What Is the Arduino MicroPython IDE?

Arduino Labs for MicroPython is an experimental lightweight cross-platform editor for MicroPython. Arduino now offers support for the Python programming language as a means of interacting with its microcontroller boards.

This means that you can now leverage the vast libraries and ecosystem of the language to build more powerful and complex projects. The power of Python coupled with the versatility of Arduino may just be the perfect combination for your next project

Despite being in its experimental phase, Arduino Labs for MicroPython has already garnered a lot of attention from the maker community, with many people eager to try it out. So, what prompted this move?

Arduino vs. MicroPython

Arduino board on black surface

Arduino has long been a favorite among hobbyists and professionals alike for its range of cheap hardware options and active community of users who are always willing to lend a helping hand on the Arduino forum. There are many useful Arduino projects to try, from home automation to robotics.

One of the main advantages of Arduino is its simplicity. The hardware is easy to use, and the programming language is based on C/C++, which is widely known and easy to learn. You can check our exclusive guide on what an Arduino is and what you can do with it to learn more.

MicroPython, on the other hand, is a lean and efficient implementation of the Python programming language that is designed for use on microcontrollers. It offers a powerful programming environment that is ripe for experimentation and allows you to take advantage of the rich ecosystem of Python libraries and tools. One of the main benefits of MicroPython is its flexibility—Python is a very expressive language that is well-suited for prototyping.

The Arduino IDE for MicroPython, created in collaboration with Murilo Polese who wrote the initial version, offers a robust development platform that combines the benefits of both worlds. This results in a more efficient and effective development experience.

It’s Not Another Arduino IDE Extension

Arduino Labs for MicroPython(IDE) user interface

While you may think it’s just another extension built for the already existing Arduino IDE, it’s an entirely separate development platform built from scratch by the team at Arduino specifically to support MicroPython. This IDE is similar to the original Arduino IDE, but it allows users to write and upload Python code to their boards.

One of the main features of the Arduino IDE for MicroPython is its support for boards with REPL over serial, including the vulnerable ESP8266. This allows you to easily upload and run Python code on your microcontroller boards, without the need for external tools or complicated setup procedures. The IDE also includes file manager capabilities, which make it easy to organize and manage your Python scripts.

Arduino IDE for MicroPython is available on Windows, Linux, and macOS; download it free from the Arduino Lab for Micropython page.

Since it uses Real Eval Print Loop (REPL) over serial, the IDE supports other boards too, like the Raspberry Pico.

The Python-specific REPL shell also comes in store with the IDE which allows you to test out small pieces of your code when debugging. Additionally, It lets you build your projects faster as you are using a high-level language that is very easy to learn–a perfect fit for someone getting into microcontrollers.

One of the main advantages of using MicroPython is its ability to save on the limited reprogramming counts of the program flash memory of the microcontroller. This is because the Python script is stored and run in the RAM, rather than being written directly to the flash memory. This can be especially useful for projects that require frequent updates or changes to the code.

However, there is no syntax checking for errors at the moment, which can make it more difficult to spot mistakes in your code. Arduino has not yet communicated any plans to add this feature in the future.

What Is the Future of Arduino Lab for MicroPython?

DFRobot FireBeetle development board breadboard project with an OLED display

This MicroPython IDE seems like a good fit for those who want more flexibility and the ability to take advantage of the rich ecosystem of Python libraries. With the growth in popularity of the Python programming language, it’s set to gain more traction which may eventually prompt Arduino to expand its MicroPython library on the platform. Its reception in the Arduino community looks promising and already has all the signs of becoming a permanent product.

As of now, the MicroPython firmware is only available for the Arduino Nano 33 BLE Sense, Nano RP2040 Connect, and Portenta H7 boards. It is not clear when it will be available for other models.

Ready for the Game-Changer IDE for Every Maker?

Overall, the Arduino Lab for MicroPython is a welcome addition to the Arduino ecosystem since it offers the best of both worlds—the rich hardware options and supportive community of Arduino, combined with the powerful programming capabilities of MicroPython.

Whether you are a seasoned pro or just getting started with microcontrollers, this development is sure to have something for you.

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