Visual Studio Code (VS Code) is an open source text editor developed by Microsoft and is free to use. It's known for being relatively lightweight while also incorporating key features found in modern IDE's such as Git integration and an extensive debugger. This makes VS Code great for anything from simple Python scripting to denser software engineering projects.
Getting VS Code on your own computer
Visit VS Code's website and follow the instructions to install it on your computer.
By now, you should have VS Code installed. You have the option
of either finding the application or opening it up from the terminal.
Recall from Lab 0 that you can open a terminal on the school
computers by pressing
Let's first create and navigate to a directory called
the UNIX commands you learned in Lab 0:
mkdir ~/Desktop/example cd ~/Desktop/example
Now let's open up VS Code!
For Mac users, you'll most likely find VS Code in
For Ubuntu users, you'll most likely find VS Code by putting it in the search bar.
For Windows users, you'll most likely find VS Code in
You can also open VS Code in your current working directory via command line:
VS Code will open up to a welcome page. Open the explorer (page icon in the top left
corner) then click
EXAMPLE. To create a new file, either right click below
and select "New File" or click the page icon with a plus in the corner. Let's name our
welcome.py. A pop-up will appear in the bottom right corner prompting you to install
the Python extension. We'll talk more about extensions later, but just install the
Python extension for now, and ignore any other pop-ups that may appear. Now, we can begin programming!
Now we have VS Code open, we can begin writing our first Python file. We'll be writing a short program that prints out a welcome message when executed. Don't worry, we don't expect you to know any Python yet! All you have to do is type in the following:
def welcome(name): print('Welcome to CS61A, %s!' % name)
Once you've finished typing, VS Code should look something like this:
To save, you can just hit
cmd-s on Mac) and the white dot by the file name should disappear.
Back in our terminal, we're currently in our
Let's play around with our code. In the terminal, start by typing
python3 -i welcome.py
This command does the following:
python3is the command that starts Python
-iflag tells Python to start in interactive mode, which allows you to type in Python commands from your terminal
welcome.pyis the name of the Python file we want to run
Notice that the Python interpreter says
>>>. This means Python is
ready to take a command.
Recall that we defined a function called
welcome. Let's see what it
does! Type in the following:
Python will then print out
Welcome to CS61A, Laryn!
Our code works! Feel free to try it out with your own name. Ok, now let's close Python by typing in
There are a couple of ways to exit Python. You can type in
quit(). On MacOS and Linux, you can also type in
Ctrl-d(this doesn't work on Windows).
Congratulations, you've edited your first file in VS Code!
VS Code has many, many keyboard shortcuts. Here are a few useful
ones! (for Mac users, replace all the
Ctrl sequences with
Ctrl-`: open an integrated terminal in VS Code
Ctrl-s: saves the current file
Ctrl-x: cuts the entire line your cursor is on
Ctrl-v: pastes the entire line you cut in the line above your cursor OR pastes the selected text in place
tab: indent a line or a group of lines
shift-tab: dedent a line or a group of lines
Ctrl-d: highlights the current word. For every
Ctrl-dyou type after this first word, it will highlight every next instance of the word. This allows you to easily rename variables with multiple cursors! (Play around with this one, it's fun and very practical!)
Ctrl-tab: moves you to the next tab (
Ctrlon Mac as well)
Ctrl-shift-tab: moves you to the previous tab (
Ctrlon Mac as well)
Ctrl-f: search for a word
Ctrl-shift-f: searches through all tabs
Extensions allow you to customize your text editor. They are pieces of software
written by people like you and me or companies to improve everyone's quality of life.
Extensions can do anything ranging from changing the color scheme, to allowing you
to control Spotify while you code, to letting you share your workspace in real
time with your friends (❌ not on class assignments though ❌)! Here
is the documentation regarding extensions, but feel free to browse on your own by hitting
This guide only scratches the surface of VS Code's functionality. Remember, if there's something you wish VS Code could do, it probably can. Just Google it!
You can pair program in VSCode using the Live Share extension.
Once you and your partner both have the extension installed, you'll need to start a new Live Share session and then explicitly share your code and terminal with each other. See the instructions on the download page for more details on sharing and joining sessions.