How to choose a VHDL editor / Verilog editor

Whether for designing an ASIC, an FPGA or even a CPLD, design engineers need a means of writing their HDL code. They use either a free VHDL editor or Verilog editor or a commercial one.

When deciding what is the very best VHDL/Verilog editor for their needs, most engineers consider these features.

There are three "families" of VHDL editors to choose from:
  1. Traditional Text Editors
    General purpose editors that can be configured for editing VHDL code. Many of the most popular general purpose editors (Vi, Emacs) have been around for decades and have gathered a cult following. However, the features have been able to keep up with modern evolutions.
  2. Embedded Tool Editors
    Editors that are embedded in EDA tools like simulators or FPGA tools. Usually the editing capabilities of these built-in editors are not very good, sometimes not much more than syntax highlighting. Some EDA vendors don't even expect their customers to use the built-in tools. They expect them to link the EDA tools to an external text editor.
  3. Stand-alone IDEs
    Specialized hardware development environments that integrate with other tools are the youngest and most powerful category of HDL editors. Sometimes they are called VHDL and Verilog code browsers. Especially engineers that have experience with software development might prefer IDEs. IDEs for hardware design have been around for less than a decade, and are gaining popularity. 

traditional text editors embedded editors Stand-alone IDEs
Basic Editing  very good medium to good good
Extensibility good low medium to high
Learning curve  easy to very hard  medium easy
Integration with EDA tools  low     high medium to high
Advanced HDL features based on regular expressions external compiler internal compiler