Programming Tools: Eric3

I am writing this column for a number of reasons. First, I enjoy programming, and I find writing about it to be a trip. Second, a lot of wonderful programming tools are out there, but many are lost in the noise of competing commercial and non-commercial products. So, part of my job with this column is to highlight some of the tools I think are worthwhile. I will try to be objective, but in the final analysis, it all is subjective. You are free to agree or disagree, as is your wont.

Also, I don't know everything. New tools are introduced and existing ones are changing and expanding all the time, faster than I can keep up. For these reasons, you can tell me what you think and suggest other tools that you have found particularly useful. You, reader, are invited to be a contributor to this column.

In the world of open source, a constant tension exists between commercial and non-commercial products. Because of the limited resources many open-source projects have, I plant to review them more often than commercial products. That said, I have no problem with commercial products as long as they do not lock users into their use. Thus, I happily will review a commercial compiler, say, because you always are free to compile your programs using other compilers. The principle here is as long as the input and output obey open standards, products can do any processing they want--you are not locked in. This conforms to Richard Stallman's definition of free software.

I have a method to my madness is writing this column. When discussing a tool, I will try to cover these points:

  • Why you should use this tool.

  • What the major features of this tool are.

  • What setup or installation you need for this tool.

  • What resources are required to install and use the tool.

  • A sample application, hopefully useful, to illustrate the use of the tool.

  • The pros and cons of the tool.

  • A chart comparing other similar tools, if appropriate and if I am aware of these other tools.

  • A semi-subjective rating of the tool.


Being a Python developer is one of my many roles. I believe GUI-based IDEs are effective, so I have looked at a number of products, both commercial and open-source, that support Python. I chose the open-source eric3 IDE by Detlev Offenbach. It is written specifically for Python, and it uses PyQt bindings and the QScintilla editor widget. I find the eric3 IDE to be a delight. Figure 1 is a screenshot of a project showing eric3 version 4 beta, the version I currently use.

Here are some of the main features of eric3, the features I find most beneficial:

  • The main window layout includes tabview, listview and workspace, all of which are configurable.

  • The editor has syntax highlighting, code folding, auto indenting, brace highlighting, auto completion, calltips, bookmarks and macro recording capabilities.

  • An integrated project manager shows all the source files, forms, translations and any other file or directory that is part of the project, each displayed on its own tab. The source browser also has built-in class browsing capabilities.

  • An integrated, full-featured Python debugger that comes in three different flavors: the standard variant, a variant that doesn't need Qt and a variant to debug multithreaded applications. With the help of an additional debugger stub, it can be used to debug mod_python scripts as well.

  • An interactive Python shell has integrated debugger support and command-line completion.

  • An explorer window exists for walking through your directory structure with built-in class browsing capabilities for Python files.

  • Window panes display local and global variables in the current scope while debugging a program.

  • There are integrated source code wizards: a QRegExp wizard, a Python regexp wizard and several wizards for Qt dialogs.

  • The integrated refactoring browser uses the Bicycle Repair Man package.

  • Scripting capabilities are built into eric3.

  • There is an integrated interface to the Python Module unittest and code coverage analysis.

  • An integrated help viewer can display HTML help files, or you can choose to use Qt-Assistant to view help files.

  • You have the ability to start Qt-Designer and Qt-Linguist from within eric3.

  • You also can compile Qt-Designer forms to produce Qt-Linguist files and release them from within the IDE.

As you can see, eric3 has an impressive list of features, many of which I have omitted.



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come on... this review (and

Anonymous's picture

come on...

this review (and many comments) should have looked at things like code intelligence database, code navigation, class browsing, pylint syntax checking, etc.

i mean it's an ide not an editor right?

Saving Eric3 Python Shell Output

Anonymous's picture

Does anyone know how to save the output from the python shell to a file in Eric3 IDE?

Re: Programming Tools: eric3

Anonymous's picture

Tried it. It died on repeated NameErrors for variables and couldn't find a parameter passed to the init function.

Needless to say it had a short disk lifespan

Re: Programming Tools: eric3

Anonymous's picture

As I work both on Linux and Windows, I definitely prefer SPE, which is a rich full featured python IDE with the excellent gui builder wxGlade.


Serge Hulne's picture

Among the lightweight GUIs, using only Tkinter, there is also xRope.

It also has an integrated Visual Builder ("tk_happy") and a smart editor ("rope") with real dot-completion for classes and docstring tips for functions.

See the link :


Eric3 and SPE are nice, but I

Alessander's picture

Eric3 and SPE are nice, but I love to work under Eclipse with xored's TruStudio plugin.

Re: Programming Tools: eric3

Anonymous's picture

You guys really should take a look at DrPython. It's a really well put together, free, cross platform IDE written in Python and wxWindows. It's now very mature (v3.4.4) but still being very actively developed with updates appearing each week.

The core editor is based around Scintilla and includes a class browser and embedded command prompt for each open file. It also has a nice tabbed interface, has recently adopted a plug-in architecture and is fully scriptable.

It's by far the most productive (and one of the nicest looking) Python IDEs I've come across and I've been using it for all my development work for the fast six months or so.

I really can't understand why more people don't seem to be aware of it.

Re: Programming Tools: eric3

Anonymous's picture

And diddo that, Dr. Python is great for non-gui development.

Re: Programming Tools: eric3

Anonymous's picture

Why does it look exactly like the Microsoft development environment? Yuck.

I would give anything for a decent Smalltalk-style class browser for Python. I can't stand Microsoft's class browser.

Re: Programming Tools: eric3 -- Delphi like...

Anonymous's picture

Borland with Delphi has set the standard, not MS.
Delphi is outstanding, and QtArchitecht looks a lot like Delphi IDE.

It is predictable that IDE for oo graphic and (non graphic ) programing will copy the best. (delphi)... as Trolltech did.
Welcome to Eric3 that I have not so far been able to install, (still miss a piece!).
May I suggest to allow Eric3 install using YUM, or APT-GET (or its GUI Synaptic)?

Installation is trivial... but it counts!

Thank you

Re: Programming Tools: eric3

Anonymous's picture

I am not familiar with the Smalltalk browser. What features and benefits does it have the make it better than the idiom used be eric3 and other IDEs like ActiveState's Komodo and KDE's KDevelop?

Re: Programming Tools: eric3

Anonymous's picture

Anything? Unto half your kingdom and a new mortgage on your house? I'm sure Detlev Offenbach will be able to accommodate your wishes...