Which AI tools do software engineers use on the job?

Every year we like to check out the Stack Overflow Developer Survey, which asks thousands of developers at various stages of their careers about the tools they use, how they work, and much more. It’s a useful snapshot of where the industry is and how those working within it (or aspiring to work within it) are fairing and thriving.

This year, we were particularly interested in checking out a new section on AI tools. Stack Overflow sought to answer the overarching question: Is AI making an impact on how developers work or is it all hype?

According to the results, “70% are already using or plan to use AI tools in their development process.” But that doesn’t necessarily mean developers trust what the tools give them. The survey found about 42% trust the accuracy of the output, while 31% are on the fence.

That’s why, in our coding bootcamps, we focus on teaching students how to responsibly and efficiently use the AI developer tool, GitHub Copilot. Below, we’ll look at some of the survey results to see how GitHub Copilot and other AI tools are being used throughout the industry.

How software developers are using AI for search

Broad-use, AI-powered search tools allow users to find answers to questions quickly and easily. In coding and software engineering, people can use these search tools to help with bug fixes, code generation, testing, and more.

Out of 63,024 total responses, an overwhelming 83.24% reported using ChatGPT for search, while 20.6% use Bing AI and another 13.36% use Wolfram Alpha. This huge gap between the most-used and the rest demonstrates how large a lead ChatGPT has on its competitors.

According to Stack Overflow: “The hype around emerging AI search technology has room to grow while the ChatGPT competitors grow their user base; only four tools had 10% or higher selection for those that want to try it in the next year.”

How software engineers are using specific AI tools for development

In addition to asking about broad-use AI search tools, Stack Overflow also asked respondents about AI developer tools designed specifically for coding and development tasks. Overall, GitHub Copilot was the most used AI developer tool with 55% of respondents saying they used it within the past year. Second was Tabnine with 13%.

According to the survey, professional developers consider increased productivity (37.4%) as the biggest benefit of working with AI tools. They also noted greater efficiency (27.9%) and speeding up learning (27.4%).

For developers currently learning to code, the biggest benefits are speeding up learning (42.4%) and increasing productivity (41.5%).

With or without tools, it’s vital to understand how to code

In our curriculum, Hack Reactor instructors emphasize how useful AI tools can be, but also make clear how important it is for new developers to understand how coding works with or without these tools.

Building deep understanding – potentially sped up with the help of AI tools – will serve as a foundation for a long, successful career. Instructor Bart Dorsey also noted that human creativity plays a larger role in coding than some may realize.

“These (AI) tools can be useful for finding ways to do things that everybody does the same way because there’s only one way to do it,” he said, “but when you start getting into building an application and it needs to be a specific thing and nobody’s ever really done it before, that’s when it’s going to fall apart because the tools can’t be creative. They can’t come up with new ideas because they don’t think.”

Ready to learn how to use AI tools during a coding bootcamp?

During our bootcamps, we teach students how to integrate GitHub Copilot into their workflow and guide them on how to use AI to build a portfolio project to demonstrate their ability to evaluate and blend AI-generated code with their own.

If you’re ready to start learning, attend an upcoming Info Session or get your admissions process started today!

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