What Is GitHub Copilot?
GitHub Copilot is an AI-powered code completion tool. It assists you in programming right inside your integrated development environment (IDE). Copilot auto-suggests code snippets as you type, making the coding process more efficient and less error-prone.
GitHub Copilot is powered by a generative AI model developed by GitHub, OpenAI, and Microsoft. At the core of this model, at the time of this writing, is OpenAI’s GPT-4 Turbo. The model has been trained on millions of public repositories on GitHub, which means it has an extensive understanding of syntax, coding patterns, and even the nuances of different programming languages. It's a versatile tool that can generate lines or blocks of code, write tests, and even suggest whole functions.
What Is Tabnine?
Tabnine is another popular AI-powered code completion tool. Like GitHub Copilot, it aims to make coding more efficient by suggesting relevant code snippets as you type. However, Tabnine has some unique features that set it apart.
Tabnine is powered by a proprietary large language model (LLM), trained on a carefully selected dataset of code repositories that have high quality, robust security standards, and use permissive open source licenses. This makes Tabnine’s outputs safer and more suitable for enterprise environments. It can be integrated into various IDEs, making it a versatile tool for developers working in different environments.
Another unique feature of Tabnine is its local AI model that allows you to use it offline, a feature that's not available in many other code completion tools.
This is part of a series of articles about AI tools for developers.
Copilot vs. Tabnine: Quick Comparison
|Trained on public GitHub repositories using GPT-4 Turbo model.
|Trained on vetted, high-quality public code repositories.
|Privacy and Security
|Cloud-based solution with GitHub’s security features.
|Offers both cloud-based and on-premises solutions.
|Officially supports a wide range of languages and frameworks.
|Testing and Code Quality
|Provides context-aware code suggestions.
|Tailored to organization’s best practices; proprietary LLM.
|Integrated with Visual Studio Code, Vim, Neovim, JetBrains IDEs, and Azure Data Studio.
|Plugin available in many IDEs including Visual Studio Code, IntelliJ IDEA, Sublime, Atom, etc.
|Starts from $10/user/month. Copilot Business at $19, and Enterprise at $39 per user/month.
|Free version available. Full AI features from $12/user/month. Enterprise pricing not disclosed.
|Tight integration with GitHub, extensive understanding of coding patterns.
|Local AI model for offline use, focus on security and enterprise environments.
|Ideal for developers working primarily with GitHub repositories and needing advanced AI assistance.
|Suitable for enterprise environments requiring security and customization.
GitHub Copilot vs. Tabnine in Depth
1. Training Data
GitHub Copilot was originally built on OpenAI’s Cortex model, specifically designed for code and trained on public GitHub repositories, and was later upgraded to OpenAI's more powerful GPT-4 model. This gives Copilot a comprehensive understanding of different programming languages and coding patterns.
Tabnine is based on a proprietary LLM, which has also been trained on a vast array of public code repositories. However, the key difference is that Tabnine’s dataset was carefully vetted to ensure it only includes secure, high-quality code with permissive open source licenses. Because generative AI usually generates outputs similar to its training materials, this means Tabnine generates outputs that are less prone to security vulnerabilities and legal licensing issues.
2. Privacy and Security
Privacy and security are paramount in coding, and this is another area where Copilot and Tabnine differ. GitHub Copilot benefits from GitHub’s robust security features. However, it is a cloud-based solution, which can potentially raise privacy and security concerns. For sensitive use cases, some organizations prefer an on-premises solution.
Tabnine is offered both as a cloud-based and on-premises solution, which can also be deployed in a virtual private cloud (VPC). This makes it suitable for enterprise use cases and provides a higher level of security. However the on-premise version is only included in the Enterprise edition, for which pricing is not disclosed.
3. Language Support
4. Testing and Code Quality
GitHub Copilot excels in providing code suggestions based on the context of your code. It understands the nuances of your programming language and specific codebase and offers suggestions that are not only syntactically correct but also logically sound. However, it’s important to check the code for security weaknesses and the use of insecure or non-permissive open source libraries.
Tabnine uses a proprietary LLM which is less powerful than Copilot’s top-of-line GPT-4 model. However, it can be trained specifically on an organization’s proprietary code repositories, which makes it much more capable of providing code that uses that organization’s best practices and conventions.
GitHub Copilot is integrated into Visual Studio Code, allowing you to manage your programming tasks within a single environment. It also offers an extension that allows you to use Copilot in Vim, Neovim, the JetBrains suite of IDEs, and Azure Data Studio.
Tabnine is available as a plugin in a variety of IDEs, including Visual Studio Code, IntelliJ IDEA, Sublime, Atom, WebStorm, PyCharm, and Eclipse.
GitHub Copilot offers a thirty-day free trial and after that, pricing starts from $10 / user / month. Copilot Business, which provides additional features like chat, CLI assistance, and public code filtering, costs $19 / user / month. Copilot Enterprise, which includes more features like code review and fine-tuned models, costs $39 / user / month.
Tabnine offers a free forever version, which only provides short code completions of 2-3 words. To get full AI assistant features, pricing starts from $12 / user / month. For enterprise features like on-premise deployment, chat, and custom AI models, you’ll need the Enterprise Edition, for which pricing is not disclosed.
Related content: Read our guide to AI code review
GitHub Copilot vs. Tabnine: How to Choose?
When choosing between GitHub Copilot and Tabnine, consider the specific needs of your development environment. GitHub Copilot, with its GPT-4 powered AI and extensive GitHub integration, offers broad language support and a deep understanding of coding patterns. It's ideal for developers who need advanced AI assistance and work primarily with GitHub repositories. Copilot's recent updates, such as Copilot Chat, further enhance its capabilities, making it a robust tool for various coding tasks.
Tabnine, on the other hand, stands out for its focus on security and the ability to tailor its AI model to an organization's specific coding standards. If your priority is a tool that aligns with enterprise environments and offers both cloud-based and on-premises solutions, Tabnine could be the better choice. Its unique features, like the local AI model for offline use, add to its appeal for certain use cases.