What Is GitHub Copilot? 

GitHub Copilot is an AI-powered coding assistant that aims to improve productivity for software developers. It is based on large language models (LLMs), specifically the OpenAI Codex model and GPT-4, which provides context-aware code suggestions, completions, and snippets across various programming languages. GitHub Copilot provides extensions for popular Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) including Visual Studio Code, Visual Studio, Vim, and JetBrains. It analyzes the code a developer is working on and offers relevant, real-time assistance, acting as a pair programmer.

Recent updates to GitHub Copilot have introduced an upgraded AI Codex model, resulting in more precise and contextually relevant code suggestions. The new model has improved understanding of code context, achieved through the Fill-In-the-Middle (FIM) approach. FIM allows Copilot to consider both the preceding and following code, filling the gap with suitable suggestions, thus understanding the developer's intent more effectively. The tool includes a lightweight client-side model within its IDE extensions , which refine the relevance of suggestions.

Other features of GitHub Copilot include: 

  • Vulnerability prevention system: This system proactively blocks insecure coding patterns, targeting common vulnerabilities such as hardcoded credentials and SQL injections. 
  • Copilot Workspace: Creates application development plans from natural language descriptions.
  • Copilot Chat: based on ChatGPT 4, offers collaboration tools accessible via mobile applications and across the GitHub website​

This is part of a series of articles about AI tools for developers

6 Notable GitHub Copilot Alternatives 

Tabnine

Tabnine is an AI-powered code completion tool that enhances the efficiency of software development. It integrates with a wide range of Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) such as Visual Studio Code, IntelliJ IDEA, and more. Tabnine’s primary feature is its code completion capabilities, which are powered by machine learning algorithms. It analyzes the code you're working on and provides relevant, context-aware suggestions, including predictions for the next line or chunk of code. 

Source: Tabnine

Tabnine was trained based on a carefully vetted dataset of open source libraries that are secure and use permissive licensing. This means its outputs are more likely to be secure and suitable for an enterprise environment. In addition, it recently added Tabnine Chat, which allows developers to ‘chat with their codebase’ and receive code suggestions via natural language conversation.

Replit Ghostwriter

Replit Ghostwriter is a feature within the Replit online development environment, aimed at enhancing the coding process through AI-powered code suggestions. Ghostwriter leverages LLMs to provide real-time, context-aware code completions, and bug fixes. One of its notable features is the ability to write code in response to natural language comments, making it more accessible to beginners or those learning a new programming language. 

Source: Replit

Ghostwriter supports a variety of programming languages and frameworks and is integrated within Replit's online IDE, making it a useful tool for quick prototyping, educational purposes, and collaborative coding projects.

Amazon CodeWhisperer

Amazon CodeWhisperer, developed by AWS, is an AI-driven coding assistant designed to help developers write code more efficiently. It too is based on LLMs and was trained based on Amazon’s proprietary code and open source libraries. CodeWhisperer provides code recommendations based on the context of the code and the comments written by the developer. It supports multiple programming languages and is integrated with popular IDEs like AWS Cloud9, IntelliJ IDEA, and Visual Studio Code. 

Source: Amazon

In addition to simple code completion, CodeWhisperer can generate entire functions or code blocks based on natural language descriptions. This can significantly accelerate the development process and aid in discovering new coding solutions. CodeWhisperer also checks the code for best practices, security vulnerabilities, and code defects.

Visual Studio IntelliCode

Visual Studio IntelliCode is an extension for Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code that provides AI-assisted code completions and recommendations. IntelliCode is based on the previous generation of machine learning techniques, so it provides a more basic level of code completion compared to other tools. One of its key features is the ability to learn patterns from the codebase it's working on, providing tailored recommendations that adapt to the coding practices of the development team. 

Source: Microsoft

IntelliCode offers features like argument completion, which suggests the most likely method arguments, and refactoring suggestions. IntelliCode is especially beneficial in large codebases where it can quickly provide insights and reduce the time developers spend on routine tasks.

SourceGraph Cody

SourceGraph Cody is a development tool that enhances code search and intelligence within your codebase. It uses two LLMs: OpenAI’s GPT and Anthropic Claud. It's designed to help developers navigate large codebases more effectively and gain insights into how their code connects and functions. Cody provides a powerful search engine for code, enabling developers to quickly find specific functions, definitions, and references across their entire codebase. 

Source: SourceGraph

This tool can handle complex queries, making it easier to maintain and understand large and complex software projects. Cody also offers features like code change tracking and impact analysis, which are particularly useful for teams working on large-scale projects. By analyzing the relationships and dependencies in your code, Cody helps prevent unforeseen issues when making changes or updates.

Codeium

Codeium is another LLM-driven coding assistant designed to enhance productivity and code quality for developers. It provides smart code completions and refactorings. Codeium supports a variety of programming languages and integrates with popular IDEs. 

Source: Codeium

Codeium also helps maintain code quality by suggesting refactorings and improvements, ensuring that the code is functional, clean, and efficient. This tool is suitable for both experienced developers looking to speed up their workflow and beginners who can learn from the AI-generated code patterns.

Complementing GitHub Copilot with Swimm 

GitHub Copilot Business provides basic responses to developer inquiries, sourcing its context exclusively from the code editor. GitHub Copilot Enterprise offers more nuanced conversations by integrating customization from your own repositories. However, Copilot's context remains confined to code, which doesn't encompass the entire narrative.

Swimm, on the other hand, integrates a wide range of organizational knowledge sources, ensuring highly precise and relevant answers.