There are several integrated development environments (IDEs) that can be used for programming ARM processors. The choice of IDE depends on factors like the specific ARM chip being used, the functionality required, budget constraints, and personal preference of the developer.
ARM Development Studio
ARM Development Studio is an IDE released by ARM themselves. It contains the ARM Compiler, ARM Linker, Assembler, Debugger and other tools required for efficient ARM development. Some key features of ARM Development Studio:
- Supports all ARM processors including Cortex-M, Cortex-R and Cortex-A series.
- Includes diagnostics and run-time metrics for code optimization.
- Integration with third party RTOS like FreeRTOS, Keil RTX etc.
- Device configuration tools for easy set-up.
- Works with industry standard debug probes.
- Both command line and Eclipse based GUI available.
ARM Development Studio requires a license purchase but is highly optimized for programming ARM microcontrollers. It should be strongly considered if working with ARM Cortex-M and Cortex-R series chips.
Keil MDK (MicroController Development Kit) is one of the most popular IDEs used with ARM processors. Some key aspects of MDK are:
- Supports all ARM Cortex-Mx, Cortex-Ax and Cortex-Rx processors.
- Compatible with third party evaluation boards like STM32, NXP LPC etc.
- Drag-and-drop interface for easy code generation.
- Built-in compiler, source code editor and debug tools.
- Software Packs available for specific ARM MCU families.
- Extensive debugging features like logic analyzer, RTX viewer etc.
MDK requires a paid license but is highly refined for ARM programming. The tight integration of tools makes it very efficient. Popular choice for commercial ARM projects.
IAR Embedded Workbench
IAR Embedded Workbench is a complete IDE solution commonly used for ARM Cortex-M series MCUs. Key features include:
- In-depth support for Cortex-M3 and Cortex-M4 processors.
- Highly optimized C/C++ compiler for best code efficiency.
- Supports major RTOSes like FreeRTOS, Micrium uC/OS, ThreadX etc.
- Multiple debugging tools like state machine viewer, call stack and code coverage.
- Can integrate with source control tools like GIT, Mercurial etc.
- Customizable through plugins and add-ons.
IAR Embedded Workbench provides extensive capabilities for ARM chip development. The code optimization tools make it suitable for projects requiring high performance and low power usage.
STM32CubeIDE is an Eclipse based IDE created by STMicroelectronics for their STM32 ARM Cortex-M microcontrollers. Salient aspects are:
- Graphical configuration tool to initialize and configure STM32 MCU.
- Support for C++ projects with STM32Cube libraries.
- Debugging via integrated ST-LINK, J-LINK or SWD interface.
- Code generation from model-based designs.
- Integration with Subversion and Git version control.
- Project analysis tools like memory usage and code coverage.
STM32CubeIDE is optimized specifically for STM32 ARM chips. It simplifies development through ready-to-use embedded software components and graphical tools. Free usage option makes it beginner friendly.
MCUXpresso is the IDE for NXP’s ARM Cortex-M based LPC and Kinetis microcontrollers. Key highlights:
- Intuitive Eclipse based environment.
- Supports C, C++, ARM and GNU toolchains.
- Drag-and-drop interface for code building.
- Built-in support for LPCXpresso and Freedom development boards.
- Guided pin muxing and clock configuration tools.
- Integrated debugging and flash programming.
MCUXpresso IDE provides a simplified workflow for NXP ARM chips. The customization options allow tuning it as per specific project needs. It’s a good low-cost choice for NXP controllers.
Visual Studio Code
Visual Studio Code is a popular open-source code editor that can also be used for ARM development. Key aspects are:
- Lightweight and fast even with large codebases.
- Supports ARM Cortex Debug extension for debugging.
- ARM Embedded Toolchain Integration for build tasks.
- Extensions like Cortex Debug, CodeLLDB available.
- Easy integration with source control systems.
- Available on Windows, Linux and macOS platforms.
Visual Studio Code provides a simple yet powerful interface for ARM projects. With the right extensions, it can match full-fledged IDEs in functionality. The open source nature makes it free to use.
PlatformIO is an open-source ecosystem for embedded development available as a plugin for Visual Studio Code. Main aspects:
- Supports 400+ embedded boards and external debug tools.
- Integrated platform with IDE, debugger, hardware access etc.
- Simplified library manager to add external libraries.
- Build system with multi-platform support.
- Unit testing framework to test code on host machine.
- Command line integration for advanced automation.
PlatformIO brings all ARM development tools into a single ecosystem. The integration with Visual Studio Code gives a feature-rich yet flexible environment. It simplifies ARM programming for hobbyists and makers.
Criteria for IDE Selection
When selecting an ARM IDE, some key criteria to consider are:
- Processor Support – Ensure the IDE supports programming for your specific ARM architecture, like Cortex-M4 etc.
- Toolchain Features – Compiler optimizations, debugging capabilities etc. based on project complexity.
- Hardware Integration – How easily the IDE can interface with evaluation boards and debug probes.
- OS and Library Support – Availability of specific RTOS, middleware libraries required.
- Cost – Paid IDEs provide more features but need budget allocation.
- Ease of Use – How simple and intuitive the interface and workflows are.
- Customizability – Plugin options, external tools integration etc. for custom needs.
Considering these factors will help select an IDE best suited for your specific ARM programming requirements and environment.
ARM processors power a wide range of embedded and IoT devices. Choosing the right IDE is important to make ARM development smooth and efficient. The popular options provide toolchains, debuggers and frameworks tailored for ARM. Factors like processor support, cost, ease of use and customizability help narrow down the IDE choice for your specific project needs. With the information provided in this article, both novice and experienced ARM developers can select an IDE to jumpstart their next project.