GitHub Copilot is a state-of-the-art AI-assisted code completion tool that integrates seamlessly with VS Code. Copilot offers autocomplete-style suggestions as you code that are far superior to traditional code completion. Once enabled, Copilot will automatically suggest code completions, or the user can specify a natural language comment describing the functionality that they wish to create. In addition to autocompletion, Copilot offers a ChatGPT-style interface inside of VS Code. Having an AI tool bolted onto the top IDE is a recipe for enormous productivity gains.
Beginner Friendliness 🐣
Copilot plugs directly into the most common tool used by developers, VS Code. Being in a familiar environment helps to make Copilot friendly and approachable. Copilot provides intelligent AI-assisted type-ahead recommendations as an extension of VS Code’s tab-complete functionality. Unfortunately, for developers wishing to leverage more sophisticated features such as chat and multi-line completions, the documentation for Copilot is so sparse that it feels almost non-existent. With Copilot, much value is available out of the box, but maximizing the tool’s effectiveness requires significant self-exploration.
Copilot is absolutely worth paying for. At $10 per month, it easily returns 10x on the investment when you consider how expensive it is to pay developers. Copilot saves developers time by reducing the number of keystrokes per line of code. Additionally, Copilot feels similar to driver-assistance systems, which have been shown to decrease cognitive burden, resulting in more hours of operation. Having Copilot built directly into the IDE allows for better utilization of AI assistance without window or context-switching costs necessary for coding with tools like ChatGPT.
One of the niceties of the Copilot integration is that it feels nearly invisible. Copilot integrates directly into VS Code and feels like a natural extension of existing auto-completion tools. Additionally, Copilot’s chat window provides a ChatGPT-like experience directly in the editor’s sidebar. The chat panel is useful but feels a little cramped and clunky when leveraged for code suggestions. To combat this, Copilot has an inline chat feature that can display directly in their code panel via a hotkey. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, the recommendations given by inline chat are abysmal. Inline chat often adds duplicate lines or doesn’t understand the task that it was asked to perform. Copilot provides tremendous value to developers via improved type-ahead suggestions and in-editor chat, but inline chat needs some serious work before it’s ready for primetime.
Copilot is one of the most frequently used tools by the Working Dev’s Hero team. One of the biggest boosts to long-term developer efficiency is an investment in a comprehensive suite of automated tests. Copilot is a great assistant for coding production features, but it excels at its ability to write tests. Writing tests is one of our most tedious tasks, and our inattentiveness occasionally yields poor results. Copilot is able to write code without getting tired, reducing our cognitive burden and allowing us to spend more time working. VS Code is our favorite IDE, and the Copilot integration feels both powerful and completely natural.