PyCharm vs. Spyder: Which Should You Use?

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by Sharon Wilfong

Published September 9, 2022

Reviewed by Monali Mirel Chuatico

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Comparing PyCharm vs. Spyder is an apples-to-apples comparison. But what is Spyder, and what is PyCharm? They are two of the most competitive integrated development environments (IDEs) for Python programming today.

An IDE enables programmers to efficiently consolidate different aspects of writing software into a single application for editing source code. While you can code in Microsoft Windows Notepad, an IDE combines coding tools with a debugging environment.

PyCharm and Spyder Python IDEs offer various tools, such as notebooks, for use in data science. Spyder uses built-in features, so you don't need to install anything else to start developing.

The Spyder IDE was built specifically to use in data science. It's similar to RStudio, so switching between Matlab or R programming to Python is efficient.

However, Spyder has a steeper learning curve than PyCharm, which uses plug-ins to expand its capabilities. PyCharm is an IDE by JetBrains, the creators of Java IDE, the IntelliJ IDEA. It differs from Spyder in several ways.

What Is PyCharm?

PyCharm is an IDE that comes in three editions: community, education, and professional. To get the big picture first, what is PyCharm Community?

PyCharm Community is the IDE's free, open-source community edition. It provides smart Python development tools, including code assistance, version control integration, and visual debugging.

Similarly, the PyCharm Edu edition is free and open sourced. However, the education edition integrates educational tools and Python programming courses.

The professional paid version is robust with data science and web development tools. PyCharm's professional edition fully supports CSS, HTML, HTML5, JavaScript, and XML via plug-ins.

Developers can also add support for other languages and frameworks via plug-ins. PyCharm's professional edition fully supports scientific and big data tools and web development with Django and Flask.

A large community is available to help with things like code assistance, deployment, remote configurations, and version control integration. You can download the JetBrains toolbox app or the stand-alone installer to get started.

What Is Spyder?

Spyder is a free and open-source scientific environment for Python, combining advanced analysis, debugging, editing, and profiling with data exploration. Spyder features a multi-language editor pane to create, open, and modify source files. The editor provides auto-completion, horizontal and vertical splitting, and real-time analysis.

Other core building blocks in the Spyder IDE include a debugger, plots, and variable explorer. Spyder's interactive IPython console allows users to run code by cell, file, or line and render plots in-line.

In addition, Spyder's help pane enables users to find, display, and render rich documentation for objects with a docstring. APIs and plug-ins such as Spyder Notebook, Spyder Terminal, and Spyder Unittest extend Spyder's functionality.

For example, the Spyder plug-in for Jupyter notebooks supports basic functions such as saving notebooks in any location. Spyder's file switcher allows switching between notebooks in the variable explorer.

Spyder vs. PyCharm

When it comes to Python IDE PyCharm vs. Spyder, both are popular code editors for the Python programming language. But how are they similar?

Similarities

Spyder and PyCharm are advanced text editing software programs with tools for programming in Python. They both have similar features that help users complete lines of code automatically.

Both have a built-in debugger. These IDEs provide version control to different degrees and share the following similarities:

Similar editing features:

  • Code completion
  • Syntax highlighting
  • Style analysis

Support scientific libraries, including

  • Jupyter
  • Matplotlib
  • Notebooks

Find component definitions:

  • PyCharm uses 'go to declaration'
  • Spyder uses 'go to definition'

PyCharm and Spyder both have a built-in browser. The IDEs also provide help features where users can find definitions, examples, and code snippets of classes, objects, or methods.

Feature PyCharm Spyder
Code Editor

Includes code snippets and customizable premade templates.

Includes an integrated project browser, horizontal and vertical splitting, and safe refactoring functionality.

Developers can create code cells to execute simultaneously.

Offers horizontal and vertical splitting.

Debugger

The debugger is usable anywhere.

The Pro edition comes with a JavaScript debugger.

The IDE uses the PDB debugger and can access and edit each breakpoint through the variable explorer.
Integration

Supports download for Python or R data science packages and Conda integration to separate dependencies by the project.

Some libraries are only available with the student and premium versions.

Spyder and Anaconda share standard libraries.
Version Control

Comes with default plug-ins.

Supports Git, Perforce, and SVN.

Basic integration with Git's version control system.

How Do I Choose?

While Spyder and PyCharm are both code editors, your preferences and the Python IDE PyCharm vs. Spyder differences can help you choose which to use. Spyder is a scientific IDE. It has a more extensive library to download when you install it with Anaconda.

PyCharm is more flexible. It has many plug-ins for Python programming, various supported languages, web development, and data science. It also provides a free education edition to learn the Python programming language.

Frequently Asked Questions About PyCharm and Spyder

What programming languages does PyCharm support?

PyCharm is an IDE for polyglot programming, allowing the user to write code in Python and several other languages. For example, app developers often use JavaScript, HTML5, SQL, XML, and CSS in enterprise applications.

To that end, PyCharm supports Python version 2.7, Python version 3.6 through 3.11, PyGTK, PyQt4, and wxPython. PyCharm supports JavaScript to create dynamic, interactive web content and template languages, including Chameleon, Django templates, and Jinja2.

PyCharm supports SQLAlchemy, style sheets such as CSS, and markup languages, including HTML/XHTML, XML, and YAML. It also supports frameworks and tools like Django, Google App Engine, Flask, Pyramid, and Maya.

What programming languages does Spyder support?

The Python Spyder is a lightweight IDE written in Python, with tools for data analysts, engineers, and scientists. It's more basic than PyCharm, meaning it focuses on the Python programming language and the tools and frameworks involved.

Spyder is a multi-platform IDE, so you can install it on Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems as a comprehensive development tool. It also provides advanced analysis, debugging, editing, and profiling for data exploration, deep inspection, interactive execution, and data visualization.

In addition, the IPython Console allows command execution and interaction with data inside IPython interpreters. Spyder also provides Spyder Notebook, Terminal, and Unittest plug-ins to expand its capabilities.

Do coding bootcamps teach how to use PyCharm or Spyder?

Yes. You can learn the Python programming language by completing a Python coding bootcamp. The bootcamp may also cover either PyCharm or Spyder. Various data science bootcamps may use Spyder or PyCharm as the go-to IDE.

PyCharm is also a web development tool, so a web development bootcamp may explore PyCharm as part of the curriculum. However, PyCharm does offer an education version that includes Python language learning tools and teaches how to use the IDE.

You can also learn Spyder via the IDE's website tutorials. Spyder provides video tutorials for new users to learn the basics and explore its four main panes.


Feature Image: Maksym Panchuk / EyeEm / Getty Images

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