What is the Difference Between IDE and Compiler? with Proper Definition and Brief Explanation

The main difference between IDE and compiler is that the IDE is a software package consisting of tools needed to develop and test software applications while the compiler is a program that translates the written source code into a high-level programming language. in low-level machine code.

An IDE provides an environment to create, build, and test a software application. It consists of a code editor, compiler or interpreter, and a debugger with a graphical user interface (GUI). Also, it has features like source code formatting, error diagnosis and smart code completion, reporting. On the other hand, a compiler is a special program that converts source code into executable machine code. The programmer can run the appropriate language compiler according to the programming language used to write the source code.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is IDE?
     – Definition, Functionality
2. What is a compiler?
     – Definition, Functionality
3. What is the relationship between IDE and compiler?
     – Association scheme
4. What is the difference between IDE and compiler?
     – Comparison of key differences

Key terms

Compiler, GUI, IDE, Interpreter

What is IDE

IDE stands for Integrated Development Environment . It is a software application that provides facilities for software development. It consists of tools like source code editor, automation tools and debugger. Most IDEs have compilers and interpreters. Therefore, it is easier to write the code and compile it. Some IDEs support multiple languages. For example, in the Microsoft Visual Studio IDE, the developer can write programs in languages ​​such as C#, C++, Visual Basic, and JavaScript.

                                                                  Figure 1: Eclipse IDE

Also, most IDEs have smart code completion. When the programmer writes the code, the IDE provides the list of matching options or commands. Therefore, the programmer can easily select the required command from that. In addition, the GUI makes it easy to organize your code. Generally, an IDE provides all the necessary tools in a single environment to ease the development process.

What is a compiler

Computer programs are written using high-level programming languages. These programs or source codes are easy to understand by the programmer, but not by the computer. Therefore, the source code is converted into machine understandable machine code. A compiler is used for this conversion. Thus, a compiler is a translator that converts the source code of a high-level programming language to a lower-level machine language to create an executable program.

                                                              Figure 2: Build Process

A compiler performs a series of operations such as preprocessing, lexical analysis, parsing, semantic analysis, converting input programs to an intermediate representation, code optimization, and code generation. Also, a compiler converts all source code to machine code at once. Therefore, compiler-based programming languages ​​like C and C++ run faster than other languages.

Relationship between IDE and compiler

  • Most IDEs contain a compiler.

Difference Between IDE and Compiler


An IDE is a software application that provides complete facilities to computer programmers for software development. A compiler is software that transforms computer code written in one programming language (source code) into another programming language (target code). This is the basic difference between IDE and compiler.


IDE provides tools to create, build and test software. It also provides programmable editors, object and data modeling, libraries, build automation tools, and many more. On the other hand, a compiler translates the source code into machine code so that it can be executed by the computer. This is another difference between IDE and compiler. 


NetBeans, Eclipse, Microsoft Visual Studio and Code Blocks are some examples for IDE. GNU GCC is an example for a compiler.


The basic difference between IDE and compiler is that IDE is a set of software consisting of tools needed to develop and test software applications, while a compiler is a program that translates source code written in high-level programming language into code. low-level machine. In short, an IDE helps to improve the productivity of the software development process while a compiler works as the translator to convert a computer program.


1. “Integrated development environment.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, October 6, 2018, Available here.
2. “What is the integrated development environment (IDE)? – Definition of WhatIs.com. “SearchSoftwareQuality, Available here.
3. “Compiler”. Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Oct 9, 2018, Available here.
4. “What is Compiler? – WhatIs.com Definition.” WhatIs.com, Available here.

Courtesy image:

1. “IDE – eclipse” By Linux Screenshots (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
2. “Compiler” By I, Surachit (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia

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