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WebStorm vs VS Code: Compare Top IDEs

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Image: Scanrail/Adobe Stock

Both WebStorm and VS Code target web and application development — but the platforms are significantly different. WebStorm is a proprietary integrated development environment, while VS Code is an open-source, lightweight code editor.

For a talented JavaScript programmer, both WebStorm and VS Code can take a programming project from start to finish. The best platform depends on the built-in utilities you need out of the box.

SEE: Hiring kit: Python developer (TechRepublic Premium)

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What is WebStorm?

Billed as the “Smartest JavaScript IDE,” WebStorm focuses on making programming faster and easier through advanced, next-generation technologies.

WebStorm provides extensive automated processes and built-in tools to complete complicated programming tasks. Other features include unit testing, advanced version control and a built-in HTTP client.

What is VS Code?

Visual Studio Code is a free, popular, and lightweight source code editor for a wide breadth of languages. Supported languages include JavaScript, Java, C++ and Python.

VS Code is not an IDE, which can lead to some confusion. “Visual Studio” is Microsoft’s IDE platform, while Visual Studio Code/VS Code is Microsoft’s code editor. The two products can be used together.

However, VS Code does include advanced features like syntax highlighting, intelligent code completion and debugging support.

WebStorm vs. VS Code: Feature comparison

FeaturesWebStormVS Code
IDEYesNo
Source code editorYesYes
Open sourceNoYes
Debug supportYesYes
Code assistanceYesYes
Unit testingYesNo
Code refactoringYesYes

Head-to-head comparison: WebStorm vs. VS Code

IDE vs. code editor

Let’s start with the most obvious and important difference between WebStorm and VS Code.

WebStorm is a complete integrated development environment, developed primarily for JavaScript. In WebStorm, programmers can write, debug, run and test apps. WebStorm comes with a myriad of out-of-the-box features intended for rapid prototyping and deployment.

Conversely, VS Code is a lightweight, open-source code editor. A programmer can still develop an app from start to finish within VS Code, but there are fewer features available — it isn’t a full development environment. That being said, VS Code still provides programmers with a number of quality of life features, such as code assistance and debugging support.

Supported languages

For a code editor, there are few elements as important as supported languages. WebStorm focuses on web development — it supports languages such as JavaScript, TypeScript, HTML, CSS, React, Angular, AngularJS, React Native and PhoneGap. Note that many of these technologies are JavaScript-based, as WebStorm is targeted toward JavaScript development.

Visual Studio Code supports a significantly broader library of languages, including Python, C, C++, C#, Java and JavaScript. VS Code supports every major programming language, although a JavaScript developer can safely use either platform.

Code assistance

WebStorm provides advanced code assistance beyond mere code completion. As you type, the code will be automatically completed for you. But you can also “generate code;” WebStorm will use pre-built templates to remove tedious, routine programming tasks.

As primarily a code editor, VS Code doesn’t have advanced code generation features — but it does have an intelligent auto-complete. Based on context, the editor will make auto-complete suggestions, which you can easily accept by pressing the “tab” key.

Note that VS Code has begun to pilot an AI system. This system is still an extension rather than built-in, but AI code generation will likely come to the platform shortly.

Development model

WebStorm is a paid, proprietary, and licensed system — it must be licensed directly from its developer.

VS Code is a free, open-source platform. It is available on GitHub and licensed through MIT.

The distinction goes beyond how much these systems cost. WebStorm’s support comes primarily from its developer, while VS Code has an active open-source community.

Refactoring and testing

WebStorm is generally more efficient at refactoring and testing JavaScript and JavaScript-based code (such as TypeScript). Refactoring optimizes code for efficiency, while unit testing ensures product quality.

VS Code still provides these features — but they aren’t tailored to JavaScript. As VS Code must refactor and test a large variety of programming languages, the solutions that it presents aren’t quite as elegant for JavaScript developers.

WebStorm vs. VS Code: Which should you choose?

More than most, this should be a relatively easy decision. These platforms are substantially different enough that most programmers will have a clear favorite.

Choose WebStorm if:

  • You develop primarily in JavaScript.
  • You’re interested in AI code-generation features.
  • You want a fully integrated development environment.

Choose VS Code if:

  • You need to develop in other languages besides JavaScript.
  • You want a lightweight, easy-to-use code editor.

For a dedicated JavaScript developer, both WebStorm and VS Code should have the capabilities you need. While WebStorm does come with more out-of-the-box functionality, VS Code can be used alongside Visual Studio Code — and with a wide array of plug-ins and integrations — to perform similarly.

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