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Exploring the top 5 pair programming tools

Written by Elijah Asaolu✏️

Distance is no longer a barrier to collaboration. Advancements in collaborative technology have made working together— even across continents — as easy as if you were sitting side by side with your colleagues.

Among these innovations, pair programming tools stand out in the software engineering domain. These applications enable developers to work together on the same project, share their development environments, edit code in real-time, execute terminal commands, and much more.

In this article, we'll explore the top five pair programming tools. We'll review how to use them, their features and any drawbacks, and their pricing models. Finally, we’ll look at the good and ugly aspects of pair programming, as well as how to make the most of pair programming sessions to ensure effective collaboration.

What is pair programming?

Pair programming is a collaborative approach where two programmers work together at one workstation. One, the "driver," writes code, while the other, the "observer" or "navigator," reviews each line of code as it is typed. The roles can switch frequently, enabling a dynamic collaborative environment.

You can leverage pair programming tools during these sessions, but it’s worth mentioning that they are pretty distinct from traditional screen-sharing applications. They don't allow full control over the host's screen space but focus specifically on the code environment and terminal access.

Some pair programming tools may offer features similar to screen-sharing tools, but their primary focus on the coding environment reduces latency and makes real-time collaboration on code more effective.

Best practices for efficient pair programming

Pair programming has benefits and drawbacks. On the bright side, it increases productivity — as developers get to simultaneously work on and review the same code, things get fixed and reviewed faster.

However, one major drawback of these tools is unintentional code conflicts and overrides during collaboration sessions. Plus, not all developers are comfortable with this collaborative approach, which may limit their productivity.

To mitigate the issue of code conflicts, always communicate properly with your partner before making major edits. Of course, this is in addition to integrating version control tools. Additionally, be sure to set up a distraction-free environment, reliable internet, and pre-test tools to prevent technical issues during sessions.

Top 5 pair programming tools

So far, we’ve briefly reviewed the concept of pair programming and discussed a few best practices to help you get the most out of your pair programming session. Let’s now dive into the top five pair programming tools, exploring their features, how to use them, their advantages, and their pricing models.

Live Share, a VS Code extension

Live Share is a real-time collaboration feature developed by the team behind Visual Studio Code. It allows multiple developers to work on the same codebase simultaneously within their individual VS Code environments.

When using Live Share, changes made by one person are instantly reflected for everyone else in the session. You can see each other's cursors move, and edits happen live as if you're working side by side.

How to use Live Share

You can access Live Share as an extension within VS Code. To add it to your IDE, navigate to the VS Code Extension Store, search for Live Share, and install it. Once installed, a new icon will appear in your IDE, indicating where to initiate or join a collaboration session: Red Box And Red Arrow With Text Indicating How To Initiate Or Join A Collaboration Session Using Live Share In Visual Studio Code Sharing a session is straightforward. You can select one of two options:

  • Share (Read/Write) allows the person you're inviting to read and edit the files in your project
  • Share (Read-Only) allows them to read but not modify the files

After picking one of these options, you'll receive an instant link to share with your collaborator. Check out the video below of an example collaborative session using Live Share: Example Collaboration Session Using Live Share

Key Live Share features and drawbacks

Some standout features of Live Share include:

  • Real-time code collaboration: Edit and debug code simultaneously in real-time
  • Shared terminal sessions: Execute terminal commands together
  • Access control: Manage permissions for who can edit or view the code
  • Seamless integration: There's no need for collaborators to have the same development environment set up. Everyone can use their personalized VS Code configurations while collaborating

However, there’s one significant drawback you should keep in mind:

  • No integrated audio and text chat: There is no way to communicate within the IDE without external tools

While integrated communication features would be nice to have in Live Share, you can still benefit from this powerful tool as long as you have some other way to chat while you code.

Pricing for Live Share

As of the time of writing this article, Live Share is completely free to use. The team may introduce paid tiers with more advanced features, but has not shared any concrete plans for this yet.

Replit Multiplayer

Replit Multiplayer is a built-in Replit feature that transforms its IDE into a powerful real-time collaboration environment. It allows multiple developers to work on the same project simultaneously within their web browsers without having to install a third-party application.

How to use Replit Multiplayer

Replit Multiplayer requires no additional setup. Anyone with a Replit account instantly has access to it.

Start by creating a new Repl project or opening an existing one in your Replit workspace. In your new Replit workspace, click the Invite button at the top-right corner to invite collaborators by username, email, or by generating a shareable join link: Demo Of How To Use The Invite Button In Replit Multiplayer Once your collaborators accept the invite and join the session, you'll see their cursors moving in the code editor, reflecting changes in real-time, similar to Live Share: Example Collaboration Session In Replit Multiplayer

Key Replit Multiplayer features and drawbacks

A significant benefit of Replit Multiplayer is that it automatically comes with your Replit account, making it incredibly easy to get a pair programming session started. Some of its other standout features include:

  • Real-time collaboration: Code together seamlessly, with edits made by one person instantly visible to everyone else
  • Shared workspace: All participants can access the same files, terminal, and interpreter, ensuring a unified coding environment
  • Integrated chat: Communicate and discuss code changes directly within the Replit interface using the built-in chat window

Meanwhile, you should be aware of limitations such as:

  • Limited file system integration: Replit primarily focuses on cloud-based projects. Uploading and working with local files require additional workarounds
  • Browser dependence: Collaboration is restricted to web browsers, potentially limiting compatibility with some developer workflows

Depending on your workflow and project needs, these drawbacks may not really hinder you from using Replit Multiplayer. It’s still a worthwhile tool to consider, especially if you’re already familiar with Replit.

Pricing for Replit Multiplayer

Replit Multiplayer is completely free to use with your Replit account. However, the Replit platform offers multiple pricing models to access some of its advanced features.

CodeSandbox CDE

CodeSandbox offers a unique approach to real-time collaboration with its instant Cloud Development Environment (CDE). This feature eliminates the need for lengthy local environment setups and allows every developer to work in a clean, isolated virtual machine (VM) dedicated to each branch or pull request.

How to use CodeSandbox CDE

Getting started with CodeSandbox CDE is straightforward. Sign up for a free CodeSandbox account or use your existing account. Next, start a new project or open an existing codebase within your CodeSandbox workspace: Showing How To Create A New Code Sandbox Project Finally, share the project with your team members using invite links or access controls. Invited team members can open the running collaborative cloud environment instantly with a single click.

Key CodeSandbox CDE features

The one-click simplicity of CodeSandbox CDE is a huge advantage when it comes to live coding. Other great features of this pair programming tool include:

  • Instant development environments: No more waiting for local setups. CodeSandbox spins up dedicated VMs for each branch or pull request, ensuring a clean and isolated workspace for everyone
  • Secure workspaces: CodeSandbox CDE provides robust security features like flexible permissions, access control, and security monitoring to safeguard your code
  • Enhanced workflow: You can also integrate various development tools like linters and debuggers directly within CodeSandbox CDE to further streamline your development process

Despite these benefits, CodeSandbox CDE also has two significant drawbacks:

  • No integrated audio and text chat: There is no way to communicate within the IDE without external tools
  • No cursor movement: Unlike the other tools we've looked at, CodeSandbox does not yet display individual cursor movements in the code editor

As with Live Share, you can still benefit from CodeSandbox IDE if you can counter the lack of communication features with other tools. However, not being able to see individual cursor movements might make live collaboration a little more challenging, so think carefully about whether this drawback outweighs the other beneficial features.

Pricing for CodeSandbox CDE

CodeSandbox utilizes a usage-based billing model. Costs can vary depending on your team's specific usage patterns. They offer various paid plans with different feature sets and pricing structures, including a very basic free tier for those who are just getting started.


Duckly enhances real-time code collaboration by integrating video chat right into your development environment. Its solution allows developers to work on code simultaneously while seeing each other's faces, enabling clear communication and effective problem-solving during pair programming sessions.

How to use Duckly

Duckly is available as an extension for the most popular IDEs. To get started, install the Duckly extension from your IDE's extensions marketplace. Alternatively, you could use their web app.

To start a session, click the Duckly extension icon in your IDE, as shown below: Duckly Extension Icon In Example Integrated Development Environment Next, you’ll be prompted to sign into your account, after which you can now generate an invitation link to share with your collaborators. The screenshot below also shows an interactive collaboration session on Duckly, as seen on their website: Interactive Collaboration Session With Integrated Video Chat In Duckly

Key Duckly features and drawbacks

Pair programming with Duckly is almost like collaborating face-to-face, thanks to features like the following:

  • Integrated video chat: Communicate visually with your collaborators directly within your IDE using the built-in video chat feature. Keep in mind this is a premium feature, although Duckly’s audio sharing capabilities are available on its free plan
  • Native IDE integration: Duckly functions as an extension for various popular IDEs, eliminating compatibility concerns and ensuring a smooth workflow
  • Multiple collaboration modes: Choose between screen sharing and cursor mirroring based on your specific collaboration needs

While Duckly is one of the few pair programming tools that offers integrated video chat, keep the following drawback in mind as well:

  • Limited free plan features: The free plan might have limitations on session duration, participant numbers, and functionalities

If you have a smaller team and only need to collaborate during shorter sessions, Duckly’s free plan may be sufficient for your needs. However, if you need any of its more advanced features, longer sessions, or more participants, you could consider one of its paid tiers — or turn to one of the other tools on this list.

Pricing for Duckly

Duckly's free plan includes real-time code sharing and audio sharing capabilities. To enjoy the video call functionality and unlock extra call minutes, you'll have to upgrade to a premium plan, which starts at $6 per month. This could still be a worthwhile investment, especially if you value integrated audio and video features.


Codeanywhere is a cloud-based development environment that allows you to code, edit, debug, and collaborate on projects from anywhere with a web browser. It provides a familiar development environment similar to the VS Code IDE, but it eliminates the need for complex setup and software installations.

How to use Codeanywhere

To get started, sign up for a free Codeanywhere account using your email address or existing Google or GitHub account. Next, link your Codeanywhere account to your preferred version control system (VCS), such as GitHub, GitLab, or Bitbucket. This connection allows you to access your existing repositories and projects seamlessly.

Once connected to your VCS, you can select an existing repository from your VCS account to create a new workspace or explore a variety of pre-configured development environment templates for popular languages and frameworks: Code Anywhere Version Control System Connection Prompting Developer To Select An Existing Repository Or A Preconfigured Template After clicking the Create button, your new development environment should start up and appear in your browser. Finally, back on your Codeanywhere dashboard, you can share your workspace with collaborators and start working in real-time: Sharing Code Anywhere Workspace With Collaborators

Key Codeanywhere features and drawbacks

Codeanywhere comes with similar features to the other pair programming tools we’ve discussed:

  • Version control integration: Seamless integration with popular VCS platforms like GitHub, GitLab, and Bitbucket for efficient version management
  • Real-time collaboration: Share your workspace with collaborators and work on the same project files simultaneously
  • SSH connection: Codeanywhere allows you to connect to your workspace using SSH for added flexibility and access to command-line functionalities

Its VCS integration capability stands out as a particular advantage. However, keep these drawbacks in mind as well:

  • Limited free plan features: The free plan has limitations on storage space, private workspaces, and collaborator numbers
  • No live editing view: Unlike some of the tools we’ve explored, Codeanywhere doesn't provide a view of who is editing what part of the code in real-time

The absence of a live editing view isn’t great, but if version control is critical in your workflow, Codeanywhere is a great choice.

Pair programming tools comparison table

So, which pair programming tool will you choose for your next collaborative coding session? Here’s a table comparing each of the tools we discussed side by side:

Live Share Replit Multiplayer CodeSandbox CDE Duckly Codeanywhere
Real-time code collaboration ✅ (Supports live cursor movement) ✅ (Supports live cursor movement) ✅ (Supports live cursor movement)
Shared workspace Local and Cloud (VS Code) Cloud only (Web-based IDE) Cloud only (VM-based IDE) Local and Cloud (Various IDEs) Cloud only (VS Code-like IDE)
Security/access control
Integration Moderate (VS Code) Moderate (Web-based) High (Cloud IDE) High (Supports multiple IDEs) High (Cloud IDE)
Integrated audio/video sharing capabilities
Integrated text chat capabilities

This table should help you evaluate these five tools’ features against your project’s requirements so you can choose the ideal option for your needs.


In this article, we covered what pair programming tools are, how they differ from traditional screen-sharing apps, and some best practices for an effective pair programming session. We also reviewed the top five pair programming tools, including how to use them, their features, drawbacks, and pricing models.

While this is not a comprehensive list of pair programming tools, we covered five of the most popular and fully featured options. If you're interested in checking out more in-depth tutorials on three other options, take a look at our guides to the Zed code editor written in Rust, Cody AI, and Ghostwriter, a GitHub Copilot alternative.

For more tips on how to make your pair programming sessions even more effective, check out this article by Martin Fowler: On Pair Programming.

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Top comments (1)

warwait profile image
Parker Waiters

How does the lack of integrated audio in Live Share impact your overall experience? It would be great to see a detailed comparison with tools that have this feature.