Defining text editors and IDEs


In order to clean out all text editors from IDE questions and IDEs from text editors there needs to be a clear definition of each. As far as I can tell there’s no universally accepted line in the sand between the two groups of tools (“adding plugins to any editor that supports them makes that tool an IDE”,“all IDEs are essentially text editors”) so I suggest we come up with our own. We could then add that as a note beneath the question.

I’m thinking we go only with built-in functionality. If we agree on that, the question is what’s the defining IDE functionality. What’s the functionality that once added to a text-editor out of the box makes it an IDE. Debugging and refactoring tools come to mind, but maybe there’s something else?

Or maybe there’s a better way to define the two altogether? Thoughts?


I’m in favor of including text-editor-plus-plugins, focusing on the plugins. Parallel example: the “game engines for non-coders” question has options for Playmaker + Unity and uScript + Unity, but Unity alone doesn’t fit the question.


Seems reasonable if the “+ plugins” bit is explicitly stated.

Ok, but that’s just text editors creeping into IDE questions; what about IDEs creeping into text editor questions? There’s clearly different intent when someone asks for a text editor recommendation. You wouldn’t suggest Eclipse in this case, right?


Maybe an IDE can be allowed in the text editor question, as long as it has full text editor functions. To then only allow pro/cons that are specific to text editing and not IDE functions?


Has this ever actually happened?

Anyway, I’m with @thermoplastics on this one… the scope of the question should pretty clearly indicate whether an IDE can fit or not, and there’s a clear line at having a concept of formatting. Need boldface or page layout? IDEs are out. Basically, if Notepad fits, so do they.