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PyCharm vs. VS Code: Which Python IDE Wins?

When it comes to Python development, having the right integrated development environment (IDE) can make all the difference in productivity and efficiency. Two of the most popular options for Python programmers are PyCharm and Visual Studio Code (VS Code).

PyCharm by JetBrains is renowned for its robust feature set and intuitive interface tailored specifically for Python. On the other hand, VS Code by Microsoft offers flexibility and customizability as a lightweight yet powerful code editor.

In this comprehensive comparison guide, we’ll analyze the key differences between PyCharm and VS Code across critical factors to determine which IDE is best suited for different Python developer needs and preferences.

Overview of PyCharm and VS Code

Before diving into the nitty-gritty details, let‘s briefly introduce PyCharm and VS Code.


Released in 2010 by Czech software company JetBrains, PyCharm is an IDE specifically built for Python development. It provides developers with a rich set of capabilities including:

  • Smart code completion and analysis
  • Powerful debugging and testing tools
  • Integration with major VCS like Git, SVN, and Mercurial
  • Support for web frameworks like Django and Flask
  • Integration with Jupyter Notebook
  • Database management and SQL integration
  • Powerful refactoring and code navigation
  • Remote development capabilities
  • Integration with major scientific libraries like NumPy, SciPy, Matplotlib

PyCharm has both a free community version and a paid professional version with additional features.

Visual Studio Code

First released in 2015 by Microsoft, VS Code is a lightweight and customizable code editor supporting multiple programming languages. Key features include:

  • IntelliSense for smart code completion
  • Support for debugging, task running, and version control
  • Extensive library of extensions
  • Customizable interface with themes and settings
  • Integrated terminal
  • Collaborative coding tools
  • Portable and available across platforms

VS Code is free, open source, and backed by an active community supporting its growth.

Detailed Comparison

Now let‘s do a deep dive into how PyCharm and VS Code stack up across some of the most important factors for Python developers.

User Interface and Experience

A development environment‘s user interface can have a major impact on a developer‘s experience. Let‘s see how PyCharm and VS Code compare in this regard.


PyCharm provides an intuitive user interface designed specifically for Python developers. It offers convenient shortcuts, menus, and buttons for quick access to IDE features. PyCharm‘s UI has a traditional IDE-style layout with a menu bar, editor panes, and side tool windows.

The abundance of menus and options can be overwhelming for new users. However, once you learn the ins and outs of PyCharm‘s interface, it allows you to become extremely productive.

Customizable interface themes, fonts, and shortcuts allow you to configure your desired look and feel. Numerous small touches like autocompletion popups and highlighted syntax make coding a breeze. Overall, PyCharm‘s UI provides developers with robust tools through a convenient interface.

VS Code

VS Code opts for a pared down approach focused on extensibility and customizability. It has a minimal interface to start with a sidebar, status bar, and editor window with tabbed files. This simplicity and lack of clutter helps new developers get started quickly.

Nearly every aspect of the interface is customizable – you can add, remove, tweak toolbars, menus, keyboard shortcuts, themes, and more to your liking. However, the starting configuration may feel too barebones for some. VS Code‘s UI takes more initial setup compared to PyCharm‘s robust default interface.


PyCharm provides more UI features and customization options out of the box. Its intuitive interface allows developers to become productive rapidly. VS Code offers extreme customizability but has a steeper learning curve for configuring a productive dev environment.

Performance and Speed

For developers, nothing is more frustrating than an IDE that constantly lags or freezes. The performance and speed of PyCharm vs VS Code is an important differentiation.


As an advanced IDE packed with many features, PyCharm demands more system resources. It typically has higher memory usage and takes more time to start up than lightweight code editors.

The tradeoff for PyCharm‘s abundance of features is somewhat lower performance, especially on older or underpowered machines. Memory-intensive tasks like code analysis on large projects can slow things down.

However, PyCharm utilizes caching and indexing techniques to improve performance. It also provides options like "Power Save Mode" to disable certain inspections and features for better speed. Overall, PyCharm‘s performance is respectable but not blazing fast.

VS Code

By design, VS Code is optimized for speed and lower resource usage. It‘s built on top of the Electron framework which allows VS Code to start up and run quickly. The minimalist core interface also contributes to faster performance.

VS Code feels snappy and responsive, even when working on large codebases. Processor and memory usage is noticeably lower compared to PyCharm thanks to its streamlined architecture. The convenience of VS Code‘s speed and lower footprint make it suitable for underpowered machines.


VS Code is markedly faster and uses fewer system resources than PyCharm. However, PyCharm has implemented optimizations to boost performance. For sheer speed and lightweight footprint, VS Code is the winner.

Language and Framework Support

A Python IDE‘s level of support for the language itself and its popular web frameworks can sway the decision for many developers.


As an IDE purpose-built for Python, PyCharm unsurprisingly offers top-notch language support. It has advanced capabilities for code completion, error checking, debugging, and refactoring Python code.

PyCharm also boasts excellent integration and support for major Python web frameworks like Django, Flask, Pyramid, and CherryPy. It provides dedicated project templates, database tools, run configurations, and deployments for these frameworks.

Other languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript used in web development are also well supported in PyCharm. Overall, PyCharm is arguably the IDE with the best Python and web framework support.

VS Code

While not focused solely on Python, VS Code still provides excellent support for the language. IntelliSense, debugging, type hinting, linting, and formatting tools for Python are included out of the box.

However, VS Code‘s Python framework support is more limited compared to PyCharm. Extension packs like Django Extension Pack and Flask Extension Pack help improve framework integration. But some developers may miss the depth of dedicated framework tooling present in PyCharm.

VS Code compensates with its solid support for other languages like JavaScript, TypeScript, Go, C++, and more that a Python developer may utilize. Although not tailored specifically for Python, VS Code still satisfies cross-language needs.


For pure Python and web framework support, PyCharm is the clear winner. But VS Code compensates through its versatility across multiple languages which may suit some Python developers better.

Debugging Capabilities

Effective debugging tools can significantly boost developer productivity. PyCharm and VS Code take different approaches when it comes to debugging Python code.


PyCharm comes equipped with robust debugging capabilities for Python. Developers can easily set breakpoints, step through code, and inspect variables in the debugger pane.

Handy features like conditional breakpoints, data watchers for variables, and debugging from historical snapshots further enhance PyCharm‘s debugger. Remote debugging for running and testing code on different machines is also seamless.

For data scientists, PyCharm‘s integration with Python data visualization libraries provides debugging tools tailored to data analysis use cases. Overall, debugging Python code is a breeze with PyCharm.

VS Code

VS Code includes a streamlined debugger for Python. Developers can set breakpoints, suspend execution via breakpoints, and examine stack traces. VS Code supports variable inspection and watches during debugging sessions.

However, more advanced functionalities like conditional breakpoints require installing separate debugger extensions. VS Code‘s debugging features cover the basics well but lack some of the deeper capabilities included with PyCharm.


PyCharm‘s robust debugging toolkit tailored for Python surpasses VS Code‘s options. Developers debugging complex code will benefit from PyCharm‘s more fully featured debugger.

Code Refactoring and Analysis

Refactoring code to improve structure without changing functionality is important for maintainability. Let‘s explore how refactoring capabilities compare between the two IDEs.


PyCharm provides top-notch built-in support for refactoring Python code. It enables common refactoring operations like renaming variables/functions, extracting methods, and inline variable replacement with ease.

Code analysis features in PyCharm like error detection, syntax highlighting, and code quality inspection automate identifying problem areas. This allows seamless refactoring as developers modify code.

PyCharm also offers robust detection of code smells – warning signs indicating issues impacting readability or performance. Its advanced static code analysis and quick fixes transform disorganized spaghetti code into optimized, easy-to-read Python.

VS Code

VS Code delivers adequate Python refactoring capabilities but lacks the same degree of depth as PyCharm. Basic renaming, extracting variables and methods, and moving functions between files is straightforward.

However, more complex refactorings require installing extensions in VS Code. Automated code smell detection and advanced analysis features also aren‘t included out of the box. VS Code satisfies basic refactoring needs but PyCharm goes far deeper.


PyCharm‘s extensive static analysis and automated refactoring capabilities exceed what VS Code can offer. For optimizing Python code structure, PyCharm is the winner.

Collaboration Features

For developers working in teams, collaboration capabilities like code review tools, issue tracking, and project management integrations are highly valuable.


PyCharm comes equipped with an array of collaboration features. It integrates tightly with VCS like Git, SVN, and Mercurial for change tracking. Code review workflows are streamlined in the IDE.

Project management apps like Jira, YouTrack, and Trello all integrate directly within PyCharm. This allows developers to connect tickets and issues directly to code commits without leaving the IDE.

PyCharm also enables live share capabilities for joint debugging sessions and pair programming. Overall, PyCharm provides extensive collaboration features tightly coupled with development workflows.

VS Code

VS Code offers more limited collaboration capabilities out of the box but can be enhanced via extensions. It delivers integration with Git and other VCS for version control and change tracking.

Extensions are available that connect VS Code to popular project management tools like Jira, Azure DevOps, and Asana. However, integration is not as tight as PyCharm‘s native integrations with these apps.

For real-time collaboration, VS Code supports live share for cooperative editing and debugging. Useful for collaboration but not yet at the same level as PyCharm.


PyCharm delivers more robust collaboration capabilities covering code review, project management, and live collaboration. VS Code requires more extensions to match PyCharm‘s collaboration feature set.

Customization and Extensibility

Developers spend endless hours in their IDE, so being able to customize and extend it is invaluable. Let‘s examine how PyCharm and VS Code stack up in these areas.


While PyCharm packs abundant features out of the box, there are still plenty of ways developers can customize the IDE. User interface themes, color schemes, fonts, shortcuts, and workflows can all be configured to each developer‘s liking.

PyCharm also supports creating custom run configurations, templates, and project views tailored to specific needs. Additionally, plugins and integrations from the PyCharm marketplace expand the IDE‘s capabilities for individual workflows.

However, because PyCharm leans more heavily into its own ecosystem, some developers accustomed to VS Code extensions may find limited options in some cases. Overall, PyCharm still offers decent customization thanks to its own plugin marketplace.

VS Code

Extreme customizability is one of VS Code‘s major selling points. The editor is highly configurable so developers can tweak everything in the UI to match their preferences – shortcuts, menus, panes, themes, and more.

VS Code also sports a vast extension ecosystem that can customize and augment the editor‘s capabilities in virtually endless ways. Over 18,000 extensions allow adding new languages, debuggers, linters, and tools. The breadth of customizations for VS Code is unrivaled.


Between its massive extension library and extreme UI adaptability, VS Code is the clear winner on customization and extensibility. PyCharm offers decent customizability but simply cannot match the depth of what‘s possible with VS Code.

Learning Curve

For developers just getting started, a development environment with a gentle learning curve allows picking up the ropes faster. How do PyCharm and VS Code compare in this regard?


As a feature-packed IDE, PyCharm can pose a steeper learning curve – especially for those new to Python. Its dense interface and extensive options may seem overwhelming at first.

New PyCharm users will require time to grasp concepts like project structures, run configurations, and debugging workflows in the IDE. However, excellent documentation, built-in tutorials, tips, and courses help ease the onboarding process.

Overall, expect a moderate learning curve with PyCharm. But investing time to master it pays off with boosted productivity down the road.

VS Code

Thanks to its pared down interface and focused set of features, VS Code generally has a gentler learning curve. The starting setup is simple and intuitive enough for most new developers to hit the ground running.

Between the built-in help guides and multitudes of community tutorials, new users can smoothly onboard to using VS Code effectively. The learning curve feels minimal for basic editing and debugging tasks.

Expanding usage to more advanced capabilities via extensions and customization does present additional complexity over time. But VS Code keeps things straightforward for new users.


VS Code‘s clean interface and focused feature set give it a clear edge for developers just starting out. PyCharm‘s learning curve is steeper but also unlocks more capabilities for experienced developers.

Verdict: Which Python IDE is Best Overall?

So in the battle of PyCharm vs VS Code, which IDE emerges as the winner? Let‘s recap the highlights:

  • Interface and Experience: PyCharm for its robust default interface. VS Code for extreme customizability.
  • Performance: VS Code for its lightweight speed and efficiency.
  • Language Support: PyCharm for its excellent Python and web framework support.
  • Debugging: PyCharm for its rich debugging feature set tailored for Python.
  • Refactoring and Analysis: PyCharm for advanced code optimization capabilities.
  • Collaboration: PyCharm for its deep integrations and collaboration tools.
  • Customization: VS Code for its unparalleled library of extensions.
  • Learning Curve: VS Code for its easier initial onboarding.

There is no universal best choice that satisfies all developers. The ideal IDE depends on individual needs and priorities:

  • PyCharm excels for experienced Python developers needing robust tools for larger projects. Its rich feature set and language-specific design maximize productivity.
  • VS Code suits those wanting a faster, customizable editor that works well for smaller applications. Its extensions and flexibility support many different workflows.

Ultimately, you cannot go wrong with either PyCharm or VS Code. Both are excellent options for Python development. Each caters to different needs among developers. Hopefully, this comprehensive comparison provides you with a clearer picture of their respective strengths and weaknesses to pick the right IDE.

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