it has multi-platform support for macOS, Linux, and Windows. There is only one version of VS Code, and it is free.

It is a great general-purpose editor for working with all types of text. Language-specific support comes via an extensive library of plugins.

Since, at its core, it's a simple text editor, it is very lightweight and is useful for putting together simple scripts and applications. It doesn't have built-in code analysis, but most language plugins will support syntax checking and highlights. Code analysis capabilities are available for some languages if they provide those tools as part of their installation.

VS Code is straightforward to learn. But, it may be lacking in features if you need to do "serious" work. For many, it's a great place to start.

What are some alternatives?

For developers who want more lightweight options, there are plenty of free text editors that offer multi-language support, such as Sublime Text or Notepad++/Notepad+ and Vim. I won't be talking about those options here.


It's essential to pick an IDE that fits the kind of work you are doing. If you only need a text editor, something like Notepad++ will be more than enough for your needs. But suppose you're working with multiple languages regularly. In that case, it may make sense to invest in one of the IDEs I've mentioned here or another option that might fit your particular workflow better (e.g., IntelliJ offers versions tailored specifically towards other JVM-based languages).

The choice is yours! What do you think? Which language editor would you choose and why?