Offline IDE Vs Online IDE: What is the Difference?

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Developers use a suite of applications known as Integrated Development Environment, IDE, to write and build applications. An IDE offers a Graphical User Interface, GUI, including a source code editor, builds automation tools, and debugger.

The source code editor is where the developer writes the code for beginning the applications. The tool is a text editor though some editors have unique features such as auto-completion and syntax highlighting.

The build automation tools take the written code through various automated tasks and turn it into an executable code that can run on a machine. The automated tasks may include but are not limited to compilation, documentation, distribution, and testing of the code.

A debugger is used to identify the possible source code errors. The identification happens as the developer is typing in most cases.

In the past, developers used to run offline IDEs on local machines. However, with time, online IDEs are slowly replacing offline ones. This article will discuss the various offline and online IDEs’ fundamental differences and some of the ideal situations where each is applicable.

Difference between an Offline And an Online IDE

Offline IDE

Most developers prefer to install and run their desired IDEs locally. Therefore, as a developer, you need to download and install an offline IDE which is as simple as launching a binary file. In addition, you might need to download and install some project dependencies and libraries after installing the IDE.

Downloading and installing these additional files should be done with extra care to prevent a situation known as configuration drift. This is a scenario where the offline IDE code fails to work well in production environments as the necessary libraries are mismatched.


• Customization; most of the local IDEs allow users to add supporting features by installing plugins for supporting development workflow.

• Free and open sources; local IDEs like Eclipse and VS Code offer tons of free trial versions and open source options.

• No internet; once the development environment of an offline IDE is appropriately set up, you can unplug the internet connection without affecting the IDEs functionality.

However, setting up the environment in a local IDE consumes a lot of time depending on the nature and number of the anticipated projects. Also, it is prone to configuration drift, which happens when someone within the workforce makes a change in the development environment without communicating to others, thus causing the deployment to fail.


A typical online IDE comprises an environment that runs on the server and is accessed on a browser. However, some advanced models allow you to locally run the editor while the other IDE components are hosted in the cloud.

An online-IDE is defined as where most of the development environment is. Especially the tools for building, debugging, and compiling.


• Online IDEs offer fully configured developer workspaces that include a favorite IDE and the environmental configurations that match a particular production environment.

• Online-IDEs are not prone to configuration drift


• The most popular online IDEs offer limited open sources and free trials

Use Cases

Whether to use an offline or an online IDE depends on the challenges you are facing. Below are a few suggestions:

Inadequate Broadband

Most people are used to enterprise-level broadband when working from the office and gigabit connections when working at home. However, working from home is sometimes detrimental, especially when you are forced to deal with spotty connectivity always accompanied by limited bandwidths.

Worse still, most regions do not have any available broadband. In such a case, as a developer, you may feel more productive in a self-contained workspace that does not depend on your internet provider. Thus, an offline IDE is the best in this case.

Remote Working

Lately, working from home has been an accelerating trend, and this has widely dispersed various workforces. This has made it hard to monitor if everyone within a particular workforce uses the required libraries’ versions.

Some engineers might even be using personal devices rather than company-issued ones without the company’s consent. Thus, in this case, a centralized cloud IDE where the entire workforce can connect is the best to use.


Both offline and online-IDEs have varying pros and cons. The best IDE to use depends on the situation you are in and the needs you have. This article has outlined a practical example for each IDE for you to understand better.


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