Best Software Development Tools Shortlist
My shortlist of 12 best tools includes options that are cost-effective and come with features to help with productivity:
- GitHub - Best for collaborative development
- IntelliJ IDEA - Best IDE for Java and Kotlin Development
- Bootstrap - Best front-end framework
- BitBucket - Best for version control
- JetBrains - Best comprehensive software development tool
- Eclipse - Best open-source solution
- PyCharm - Best for developing apps in Python
- Jira - Best for issue tracking
- DBSchema - Best tool for SQL, NoSQL, MongoDB, and cloud databases developers
- AWS Cloud9 - Best cloud IDE tool for debugging
- Airplane - Best for internal UIs and workflows
- Codeium - Best free software development tool
Software development tools help with version control issues and debugging challenges. They also enable developers to automate repetitive tasks, simplify coding processes, and meet their deadlines.
However, there’s no shortage of software development tools. I’ve tried simplifying the process by considering key features, integrations, pricing, and more. I’ll explain what kind of projects teams these tools best serve and where each one best shines in the development process.
What Is a Software Development Tool?
A software development tool is a program designed to assist in creating, testing, debugging, and managing software projects. It includes functionalities that facilitate the software development process, like integrated development environments (IDEs), version control, project management, bug tracking, and automated testing frameworks.
Overviews of the 12 Best Software Development Tools
I'll showcase each software development tool’s best use cases, noteworthy features, and pros and cons:
1. GitHub - Best for collaborative development
GitHub is a web-based platform used for version control and collaboration. It allows developers to host, review, and manage code and track and resolve issues.
Why I picked GitHub: I selected GitHub for this list because of its collaborative features, like its dedicated space for interactions called GitHub Discussions. It offers pull requests which help you review and merge changes. You can use forks to make a copy of a repository to propose changes to the original one, and you can add other GitHub users to the repository.
GitHub Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that appealed to me are its “gists” features, where you can share small snippets of code or text with others. You can stay up-to-date with notifications about activity on your repository. With project boards, it’s easy to organize and prioritize your work. You can also use wikis to add documentation and information about your project.
Integrations are available natively for Slack, Microsoft Teams, Terraform, Redis, and Jira.
Pricing: From $3.67/user/month (billed annually)
Trial: 30-day free trial + Free plan available
- GitHub pages to host a website for your project
- Built-in security features to secure your code
- Automate tasks like testing, building, and deploying your code
- Built on top of Git, and users must know Git commands
- Issues with privacy and security in the past
2. IntelliJ IDEA - Best IDE for Java and Kotlin Development
IntelliJ IDEA is an IDE that is used primarily for Java programming. It has a user-friendly interface and supports multiple languages, including Kotlin, Groovy, and Scala.
Why I picked IntelliJ IDEA: I believe IntelliJ IDEA is an excellent choice for Java development due to its rich features and developer-friendly design. It provides powerful code analysis tools, advanced debugging capabilities, and integration with popular technologies such as Maven and Git. You can create keyboard shortcuts and customize its dashboard from 100+ themes to meet your needs.
IntelliJ IDEA Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that stood out to me about IntelliJ IDEA are that it provides special coding assistance for many programming languages and inspections to evaluate the code’s quality and suggests quick fixes. You can also index the source code and create a virtual map of the project you’re working on. With the virtual map, you can catch errors, get code completion prompts, and perform refactoring.
Integrations are native and include Git, Mercurial, Perforce, and Subversion.
Trial: 90-day free trial + Free plan available under the “community” edition
- Automatic code completion suggestions
- Live templates so you can inject standard code quickly
- Search feature to find classes and symbols
- Can be resource-intensive and slow on lower-end systems
- Full version can be expensive for individual users or small teams
3. Bootstrap - Best front-end framework
Bootstrap is a popular front-end development framework that helps create responsive and mobile-first websites.
Bootstrap Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that I want to highlight about Bootstrap are that it comes with a grid system called Flexbox that makes it easy to create complex layouts and responsively organize content. Bootstrap is designed to prioritize mobile devices, ensuring your website is optimized for smaller screens before moving on to larger ones. It also supports Sass, a popular CSS preprocessor that allows for more efficient styling.
Integrations include native options like npm scripts, Dart Sass, Autoprefixer, RTLCSS, Hugo, and Parcel.
Pricing: From $15/month
Trial: Free plan available
- Can easily add interactive elements like modals, carousels, and popovers
- Icon library with 1800 options
- Extensive documentation and resources
- Can possibly cause code bloat
- Websites built with Bootstrap may look similar and generic
4. Bitbucket - Best for version control
Bitbucket is a comprehensive Git solution offering a user-friendly platform. It also comes with tight integrations with other Atlassian tools and powerful team collaboration and software development features.
Why I picked Bitbucket: Bitbucket is on my list for its robust version control features. It supports both Git and Mercurial version control. This allows you to leverage branching and merging capabilities to manage changes to your codebase and maintain high code quality. Its free unlimited private repositories allow for collaborative work without the need for expensive enterprise-level tools.
Bitbucket Standout Features and Integrations:
Features I found valuable included its granular access control, allowing administrators to manage team member permissions on a per-repository basis. With Git-based version control, you get a fault-resistant distributed architecture that helps reduce single points of failure and minimize downtime in the event of a disaster.
Integrations are available natively for Jira, Trello, Slack, Amazon CodeGuru, Bugsnag, Buddybuild, CircleCI, CloudBees, and GuardRails.
Pricing: $15/user/month (Decreases with more users)
Trial: 30-days free trial + Free plan available
- Integrated CI/CD solution that allows you to build, test, and deploy your applications automatically
- Unlimited pull requests reviewers
- Disaster recovery services
- Limited storage space for large files
- Does not support pull requests across forks in the free version
5. JetBrains - Best comprehensive software development tool
JetBrains is a software development company that creates tools with productivity features and code analysis capabilities for software developers and project managers.
Why I picked JetBrains: The compelling reason for me to select JetBrains is that it offers tools to automate routine development tasks and enhance code quality. It offers ReSharper, a productivity tool for .NET developers; WebStorm, an IDE for web development; CLion, a cross-platform IDE for C and C++; and more.
JetBrains Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that impressed me in my evaluation are its ability to work with many platforms and languages like .NET, macOS, iOS, Python, Django, PHP, Ruby & Rails, Kotlin, SQL, and more. You’ll find tools to build your code like TeamCity and Qodana, tools for project management like YouTrack and Space, and tools for improving code quality like Code With Me.
Integrations are available as plugins, including React Buddy, Rust, CSV Editor, Scala, Comma, Remind Me Later, StarCoder, and VolcTranslate. APIs are also available.
Pricing: Depends on the product you use
Trial: 30-day free trial + Free plan available
- Advanced features such as intelligent code completion, refactoring, and debugging
- Excellent customer support and active community
- Offers both free and paid versions of their tools
- Licenses can be expensive
- Limited mobile development support
6. Eclipse - Best open-source solution
Eclipse is a versatile open-source IDE developers use to write, test, and deploy their applications.
Why I picked Eclipse: I picked Eclipse primarily because it supports multiple programming languages such as Java, C++, Python, PHP, and Ruby. It runs on Windows, macOS, and Linux. It is easy to install and set up, and it offers intelligent code completion, syntax highlighting, and formatting.
Eclipse Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that stood out for me are its robust debugging tools, error reporting, and advanced refactoring options. It comes with an active and supportive community of developers, offering forums, wikis, and other resources for learning and troubleshooting. You also get built-in support for version control systems such as Git and SVN.
Integrations are available natively for AppTale, Jaspersoft Studio, New Relic, Slack, CodeTogether, and Obeo Designer.
Trial: Free and open-source
- Customizable perspectives and views for different workflows
- Supports unit testing and integration testing with JUnit
- Provides tools for profiling and performance analysis
- Some plugins may be buggy or incompatible with certain versions of Eclipse IDE
- Can take up a lot of disk space due to the large number of features and plugins
7. PyCharm - Best for developing apps in Python
PyCharm is an IDE used in computer programming for the Python language. It enables developers to write clear and maintainable code and automate routine tasks.
Why I picked PyCharm: If you’re a Python developer, I highly recommend PyCharm for software development. PyCharm's code analysis and graphical debugger help catch errors early in the development process, while its integrated unit tester ensures that your code performs as expected. The software also supports web development with Django and integrates with version control systems.
PyCharm Standout Features and Integrations:
Integrations are available natively for Code With Me, Space, Jupyter Notebook, Zeppelin, Google Cloud Storage, Apache Kafka, Microsoft Azure, VCS, Git, and Mercurial.
Trial: 30-day free trial + Free plan available
- Highly customizable interface
- Supports popular build tools like Ant and Maven
- Provides database support for various databases like MySQL, Oracle, and PostgreSQL
- Expensive compared to other IDEs
- Limited support for mobile and game development
8. Jira - Best for issue tracking
Jira is a project management tool that helps teams plan, track, and manage their work collaboratively.
Why I picked Jira: Though Jira is a project management tool, I’ve found that Jira has a lot of utility in issue tracking — you can easily create issues, assign tasks to team members, and prioritize work based on severity. It lets you monitor progress in real-time using customizable dashboards and reports. You can use agile tools like Kanban and Scrum boards to visualize progress.
Jira Standout Features and Integrations:
Features I liked during my assessment are that you can use Jira’s customized query language JQL to sort and filter issues based on different criteria. There’s also a drag-and-drop feature to build epics and sprints in the backlog. It offers many types of reports, like resolved vs. created issues, resolution time, and user workload.
Integrations include native options like Balsamiq, Zendesk, Zephyr, EazyBI, Salesforce Sales Cloud, Atlassian Confluence, and nFeed.
Pricing: From $7.75/user/month
Trial: 7-day free trial + Free plan available
- Advanced search features
- Comprehensive activity log
- Issue templates available
- Requires technical expertise to utilize advanced features fully
- Some users find the interface cluttered or overwhelming
9. DBSchema - Best tool for SQL, NoSQL, MongoDB, and cloud database developers
DBSchema is a database designer tool for developers who want to design and manage complex databases with ease. It eliminates manual coding and provides a unified view of the entire database.
Why I picked DBSchema: I selected DBSchema because it supports multiple databases like MySQL, PostgreSQL, Oracle, and SQL Server. It’s a great option for database engineers who want features like interactive diagrams to create databases, schema synchronization, and team collaboration. It has an SQL editor that lets you write and execute SQL queries.
DBSchema Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that I feel teams will find valuable include its data explorer, where you can explore the database structure and create, edit, or delete data. With query profiling, you can analyze query performance and optimize queries for better speed. In addition, you can automatically generate documentation for the database.
Integrations include connections to databases like Cassandra, MariaDB, Elasticsearch, Databricks, GoogleBigQuery, SAP Hana, Redshift, and Ingres.
Pricing: From $19.60/user/month
Trial: 15-day free trial + Free community edition
- Can generate code for different programming languages like Java, C#, and PHP
- Can search for database objects like tables, views, and columns
- Can import and export data to and from the database
- Steep learning curve for beginners.
- High CPU usage can cause performance issues
10. AWS Cloud9 - Best cloud IDE tool for debugging
AWS Cloud9 is a powerful cloud-based IDE that enables developers to write, run, and debug code from anywhere.
Why I picked AWS Cloud9: What appealed to me about AWS Cloud9 is its integrated debugger that sets breakpoints and inspects variables of Python, C/C++, PHP, and JS/Node.js apps. It also provides collaborative tools for team debugging, and there’s a built-in terminal for easy command-line access. You can easily set up and configure debugging for multiple languages.
AWS Cloud9 Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that I found to be helpful are its code editor, which includes syntax highlighting for many programming languages, code completion, and code refactoring tools. It also supports split views, allowing you to view and edit multiple files. In addition, it offers multiple cursors for simultaneous editing, automatic code completion, and code folding to hide and show coding blocks.
Integrations include pre-built options for Amazon services like AWS CodeStar, AWS Lambda, Amazon EC2, AWS X-Ray, AWS CloudFormation, and Amazon S3. Other third-party options are GitHub, Bitbucket, JIRA, Jenkins, Docker, and npm.
Pricing: Pay for what you use
Trial: Free tier available with limited features
- Code search and replace across multiple files
- Code profiling and performance analysis tools
- Automatic code backups and versioning
- Limited offline functionality since it is a cloud-based platform
- May require some familiarity with AWS services and terminology to use effectively
11. Airplane - Best for internal UIs and workflows
Airplane is a software development platform that is specifically built to create internal apps for your teams.
Why I picked Airplane: I chose Airplane for this list because it has many dashboard templates for internal use, including customer insights, customer relationship management, support ticket, broken link monitoring, feature flagging, admin, and automated cron jobs. It also offers version control, code review, and automatic deployment. It uses the React framework to help you quickly build internal tools.
Airplane Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that impressed me are its library of UX components like tables, charts, forms, buttons, checkboxes, date picker, and multi-select. It has its own CLI to help you handle API keys and execute tasks. You can use its robust access control, permission features, and SSO to improve security.
Integrations are available natively for MySQL, Postgres, Snowflake, Redshift, Slack, and APIs available.
Trial: 14-day free trial + Free plan available
- Supports on-prem hosting
- Can run tasks from Slack
- Can construct complex workflows with if, then, and for
- Limited number of integrations available
- No mobile app currently available
12. Codeium - Best free AI software development tool
Codeium is a software development tool that is available as an extension for code editors like Visual Studio Code and JetBrains’ IDEs. Or you can even try it directly in the browser.
Why I picked Codeium: I chose Codeium because of its AI-powered chat assistant. It can write code for you, generate applications, and answer questions like “Can you fix this bug?” Plus, it comes with “Autocomplete,” a tool that can suggest code as you work.
Codeium Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that I want to highlight are its search capabilities that let you search your repositories with natural language. It’s compatible with C, C++, C#, CSS, Fortran, and Java.
Integrations are available natively for Docker, Vim, Google Colab, Deepnote, Swift, TypeScript, and HTML5.
Pricing: Pricing upon request (For enterprise plan)
Trial: Free plan available
- Can quickly search through and use APIs
- Can generate unit tests
- Uses machine learning to work with natural language
- Lack of transparency in pricing
- Difficulty managing large-scale projects
Other Software Development Tools
Here are more software development options that didn't make the list but are definitely still worth checking out:
- Docker - Best containerization tool for creating lightweight and portable applications
- Dataiku - Best for large companies that need to work with large volumes of data
- Sublime Text - Best text editor for markup
- Git - Best for its distributed structure
- Slack - Best for centralizing communication for software development teams
- Linx - Best general-purpose low-code platform for building backends
- NetBeans - Best Java IDE for beginners
- Visual Studio - Best IDE for .NET and C++ developers on Windows
- Basecamp - Best for project management
- Selenium - Best for automated web app testing
- Crucible - Best for code review
- CircleCI - Best for continuous integration
- Postman - Best for API development
Selection Criteria For Software Development Tools
Here’s a short summary of the main evaluation criteria I used to narrow down my shortlist of best software development tools for this article:
For this best software development tools list, I looked for tools with these core functionalities:
- Allow you to improve code quality through code analysis and refactoring tools
- Provide an integrated development environment (IDE) with code editing and debugging capabilities, while also providing code completion suggestions
- Simplify project management, task tracking, and collaboration with other team members
To deliver the core functionality I outlined above, here are some features that I think are key in any software development tool:
- Version control: Allows developers to keep track of changes made to their code over time without overwriting each other's work. Additionally, it provides a history of changes, so developers can understand the reasoning behind certain decisions and revert to a previous version if necessary.
- Support for multiple programming languages: Developers often work on projects that involve different programming languages. Having support for multiple languages allows developers to switch between languages without needing to switch tools.
- Pre-built code templates: Lets developers quickly implement common functionalities or design patterns without having to write the code from scratch. Also serve as learning resources for less experienced developers.
- Customizable interface: Allows developers to tailor the tool to their individual preferences and match specific project needs, making it easier to navigate and access the necessary tools.
Any new software has some learning curve, but your developers should be able to find the right functionalities and get started with projects. I made it a point to focus on user-friendly tools that balance simplicity and depth.
I also prioritized positive user experience. I looked for clean interfaces, neatly organized menus, intuitive navigation, and developer documentation.
Software development involves the use of numerous tools and frameworks. Shifting between multiple tools can be mentally taxing and time-consuming. Fortunately, many software development platforms allow you to integrate your external application so you can access your entire toolset from a single platform. I privileged tools that offer integration with a wide range of related development programs and productivity tools.
What are the main types of software development tools?
Which language is best for coding?
Do I need to be proficient in coding to use software development tools?
The tools you use significantly impact your software quality, delivery speed, and development costs, so you must carefully consider your tool choices to ensure optimal outcomes. Software must ultimately serve business and user needs, and investment in good tools will eventually pay dividends in delivering high-performing applications.
A good tool will always include built-in code analysis and refactoring capabilities that help you identify and fix issues, ensuring your codebase remains clean, modular, and easy to understand. I hope this list helps you find the ideal tool with the right capabilities and price point for your project.
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