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I am aware this sounds like a dumb question, but I'm really unsure what IDE / Software I could use to programme microcontrollers.

I have a background in C++, but I never got to the part where we programmed microcontrollers during my education, so that is why I'm asking here.

As an IDE, of course any text editor would do if you know your way around programming languages, but some IntelliSense for C would be nice to have. I currently use VS2013 on a daily basis, but maybe there is some software that can be used as an IDE and can be used to compile code and flash on the microcontroller (I have never tried it, but I'm pretty sure VS cannot do it).

I have seen many modules that are sold with firmware that requires you to learn their own language (like BGScript for the BLE1xx modules, or the Arduino boards), but I really do not want to learn a new language.

I will try to programme the nRF51822 microcontroller from Nordic Semiconductor and I have read some posts that lead to IAR Embedded Workbench which it's pretty expensive for a beginner like me. I've also heard something about Keil, yet I'm really not sure what to do since my knowledge of this field is far to low.

I would appreciate some pointers on where to find my answers if this question is to general or to localised or it doesn't make any sense.

EDIT: What are your thoughts on AppCode by JetBrains, some guy seemed to have created C / C++ compilers and IntelliSense support for it here ?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Eclipse comes to mind, but I have no experience with it. I personally kinda like good old VI and Makefile. \$\endgroup\$
    – jippie
    Feb 12, 2014 at 17:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Google your Micro of choice and IDE, Mines PIC and I get to microchip.com/pagehandler/en_us/devtools/mplabxc a C compiler with their IDE. including C++ \$\endgroup\$
    – Spoon
    Feb 12, 2014 at 17:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Makefile, does that mean I can use Ruby ? Or does this actually refer to something else ? \$\endgroup\$
    – Roland
    Feb 12, 2014 at 17:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ What compiler are you going to use? GCC? The nRF51822 SOC has an ARM CORTEX M0 CPU. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 12, 2014 at 17:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have no clue which compiler, I'm not limited by that, I can use either a Windows or OSX based machine. On my OSX, I think I've only got the XCode compiler running, on the Win one, there is nothing yet. So I'm starting from ground up, my only limitation would be prices, I do not want to spend $ 1000 for a compiler or new IDE (my budget is limited). \$\endgroup\$
    – Roland
    Feb 12, 2014 at 17:27

3 Answers 3

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It all depends on what you are trying to do. There is not (to my knowledge) a "universal" microcontroller IDE/Programmer out there. You will need to use whatever your chip manufacturer provides.
The IDE's are usually free, or at least there is likely to be a less-featured version offered for free, cause they make money on the repeat hardware sales: the chips themselves, dev boards, programmer/debuggers, etc. Personally, I use Microchip products at my work and their IDE is MPLAB X.
So, pick your hardware first... then check with the manufacturer and get their IDE.

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Microchip provides their MPLAB IDE for free. This includes the assemblers, librarian, and linkers needed to create code for any of their microcontrollers. Microchip has a broad range of PIC and dsPIC microcontrollers, so with a single IDE you can write code from the smallest 8 bit 6-pin PIC 10F to the higher end 16 and 32 bit PICs.

There are also basic version of a C compiler for each micro family available for free, possibly with some limitations on use. If I remember right, the paid version differs in that higher optimization leves are available. However, check the web site for details.

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Atmel offers a free IDE platform for their AVR micrcontrollers, and from comments on here, other manufacturers also offer free development platforms for their parts.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Embeetle IDE (embeetle.com) is free and supports now also some Arduino boards - or the ATmega328 in general. \$\endgroup\$
    – K.Mulier
    Feb 7, 2021 at 21:36

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