What Is an AI Code Assistant? 

An AI code assistant is a tool that utilizes artificial intelligence to assist software developers in their coding tasks. Just as a human assistant would do, an AI code assistant provides suggestions, fixes errors, and even writes code snippets, all with the aim of making the coding experience smoother and more efficient.

AI code assistants provide much more than the automation features in traditional code editors or Integrated Development Environments (IDEs). They are intelligent tools that understand the context of the code and provide assistance accordingly. They can help developers write cleaner, more efficient code, produce high quality code faster, and reduce the time spent on debugging and refactoring. Overall, AI code assistants are making a major contribution to development productivity.

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

How AI Code Assistants Work 

Traditionally, AI code assistants relied on Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques. These techniques allow the assistant to process large amounts of code data, understand coding patterns and structures, and generate suggestions or insights that can be useful for developers in their current context.

With the recent advances in generative AI, modern code assistants incorporate large language models (LLMs) like GPT-3.5 and GPT-4 to provide more value and perform a wider variety of tasks. These LLMs can generate human-like text and code based on the context given to them. When applied to code, they can create syntactically correct, contextually appropriate code segments. They can also interpret prompts provided in natural language, adding another layer of convenience and utility for developers.

Different code assistant products are trained on different datasets: some are trained on large, publicly available datasets like public GitHub repositories. Others can be trained on more specific datasets like the code created by a specific organization. In the case of AI code assistants based on LLMs, training involves a two-step process: 

  • Pre-training: Training the model on a vast dataset, enabling it to learn the structure of natural language and code. 
  • Fine-tuning: The model is trained on a narrower, more specialized dataset to refine its performance.

Learn more in our detailed guide to AI code generation

Key Features of AI Code Assistants 

Here are some of the key features of AI coding assistants:

  • Autocompletion and code prediction: This feature allows the assistant to predict what you’re going to type next, based on the context of your code, and provide suggestions accordingly. AI code assistants based on LLMs can provide entire blocks of code or complete functions based on a partial input.
  • Code refactoring suggestions: AI code assistants analyze your code and identify areas that can be improved or optimized. They then provide suggestions on how to refactor these areas. Assistants based on LLMs can even explain, in natural language, why the suggested changes are more optimal.
  • Error detection and correction: AI assistants can identify potential errors in your code, highlight them, and provide suggestions on how to fix them. This feature can save time currently spent debugging and troubleshooting.
  • Documentation and explanation of code: AI code assistants can generate comments for your code, explaining what each section does, and how it fits into the overall application. AI code assistants based on LLM can write complete pieces of documentation, such as tutorials or functional descriptions, based on code and natural language prompts.

Learn more in our detailed guide to code explainer 

Now that we understand what an AI code assistant is and how it can assist us, let’s look at some of the best AI code assistant tools available today.

General-Purpose Code Assistants

1. GitHub Copilot

GitHub Copilot, a project powered by OpenAI’s Codex technology, works right in your code editor, suggesting whole lines or blocks of code as you type. This AI assistant has been trained on a range of public code repositories, enabling it to understand different coding languages and contexts.

Source: GitHub

What sets GitHub Copilot apart from other AI code assistants is its context understanding. It takes into account both the code and comments, providing relevant code suggestions. Furthermore, it adjusts to the way you write code, making personalized recommendations. 

2. Amazon CodeWhisperer

Amazon CodeWhisperer, also based on large language models, is specifically designed to help developers build, test, and troubleshoot their code more efficiently. Amazon CodeWhisperer is a part of AWS Developer Tools and is compatible with AWS CodeStar projects, making it an excellent choice for developers already using Amazon’s development ecosystem.

Source: AWS

One of the key features of Amazon CodeWhisperer is its code review capability. It can identify potential issues in your code and suggest corrective measures, significantly reducing the time spent on debugging. Its ability to identify hard-to-find bugs is commendable, especially in large and complex codebases.

3. Tabnine

Tabnine is an AI code assistant that utilizes GPT-3 to provide relevant and accurate code completions. It integrates with various code editors, making it a versatile tool that can support developer productivity.

Source: Tabnine

Tabnine’s primary feature is its large language model, trained on over 2 TB of high quality, secure code suitable for use in enterprises. The model enables Tabnine to understand coding context and provide relevant suggestions. It supports multiple programming languages and is capable of learning from the user’s coding style to offer personalized recommendations.

Beyond code completion, Tabnine also offers a feature called Tabnine Hub. This tool provides insights into the AI’s performance, allowing developers to understand how it’s learning and improving over time. Tabnine Hub also offers the ability to adjust settings and preferences to enhance the AI’s effectiveness further.

4. Replit Ghostwriter

Replit Ghostwriter is another AI code assistant that has gained significant attention. It operates on a different principle, focusing on providing developers with code samples instead of code completions. Ghostwriter supports multiple programming languages, and integrates with the Replit online IDE.

Source: Replit

Ghostwriter’s strength lies in its ability to generate code snippets based on a brief description. Developers can describe the functionality they need, and Ghostwriter will generate a code snippet to achieve that functionality. This feature saves time and effort, especially when developing complex functions.

5. Codium

Codium deeply analyzes your code and offers improvements including the addition of docstrings, exception handling, and the implementation of other best practices. It can also explain each component of the code and provide sample usage. Codium also provides an automated test generation feature, enabling the quick and efficient generation of unit tests. It uses behavioral coverage analysis to ensure tests cover all possible behaviors of the code.

Source: Codium

Codium supports a variety of popular programming languages such as Python, JavaScript, and TypeScript. It is also compatible with IDEs including VSCode, WebStorm, IntelliJ IDEA, CLion, PyCharm, and JetBrains.

Code Understanding Assistants

6. Swimm

Swimm offers a unique approach to code assistance by focusing on knowledge sharing and documentation. While many AI code assistants aim to speed up coding through autocomplete and error detection, Swimm takes it one step further by auto-generating up-to-date, code-coupled documentation.

How does it fit into the AI code assistant landscape? Swimm employs generative AI technology to create contextually relevant documentation that helps teams understand not just what a piece of code does, but why it exists and how to work with it. By integrating directly into the IDE, it ensures that this valuable information is easily discoverable exactly where developers work.

Key Features:

  • Code-Coupled Documentation: Swimm maintains your documentation as your code evolves. You won’t find yourself with outdated docs that lead to confusion and slow development speed.
  • Easy to Discover: Integrated into your IDE, Swimm ensures that the documentation is readily available, making onboarding and code reviews more effective.
  • Generative AI Assistance: Swimm utilizes AI to assist in generating documentation, taking the heavy lifting off of your team members and making it easier to maintain high-quality documentation.
  • Playlists: Curate learning modules for your team, organizing your documentation into a sequential learning experience. This is invaluable for onboarding new team members or when tackling a complex new project.
  • Senior Developer Knowledge Sharing: The tool is particularly useful for very senior developers who solve complex problems and can use Swimm to easily share their insights and solutions with the rest of the team.
  • Efficient Teams: Directors and VPs aiming for an efficient, agile team will find Swimm’s features directly aligned with their objectives. The product significantly enhances productivity by reducing the time spent in understanding code, making the team more capable of quick iterations.
  • Developer Experience Enhancement: Developer Experience teams will appreciate Swimm’s focus on making life easier for developers, aligning closely with the goal of improving efficiency across the organization.
  • Security: Swimm offers a secure environment, ensuring that your sensitive documentation and code insights are safe and accessible only to those with the right permissions.

While other AI code assistants may offer advanced code completion and debugging support, Swimm addresses an often overlooked but crucial aspect of software development: effective knowledge sharing. By doing so, it not only improves the code quality but also significantly enhances team productivity and makes the onboarding process a breeze. If you’re looking to bolster your development process from all angles, integrating Swimm alongside other AI code assistants can offer a more comprehensive solution.

Learn more about Swimm

7. AskCodi

AskCodi takes a conversational approach to coding assistance. It understands and responds to developer questions in natural language. It supports multiple programming languages and integrates smoothly with various IDEs. 

AskCodi is designed to provide explanations, recommendations, and coding solutions in a dialogue format. This not only aids in coding tasks but also serves as an educational tool, helping developers understand the logic and best practices behind coding decisions. AskCodi can be used for a wide range of coding-related tasks – from syntax errors to algorithm suggestions.

Code Quality and Review Assistants

8. Codiga

Codiga focuses on enhancing code quality and promoting coding best practices. It is a platform that offers real-time feedback on the quality of the written code. Codiga’s key feature is its automated code review capability, which helps maintain high coding standards in collaborative development environments. This tool also provides a unique platform for code-sharing, enabling developers to share snippets and best practices with a wider community.

Source: Codiga

9. CodeT5

CodeT5 is an open source LLM created by Salesforce Research, designed to process and understand code and provide accurate, contextually relevant coding suggestions. Beyond code completion, CodeT5 can be utilized for tasks like code summarization and documentation, making it useful for developers who need to quickly grasp or document complex code structures. 

Specialized Code Assistants

10. Snyk Code

Snyk Code is an AI code assistant that prioritizes security. It offers real-time feedback on potential security vulnerabilities, helping developers create secure applications.

Source: Snyk

Snyk Code uses a combination of semantic and syntactic analysis to identify problematic code. It can detect a wide range of vulnerabilities, including SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and insecure data handling. By providing immediate feedback, Snyk Code allows developers to address issues as they arise, reducing the risk of security breaches.

Snyk Code supports multiple programming languages and integrates with popular code editors and DevOps tools. It also offers a dashboard that provides an overview of the application’s security status, making it easier to manage and mitigate risks.

11. MutableAI

Mutable.ai is an AI-powered software development platform that integrates with widely-used coding environments and tools, such as VS Code, JetBrains, and GitHub. A key feature is codebase chat, which lets developers interact with their code in plain English, and semantic search, which enables easy discovery of code segments in a large codebase.

Mutable.ai also enables multi-file editing, enabling developers to implement changes across various files in a single action. It can support testing activity by automatically generating unit, integration, and end-to-end tests.

12. Divi AI

Divi AI is an advanced artificial intelligence tool specifically designed to work within the Divi Builder ecosystem, which is a popular WordPress theme and visual page builder. It can generate written content, write code, and create images directly within the Divi Builder. Divi AI takes into account the overall context of your site and the specific page you’re working on, ensuring that the content it creates aligns with aesthetic and functional aspects of your website.

Divi AI can generate code for website modules, write custom CSS, and customize designs within the Visual Builder. Its training on the Divi codebase gives it a distinct edge over other generic AI tools, as it can deliver code enhancements that work well within the Divi environment.

Source: Divi AI

13. CodeWP

CodeWP is a tool designed to streamline the coding process for WordPress users, reducing the time needed to find and customize code snippets for websites. It also provides the ability to chat with the tool and provide natural language instructions. The tool is trained on a variety of common presets and is capable of creating complex logic for plugins and other WordPress functionalities.

CodeWP supports several modes including WooCommerce, Advanced Custom Fields (ACF), and various form and page builders. The paid Pro version provides additional modes. 

Source: CodeWP