PyCharm – A Simple Illustrated Guide

PyCharm is one of the most popular and widely used IDE for Python. This tutorial is a complete walkthrough of the PyCharm Integrated Development Environment to help Python Programmers use PyCharm and its features.

I have researched a lot on the topic and then compiled this PyCharm article/walkthrough for you so that you get a firm grip on using the most popular IDE when it comes to programming in Python. Not only have I added screenshots and images on numerous topics that have been discussed in this tutorial but also added numerous videos for your convenience and better understanding. So, are you ready to learn the ins and outs of PyCharm?

❖ Introduction to Integrated Development Environments (IDE)

A common question asked by most Python beginners is –

What environment should I prefer while programming in Python?

Answer: You can either use an IDE or a text editor for coding. You need an IDE or a text editor for writing/modifying code.

We have a plethora of choices when it comes to text editors, however, some of them are more popular than the others, majorly because of their ease of use and the features that they provide. Let us have a look at some of them.

➠ Some commonly used text editors for programming are:

  1. Sublime Text
  2. Atom
  3. Vim
  4. Visual Studio Code
  5. Notepad++

➠ Now, here is a list of some of the most commonly used IDE’s used for coding in Python:

  1. PyCharm
  2. IDLE
  3. Spyder
  4. PyDev
  5. Wing

Now that brings us to the next question –

Should we use an IDE or a Text editor?

Answer: This is one of the most debated questions among programmers. I prefer using an IDE over text editors. The reason being, IDEs provide numerous advantages over a simple text editor though one might argue that IDEs can be used as text editors, and text editors can be used as IDEs. However, strictly speaking, a text editor is used for writing/modifying text/code whereas, an IDE, enables us to do a lot more within that single program; running, debugging, version control, etc.

An IDE or Integrated Development Environment can be considered as a programming tool that integrates several specialized tools into a cohesive environment. These specialized tools may include:

  • A text editor
  • A code autocomplete function
  • A build procedure that includes a compiler, linker, etc.
  • A debugger
  • A file or project manager
  • A performance profiler
  • a deployment tool
  • and so on.

Advantages of using an IDE

  • Provide an Interactive interface which makes life easy for programmers as it ensures that syntactic or semantic errors are detected while developing without any hassle.
  • Reduces debugging time.
  • Provides an inbuilt version control mechanism.
  • Facilitates visual programming through flow-charts, block diagrams, etc.

Therefore it makes more sense to use an IDE instead of using a text editor. In order to use a text editor like an IDE, you must install numerous plugins so that it behaves the way an IDE does but all of that is already taken care of by an IDE without the need for extra plugins.

IDE Selection

Selecting an IDE is purely based on the developers requirement. Some of the factors governing the selection of an IDE can be –

  • If a developer has to code in multiple languages?
  • Whether an integrated debugger is required?
  • If a drag-drop GUI layout is required?
  • If features like autocomplete and class browsers are required? and so on.

Having said that, the most commonly used and preferred IDE by Python programmers is PyCharm.

❖ Introduction To PyCharm

As mentioned earlier PyCharm is the most popular IDE used by Python programmers. It is a cross-platform IDE developed by the Czech company JetBrains.

PyCharm Features

PyCharm offers the following features:

  • Syntax highlighting
  • Auto-Indentation and code formatting
  • Code completion
  • Line and block commenting
  • On-the-fly error highlighting
  • Code snippets
  • Code folding
  • Easy code navigation and search
  • Code analysis
  • Configurable language injections
  • Python refactoring
  • Documentation

What makes PyCharm special and more efficient than most other IDEs?

🧠 Intelligent Python Assistance

PyCharm provides:

  • smart code completion,
  • code inspections,
  • on-the-fly error highlighting and quick-fixes,
  • automated code refactoring and rich navigation capabilities.

🌐 Web Development Frameworks

PyCharm offers framework-specific support for modern web development frameworks such as Django, Flask, Google App Engine, Pyramid, and web2py.

🔬 Scientific Tools

PyCharm integrates with IPython Notebook, has an interactive Python console, and supports Anaconda as well as multiple scientific packages including matplotlib and NumPy.

🔀 Cross-technology Development

In addition to Python, PyCharm supports JavaScript, CoffeeScript, TypeScript, Cython, SQL, HTML/CSS, template languages, AngularJS, Node.js, and more.

💻 Remote Development Capabilities

With PyCharm you can run, debug, test, and deploy applications on remote hosts or virtual machines, with remote interpreters, an integrated ssh terminal, and Docker and Vagrant integration.

🛠️ Built-in Developer Tools

PyCharm contains a huge collection of out of the box tools:

  • An integrated debugger and test runner;
  • Python profiler;
  • A built-in terminal;
  • Integration with major VCS
  • Built-in Database Tools.

PyCharm Editions

PyCharm is available in three editions:

  1. Community (open-source)
  2. Professional (paid)
  3. Educational (open-source)

Let’s compare the Community and Professional editions in the table given below:

 PyCharm Professional Edition  PyCharm Community Edition
Intelligent Python editor ✔️ ✔️
Graphical debugger and test runner ✔️ ✔️
Navigation and Refactorings ✔️ ✔️
Code inspections ✔️ ✔️
VCS support ✔️ ✔️
Scientific tools ✔️ ❌
Web development ✔️ ❌
Python web frameworks ✔️ ❌
Python Profiler ✔️ ❌
Remote development capabilities ✔️ ❌
Database & SQL support ✔️ ❌

Now that we have gone through the basics of PyCharm, let us have a look at how we can install PyCharm.

❖ Installing PyCharm

✨ Installing PyCharm on Windows

1️. The first step is to download the latest version of PyCharm for either of the professional or community version. Here’s the link to download it from the official website:

2. After the download is complete, run the executable installer file and follow the wizard steps that follow.

✨ Installing PyCharm on Mac

Step 1: Open PyCharm and download PyCharm for Mac for either of the Community or Professional version.

Step 2: Once the .dmg file has been downloaded, double click on the file to begin your installation.

Step 3: After the dmg file is launched, drag PyCharm into your Application folder.

Step 4: In the Applications Folder, double click on PyCharm to open the Application.

Step 5: On the first launch you will be asked to import settings. Tick the box: ☑️ I do not have a previous version of PyCharm or I do not want to import my settings. Click on OK and Accept the Privacy Policy. Keep the Install Config as it is set by default. Click OK.

💡 On the Welcome screen, you can do the following:

  • Create a New Project.
  • Open an existing project or file.
  • Check out an existing project from a version control system.

✨ Installing PyCharm on Linux

Method 1: Using Snap Package 

PyCharm is available as a Snap package. If you’re on Ubuntu 16.04 or later, you can install PyCharm from the command line.

sudo snap install [pycharm-professional|pycharm-community] --classic

Note: If you are on some other Linux distribution, you can enable snap support first and then use the snap command to install the PyCharm Community Edition.

Method 2: Using official Linux installer from JetBrains 

1. Download the latest version of PyCharm (tar.gz file) for either of the Professional or Community version.

2. Go to the folder where you have downloaded your file.

cd ~/Downloads

3. Extract the tar.gz file.

tar -xzf pycharm-community-2020.1.1.tar.gz

4. Move into the the extracted PyCharm folder and then inside the bin folder.

cd pycharm-community-2020.1.1/bin

5. Add executable permissions to the script file inside the bin folder.

chmod u+x pycharm.sh

6. Then run the script file.

sh pycharm.sh

7. PyCharm starts running and in the first run, you will be asked you to accept the privacy policy. Then you will be asked whether you would like to send data about features, plugins, and other data. If you wish to send the data, you can hit the “Send Anonymous Statistics” button, or you can click on the “Don’t Send” button. And finally, PyCharm will ask you to set up the IDE. Start by choosing the UI theme, creating a launcher script, and adding plugins.

Now that brings us to the end of the first section of this comprehensive guide on PyCharm. In the next section, we will learn how to write our first code in Python using PyCharm. We will also discuss how to run, debug, and test your code. Let’s begin the next phase of our PyCharm journey!

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