PyCharm vs. VS Code: An In-depth Comparison for Developers

As a developer in 2023, you‘re spoiled for choice when it comes to integrated development environments (IDEs). Two of the most popular options are PyCharm and Visual Studio Code (VS Code). But which one is right for you?

In this comprehensive, 2000+ word guide, we‘ll compare these two feature-packed IDEs across 10 key areas to help you decide:


  • Origins and Background
  • Licensing and Business Models
  • User Interface and Customization
  • Language and Extension Support
  • Debugging Features
  • Version Control Integration
  • Navigation and Autocomplete
  • Speed and Resource Usage
  • Unique Benefits and Drawbacks
  • Recommendations By Project Type

So let‘s dive in…

Origins and Background

First, some background. PyCharm was created in 2010 by Czech-based software company JetBrains. Known for products like IntelliJ IDEA, JetBrains set out to build the ultimate Python-focused IDE.

The result? Over a decade later PyCharm has become many developers‘ go-to tool for Python work. Its robust feature set and constantly evolving Python support cement its status as a leading IDE.

VS Code arrived on the scene later in 2015, created by tech giant Microsoft. With VS Code, Microsoft sought to build a lightweight yet customizable code editor that supported many languages.

The open-source result surpassed expectations. In just a few years VS Code has skyrocketed to become the most popular developer environment globally. Its accessible nature and helpful community have fueled incredible growth.

So in PyCharm you have a specialized Python IDE. With VS Code, a customizable editor geared at versatility. This hints at key differences explored below.

Licensing and Business Models

PyCharm comes in two flavors – Professional and Community. The feature-packed Professional edition starts at $199 per year for individuals. It adds tools for web development, database access, remote development, and more.

PyCharm‘s free and open-source Community version focuses purely on Python. It provides all the core features needed for Python coding without restrictions.

VS Code sticks to a single open-source codebase for its free product. Microsoft operates VS Code under a traditional open-source license. There are no feature limitations or fees. Revenue comes from Microsoft‘s cloud and services.

This means VS Code avoids a fragmented licensing model. But because Microsoft don‘t charge for VS Code, some advanced features may progress slower. Overall most individual developers are happy with what VS Code offers out-of-the-box.

User Interface and Customization

Now to the UI experience and customization options…

PyCharm markets itself as "the IDE that understands your code." Its slick user interface aims to enhance your productivity through:

  • Smart window management
  • Customizable views
  • Useful tool windows
  • Minimal visual clutter

Configurability focuses heavily on optimizing workflows for development tasks.

VS Code on the other hand emphasizes simplicity in its interface:

  • Clean overall aesthetic
  • Simple out-of-the-box state
  • Focus on editor space
  • Use of visual cues

This minimalist UI gets out of your way to let code take center stage. It also makes VS Code less daunting for beginners.

Customization in VS Code centers around making the editor your own through:

  • Themes for colors and icons
  • Editor layout options
  • The Explorer view

As a result, configurability is more visually focused rather than workflow-driven.

Both IDEs allow UI personalization. For those wanting a polished, productivity-boosting environment, PyCharm shines. Minimalists find great appeal in Code‘s simple surface that recedes into the background.

Language and Extension Support

When evaluating IDEs, language support should be a top priority. Let‘s explore how PyCharm and VS Code compare here.

PyCharm‘s tagline says it all – "The Python IDE for Professional Developers." Out of the box, PyCharm provides excellent support for:

  • Python
  • SQL
  • Console dialects

Critically, Python support goes far beyond basics like syntax highlighting and autocomplete. Users benefit from advanced debugging tools, code inspections, smart refactorings, unit testing integration, and more.

PyCharm also integrates tightly with major Python web frameworks like Django and Flask. Dedicated project types, code assistance, and plugins take PyCharm‘s Python prowess up another notch.

VS Code differs by supporting a wider range of languages:

  • JavaScript/TypeScript
  • Java
  • C++
  • C#
  • PHP

Rather than focus on one language, VS Code provides extensibility tools for users to customize support themselves.

This is achieved through VS Code‘s Marketplace containing thousands of extensions. Here users can find plugins offering enhanced Python support and functionality for other languages.

Some useful Python extensions include:

  • Python Extension Pack for debugging, linting, code formatting and more
  • Pylance for improved code intelligence
  • Jupyter Notebook support
  • Tensorflow snippet packs

So while PyCharm has more robust dedicated Python support, VS Code offers greater breadth through customization.

Debugging Features

Bug-free code relies on effective debugging. Both IDEs deliver here but through slightly different means.

PyCharm promotes its "exceptional debugging experience" as a key feature. Users can set breakpoints, inspect variables, and execute code step-by-step for most languages.

For Python, PyCharm provides visibility into multi-threaded and remote programs. Debugging web apps and containers is smooth. Integration with scientific libraries like Numpy speeds up scientific Python workflows.

VS Code uses extensions to enable debugging. The built-in Node Debugger along with extensions like Python offer solid debugging too. Some notable extras include:

  • Multi-threaded and remote debugging
  • Debugger for Chrome extension
  • Inline debugging visualization

The VS Code Marketplace also contains various third-party debugger extensions. These support environments like gdb, LLDB, React Native, C++ and PHP.

Overall, PyCharm likely edges out VS Code for debugging by integrating these features natively. But VS Code remains competent leveraging its extension ecosystem.

Version Control Integration

Modern development requires integrating with version control systems like Git. This allows collaborating with other developers and managing code revisions.

Both IDE guides provide excellent built-in Git support:

alt text

PyCharm Git Integration. Image source: JetBrains

  • GUI-based commit, push, pull, merge actions
  • Review diffs between file versions
  • Resolve merge conflicts
  • Blame and log views


  • PyCharm touts strong repository workflows, change and conflict managers

  • VS Code enables working through the editor‘s UI or the Integrated Terminal

Third-party version control systems like SVN or Mercurial have extension support in VS Code. But PyCharm allows using Git alternatives through external tools.

Overall both IDEs receive high marks enabling essential version control tasks directly within the editor. VS Code likely provides greater flexibility courtesy of its extensions.

Navigation and Autocomplete

Effective navigation and smart autocomplete are hallmarks of quality IDEs. These features quicken development by eliminating tedious tasks:

  • Memorizing APIs
  • Reviewing documentation
  • Writing long variable names

Let‘s break down how our contenders compare.

JetBrains sells PyCharm‘s code navigation as virtually frictionless. Developers can instantly jump between symbols, superclasses, function calls and more. Useful tools like Structure View provide alternate code roadmaps to aid understanding.

Smart code completion uses machine learning to suggest relevant methods and variables in any scope. PyCharm also generates documentation previews on demand.

VS Code isn‘t sluggish here either. Its Go to and Peek definitions make verifying symbols a breeze. The comparable Structure view maps code architecture nicely.

IntelliSense auto-completion adapts to file types for ideal suggestions. And just like PyCharm, method overloads, docs and parameters show interactively.

Third-party Python extensions like Kite and Tabnine enhance intelligence through AI-based recommendations.

In summary – PyCharm sets the standard for rapid code investigation with minimal interrupts. But VS Code remains productive with navigation, especially when enhanced by its extension ecosystem.

Speed and Resource Usage

Performance is top of mind, particularly when working on aging hardware or large codebases. Slow editors quickly frustrate, so responsiveness and optimization are imperative.

PyCharm integrates various speeds optimizations for smooth editing. These include:

  • Background tasks using spare CPU
  • Caching parsed files
  • Only indexing relevant files

Combined with robust multi-core processing support, PyCharm affords respectable speeds. But performance relates closely to project size and computer resources.

Opening very large projects with thousands of files will tax any system. Machines with older or underpowered hardware may struggle running PyCharm responsively. Remote development scenarios can also hamper the experience.

VS Code was engineered for speed as a sleek editor. Microsoft describes it as:

"Focused on your code, and designed for the cloud with its lightweight architecture."

Smart loading and updating of components access only necessary computer resources. The editor also streamlines tasks to maximize file reading/writing efficiency.

As a result, VS Code flies even on low-end hardware and massive projects. Performance should be consistent across platforms and setups. Only those dealing with exotic project types may encounter hiccups.

For most developers, VS Code‘s sublime performance beats PyCharm‘s respectable speeds. Exceptionally large Python projects still run better on high-spec systems using PyCharm though.

Unique Benefits and Drawbacks

We‘ve covered numerous comparisons in depth already. But let‘s call out some remaining benefits and drawbacks that distinguish the two IDEs.

PyCharm Benefits

  • Integrated database tools
  • Built-in terminal
  • Vibrant Plugins marketplace
  • Python profiling tools
  • Framework specific project types
  • Docker integration

PyCharm Drawbacks

  • Resource intensive
  • Commercial licensing for full features
  • Limited community plugins

VS Code Benefits

  • Lightweight performance
  • Huge extension ecosystem
  • Deep customizability
  • Broad language support
  • Integrated notebook editor
  • Remote development capabilities

VS Code Drawbacks

  • Weaker specialized Python tools
  • Debugging support relies on extensions
  • Limited framework specific features

Which pros matter most depends on your work. But in summary – PyCharm excels at boosting Python productivity through tailor-made features. VS Code wins for versatility and lightweight flexibility.

Recommendations By Project Type

With so much covered already, which IDE should you choose ultimately?

As with most software comparisons – "it depends". The best solution aligns closely with your work‘s programming language and technical needs.

But we can make IDE recommendations based on various popular project types:

Project TypeRecommended IDE
Python Web Apps (Django, Flask)PyCharm
Data science/analysis workflowsPyCharm
Building Python desktop GUIsPyCharm
JavaScript/TypeScript Web AppsVS Code
Mobile development (React Native)VS Code
Simple Python automation scriptsVS Code
Complex mixed language projectsVS Code

For pure Python work, especially in web frameworks, data and GUIs – PyCharm rules. Its tailored project types, linting, debugging features excel here.

VS Code shines when multiple languages or basic Python scripts come into play. Its flexibility fills most common needs or can be extended through plugins.

Hopefully by mapping recommendations to project styles, choosing your champion IDE becomes straightforward. As projects evolve, you may find switching makes sense depending on new languages and requirements introduced.

Final Thoughts

We‘ve explored PyCharm versus Visual Studio Code across over 10 dimensions. While we can make recommendations, both IDEs have strengths making them highly capable.

PyCharm unequivocally dominates delivering features that streamline Python coding. Its commercial backing also ensures it improves continuously.

VS Code earns its popularity by offering a lightweight, responsive editor that enhances productivity through customization. Scaling from basic scripts up to complex languages projects is frictionless.

At the end of day integrate these IDEs into your workflows and experience the magic directly. With both offering free community versions, trying before buying makes perfect sense too.

Now armed with this exhaustive feature comparison, determine what environment best suits your style and development needs.

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