The Best Free IDEs & Code Editors in 2023

Looking for an IDE or code editor, and not sure which one to pick? Here’s a quick roundup of what’s available in early 2023.

But mom, what’s an IDE?

An IDE, or Integrated Development Environment, is a special piece of software that makes writing code a little easier on programmers. It usually consists of at least a code editor (a place to write code), a compiler (to build and package code into executable programs), and a debugger (a way to step through code one line at a time as it runs). Often IDEs also have other helpful features, like spell check, syntax highlighting, code auto-completion, and integrated version control.

Depending on what kind of development you’re looking to do, there are some popular options. If you’re writing Kotlin, for example, IntelliJ IDEA or Eclipse might be your first choice; if you’re writing C#, though, you probably want to work in Visual Studio. Read on for some good IDE options!

If you’re a .NET developer…

A screenshot of Visual Studio 2022 for Mac.
Visual Studio 2022 on MacOS 12.6 (Monterrey). The Windows version has many more toolbars at the top of the IDE; all options in the Mac version are managed by the top menu bar.

For .NET development, Visual Studio is the hands-down winner.  Developed by Microsoft, Visual Studio is the most complete and comprehensive .NET IDE around, with not only a code editor and compilers for C#, F#, and VB.NET, but advanced IntelliSense code completion, built-in Git source control, GUI designers, and more.  The Community edition is free, and available for either Windows or Mac. Download it at

If you’d like to try .NET development without Visual Studio, you could also try JetBrains Rider (free 30-day trial at

If you’re writing code for the JVM…

A screenshot of IntelliJ IDEA for Mac.
IntelliJ IDEA 2022 Community on MacOS 12.6 (Monterrey). Like the Visual Studio screenshot above, IDEA has a less cluttered interface on Mac than on PC.

IntelliJ IDEA, by JetBrains, is one of the best editors out there for JVM-based languages, with out-of-the-box support for Java, Kotlin, Groovy, and Scala.  It offers context-relevant code completion and a ton of out-of-the-box built-in integrations for build tools (Mavin, Gradle, and Ant) and source control (Git, Subversion, Mercurial, and Perforce), as well as a decompiler that turns .jar files into human-readable source code.  The Community edition is open-source and free to download at

Other free IDEs for JVM development include Eclipse ( and Apache NetBeans ( 

If you want one IDE for multi-language development…

ActiveState’s Komodo IDE is a multi-language, open-source IDE “for today’s web languages”.  It comes with features like code completion, live in-editor browser preview, and an integration with for language documentation at your fingertips. In January of 2023, it was sunset by ActiveState and released as open-source, so you’ll have to pull the source code and build it yourself; time will tell if the open-source community continues the project or usage of Komodo IDE dies off. You can find out more at

Eclipse is also a free, open-source, multi-language IDE, and is available at It’s most famously used for Java, but a number of other programming languages are available through extensions and plug-ins.

If you’re looking for code & text editors…

Visual Studio Code (also referred to as VS Code) is a multi-platform code editor from Microsoft, and has rapidly become the gold standard for editors.  Out-of-the-box, it provides basic support for a wide variety of common programming and markup/notation languages, and additional languages and advanced support packages are available as plug-ins.  It is open-source and available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.  VS Code features include IntelliSense code completion, a built-in debugger, and embedded source control, as well as a dizzying array of extensions available through the VS Code extension marketplace.  You can download it for free at

Brackets is an open-source text editor for basic web development.  Originally created by Adobe, it is now community-owned and open-source, free to download, and available for most computer platforms.  The major draw of Brackets is live preview functionality for HTML, CSS and JavaScript using Google Chrome, although Brackets supports editing for multiple programming languages and over 38 file types. You can find it at

Other recommended free text editors include NotePad++ ( and Komodo Edit ( 

Or, if you really like typing… 

Vim is a free, open-source text editor that runs either in a command terminal or a graphical user interface (gVim).  Unlike other editors, it does not depend on menus or buttons, but instead on typed commands, which allows users to utilize the full application without ever taking their fingers off the home row of the keyboard.  It is highly customizable via key mappings, macros, and plug-ins, and includes autocompletion features, file comparison and merging, spell checking and limited IDE-like features.  Is there a learning curve?  Yes.  Is it steep?  Also yes.  Could it be worth it?  Try it for yourself at and find out.

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