The invention of mobile applications is considered one of the greatest technological feats. Everyone today has several applications on their smartphones that make various activities easier, from finding a particular location to finding a job. In this blog post, we will discuss the best IDEs for mobile app development.
Mobile application development is growing rapidly with each passing day. New types of mobile apps are seeing the light of day every now and then. There was a time when developers used multiple development tools to build a mobile application, which was a cumbersome process. However, the advent of mobile app development IDEs has made the process of developing mobile applications efficient and quicker.
IDE is an acronym for Integrated Development Environment. An IDE is a single application that provides all developer tools in a single place, including a source code editor, compiler, and debugger. Therefore, developers do not have to use separate tools for various software development activities, like writing code, compiling, and testing.
If you are planning to develop a mobile application and searching for the appropriate IDE to facilitate the development process, this article will serve as the perfect guide for you.
Here, you will get to know the 10 best IDEs for mobile app development to use in 2022 and beyond. Also, you will learn what exactly an IDE is and its key features.
So, let us get started!
What is an IDE?
An integrated development environment is a type of software that brings all the essential developer tools under one graphical user interface (GUI), making the software development process effortless and efficient. IDEs boost the productivity of developers since they combine various tools required for carrying out different application development tasks. An IDE consists of three fundamental developer tools, namely a source code editor, build automation tools, and a debugger.
- Source Code Editor: It is a text editor that enables developers to write code effectively. In addition, a source code editor can have various features, such as syntax highlighting, auto-complete, code refactoring, and bug detection.
- Build Automation Tools: These are utilities that can automate simple and repetitive tasks, run automated tests, and compile source code into binary code.
- Debugger: A debugger inspects the source code and finds bugs present in it.
Before the advent of IDEs, application developers only had the option to use text editors to write code. Also, they had to use dedicated tools to compile and debug the source code. Thus, the process of developing an application involved writing code in a text editor, checking it in a compiler for errors, and going back to the source code in a text editor to make necessary changes.
Also, developers had to use a separate debugger to identify bugs in the source code and then revise the code using the source code editor. Since this entire process is time-consuming and cumbersome, it affects the productivity of developers. IDEs have made the development process easier by eliminating the need to switch between different tools constantly.
By integrating different developer tools in a single application, IDEs help developers to boost their productivity and also speed up the development process.
Features of IDE
Here are some of the key features of an integrated development environment:
- Source Code Editor: Every IDE comes with a source code editor that allows developers to write and manipulate the source code of applications.
- Debugger: Like the source code editor, a debugger is also one of the most fundamental tools that come with every IDE. Debugging tools help developers identify and fix bugs in the source code.
- Compiler: A compiler is a program that translates the source code written in a specific programming language into a form that machines can understand and process.
- Code Completion: This feature of an IDE accelerates the process of writing source code by intelligently identifying and inserting standard code components. Also, it significantly saves the time required to write code by reducing typos and other common mistakes.
- Programming Language Support: Some IDEs are specific to a single programming language, whereas many other IDEs support multiple programming languages.
- Integrations and Plugins: Many integrated development environments support integration with third-party apps or allow the installation of plugins, which allows users to enhance the functionality of these IDEs.
Along with the above features, some mobile IDEs also feature emulators. An emulator is a computer program that simulates other devices, i.e., it enables one system to behave like the other. For example, an emulator makes it possible to run Windows on a macOS system . Therefore, with an emulator, you can test your mobile application for different devices.
10 Best IDEs for Mobile App Development
Here is the curated list of the best IDEs for mobile app development, along with their features.
Developers: Google and JetBrains
License: Source Code: Apache License, Binaries: Freeware
Let's start the list of best IDEs for mobile app development with Android Studio, which is the most popular option for Android app development. In fact, it is the official IDE for Google’s Android operating system. Google has built Android Studio on top of JetBrains’s IntelliJ IDEA, which is one of the most popular IDEs, especially for Java development.
This mobile app development IDE provides all the essential tools required to develop applications for Android devices. You can download and use Android Studio on Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems.
Features of Android Studio
- Visual Layout Editor: With the Visual Layout Editor, you can quickly and effortlessly build a layout by dragging UI elements into the visual design editor. There is no need to write XML code for building a layout. In addition, you can preview your layout on different Android devices and versions with the visual design editor. It also lets you resize the layout to make it compatible with different screen sizes.
- Fast Emulator: With an Android Emulator, you can simulate Android devices on your computer. This makes it easier for you to test your application on various Android devices and Android API levels without requiring each physical device.
- Intelligent Code Editor: Android Studio has an intelligent code editor that enables you to write and manipulate code in C, C++, Java, and Kotlin programming languages.
- Flexible Build System: The build system is responsible for compiling source code and app resources and packaging them into APKs and Android App Bundles. Android Studio utilizes Gradle , an advanced build toolkit, to automate and manage the build process.
- Real-time Profiler: The real-time profiler is available in Android Studio 3.0 and newer versions. It provides real-time data about how your application utilizes CPU, memory, battery, and network resources.
Android Studio is free to download and use.
Developers: Apple Inc.
License: Freeware with some open-source components
Xcode is Apple’s integrated development environment that runs only on macOS systems. It is the most popular IDE for iOS mobile app development. Apple has developed this IDE to enable developers to build applications or software for macOS, iOS, tvOS, watchOS, and iPadOS. Xcode also includes Command Line Tools (CLT) that facilitate UNIX-style development using the terminal in macOS.
Features of Xcode
- Source Code Editor: You can write error-less code with Xcode’s source code editor. It features advanced code completion, syntax highlighting, code folding, and message bubbles that display errors and warnings within the code.
- Assistant Editor: Xcode has an assistant button that divides an editor into two panes. The secondary pane highlights all files that are helpful to you based on the file you are currently editing.
- Interface Builder: With the interface builder, you can build an interactive interface without writing a single line of code. Also, you can graphically connect the interface with your source code in the Xcode editor.
- Simulator: It is a Mac-based simulator that can build, install, run, and debug Cocoa Touch applications.
- Compiler: Xcode comes with a built-in, powerful LLVM compiler for C, C++, and Objective-C languages.
- Graphical Debugger: You can debug your application right in the Xcode editor. With a graphical debugger, you can select any application component and debug its code.
Apple’s Xcode is free to download and use.
License: Source code: MIT License, Binaries built by Microsoft: Proprietary software
Visual Studio is an IDE developed by Microsoft, and we can integrate it with Xamarin for mobile application development. You can use Visual Studio on Windows and macOS. With Xamarin, you can build native Android, iOS, and Windows applications with a single shared .NET codebase. The applications you develop using Xamarin provide a native look and feel because they:
- Contain standard native user interface controls.
- Have native API access, i.e., applications built using Xamarin have access to all functionalities provided by the underlying platform and device.
Features of Visual Studio with Xamarin
Visual Studio Code:
It is an open-source and free source code editor that offers the following features:
- Syntax highlighting and auto-completion: Syntax highlighting improves code readability, whereas the smart auto-completion feature automatically completes a code based on function definitions, variable types, and imported modules.
- Debugger: You can debug your code right from the code editor by setting breakpoints, step over statements, and step into and out of functions.
- Extensible and customizable: You can extend the functionality of VS Code by installing extensions.
- Integrated Source Control: You can manage your source code in Git or SVN repositories hosted by any provider.
- Comprehensive Testing: Visual Studio comes with a test runner that supports major testing frameworks, including MSTest, NUnit, and xUnit. You can efficiently run and debug unit and automated tests using these testing frameworks.
Visual Studio is available in three different editions, namely Individual, Professional, and Enterprise.
- The Individual edition is free to download and use.
- The Professional edition is available at $45 per month
- Finally, the Enterprise edition is available at $250 per month.
License: Community edition: Apache License 2.0, Ultimate edition: Trialware
IntelliJ IDEA is an integrated development environment for developing Android applications. Also, this IDE serves as a basis for Android Studio. It is compatible with Windows, Linux, and macOS systems. IntelliJ IDEA comes in two editions, namely the Community edition and Ultimate edition. You can use both these editions for commercial purposes.
Features of IntelliJ IDEA
Instant Navigation and Search:
IntelliJ IDEA comes with several features that ensure faster navigation and easy searching.
- Search Everywhere: With this feature, you can search for anything in your code, including symbols and classes.
- Find in Files: This feature enables you to find text strings in your project.
- Quick Definition: This feature makes it easy for you to identify where and how symbols - such as tags, classes, methods, functions, and fields - are defined in your code.
Run, Test, and Debug:
The IDE for mobile app development has a robust toolset to run, test, and debug code.
- Run: You can run your application in IntelliJ IDEA by clicking the green play button present at the top-left of the source code editor.
- Test: The IDE supports various testing frameworks, including TestNG, Cucumber, JUnit, and Selenium.
- Debug: IntelliJ IDEA’s debugger allows you to set breakpoints in places where you wish to stop the execution of a program and inspect its behavior. A debug tool window displays the results of debugging .
- Built-in Tools and Integration: IntelliJ IDEA has built-in tools and integrations that enable you to avoid switching between various tools while developing an application. It seamlessly integrates with Maven, Gradle, Ant, and Gant build tools. Also, it has a built-in compiler, decompiler, and profiler.
- Version Control: This IDE supports popular version control systems, like Git, Perforce, Mercurial, and Subversion.
The Community Edition of IntelliJ is free to use. The Ultimate Edition is available for organizations and individuals, and it costs $499 per user per year for organizations and $149 per year for individuals.
Developer: Didactic Development
License: Freeware and Shareware
DeuterIDE is yet another IDE for Android development. This mobile app IDE takes its name from heavy hydrogen, i.e., the anion of hydrogen-2 isotope, deuterium. It is a lightweight and easy-to-use IDE. Moreover, there is no need to create an account to use this IDE. Also, it is compatible with tablets and other devices with large displays.
Features of DeuterIDE
- The source code editor of DeuterIDE makes it easier for you to write code with syntax highlighting, automatic indentation, and bracket matching support.
- This IDE can integrate with Facebook and Twitter to let you share code with your friends.
- DeuterIDE’s editor offers features like jump to line, search and replace, undo and redo, and copy and paste.
- It allows you to write code in around 40 different programming languages.
- It provides a detailed history of complied submissions.
DeuterIDE is free to use.
Developer: Adobe Inc.
License: Apache License 2.0
This IDE is compatible with macOS, Windows, Android, and iOS. Formerly, Apache Cordova was known as PhoneGap and was initially developed by Nitobi. But in 2011, Adobe Systems purchased Nitobi. They released PhoneGap as an open-source IDE for developing mobile applications and renamed it Apache Cordova.
Features of Apache Cordova
- Command Line Interface (CLI): Cordova comes with a command-line interface that enables you to create new projects, build them on different platforms, and run them on emulators or real devices.
- Core Components: Cordova provides a set of core components required to build any mobile application. The availability of core components enables you to concentrate more on the logic of an application.
- Cordova Plugins: You can extend the functionality of Cordova by using plugins.
You can download and use Apache Cordova for free.
Developer: Eclipse Foundation
License: Eclipse Public License
Features of Eclipse
- Source Code Editor: Eclipse IDE has a source code editor that enables you to write code in PHP, Perl, Python, Ruby, C, C++, Scala, and many other programming languages. This source code editor supports a code completion feature that lets you write code quickly and easily.
- Workspace: This IDE provides you with a workspace to bundle all your projects in one place. In this workspace, you can store all images, files, and artifacts of your projects.
- Views: Eclipse IDE provides views that assist you in navigating within an IDE. These views are known as perspectives in Eclipse IDE. Every view has its own hierarchical data. When you click on a particular view, you get all the hierarchical data associated with that view. For instance, the project explorer view displays the list of projects you are currently working on.
- Integrations and Plugins: A plethora of plugins are available in the Eclipse Marketplace, with which you can extend the functionality of Eclipse IDE. Also, this integrated development environment seamlessly integrates with many other development tools, including Ant, Maven, and Git.
It is free to download and use.
8. Komodo IDE
Komodo IDE is another robust integrated development environment for developing Android applications. It is an IDE that supports various programming languages, including PHP, Go, Ruby, and Python. This IDE is compatible with Windows, Linux, and macOS platforms.
Features of Komodo IDE
- Advanced Editor: The advanced editor in Komodo IDE assists you in writing code faster and quicker. It features syntax checking, syntax highlighting, split-view and multi-window, variable highlighting, and code folding.
- Code Intelligence: This feature enables you to be more productive and efficient while writing code by offering multiple features, including code refactoring, XML autocomplete, matching braces, DOM viewer, and third-party library support.
- Graphical Debugging: The graphical debugger examines and inspects your code written in PHP, Python, Perl, Ruby, and Node.js. Komodo IDE also includes a Chrome debugger to debug web applications running in Google Chrome. In addition, this IDE supports remote debugging. You can debug your application on a remote server or an unsupported platform.
- Version Control and Integrated Tools: Komodo IDE can seamlessly integrate with version control systems, including Git, CVS, Mercurial, Subversion, Bazaar, and Perforce. Moreover, it supports integration with popular testing frameworks, such as PHPUnit, Go, PyTest, Prove, and RSpec.
Komodo IDE offers three different pricing plans, namely Free, Team, and Enterprise. You can download and use the Free edition of Komodo IDE without paying anything. The Team edition costs $84 per month if billed annually. To know the price of the Enterprise plan, you need to contact the sales team.
9. Qt Creator
Developer: Qt Project
Qt Creator is yet another powerful IDE for developing Android and iOS applications. In addition to mobile applications, you can also use this IDE for building desktop and embedded applications. It is compatible with Windows, macOS, BSD family, and Linux systems.
Features of Qt Creator
- Version Control: The mobile IDE seamlessly integrates with popular version control systems, such as Git, Perforce, Mercurial, and Subversion.
- Integrated UI Design: Qt Creator features integrated visual editors for developing C++ widget-based applications or fluid Qt Quick-based animated UIs using readymade controls.
- Project and Build Management: This feature allows Qt Creator to create all the necessary files for your project, whether you import an existing project or build the new one from scratch.
- Qt Device Emulator: With the Qt Device Emulator, you can run and debug your application in conditions identical to those on your target device.
- Qt Quick Compiler: The Qt Quick Compiler compiles your source code into machine code and accelerates start-up time and UI performance.
Qt Creator is one of the development tools of the Qt framework. The Qt framework comes in three different editions, namely Pro, Grow, and Teach. To purchase the license of the Pro edition, you need to pay $329 per month per user. You need to contact the vendor to get price quotes for Grow and Teach editions.
Developer: Apache Software Foundation, Oracle Corporation
License: Apache License 2.0
Features of NetBeans
- NetBeans Profiler: With NetBeans Profiler, you can obtain the runtime information of your application. It also helps you identify memory leaks and optimize the speed of your application.
- GUI Design Tool: With the GUI design tool, you can prototype and design Swing GUIs by dragging and positioning UI components.
- Syntax highlighting
- Code completion for native objects and functions
- Automatic browser compatibility checks
- Generation of AJAX callbacks from a template
NetBeans is free to download and use.
IDEs have made the software development process easier than ever before since they bring all essential developer tools to one place. In this article, we have listed the ten best IDEs for mobile app development that you can use for your projects.
Android Studio, IntelliJ IDEA, Eclipse, Komodo Edit, and NetBeans are ideal for developing only Android applications. On the other hand, Xcode is a dedicated integrated development environment for developing applications for iOS devices. When it comes to Qt Creator and Visual Studio, they are perfect IDEs for developing both Android and iOS applications.
We hope that after going through this article, you will be able to choose an IDE that best suits your needs as well as your budget.
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