I'm reading up IDE and I don't understand them from a lay person's perspective. What's the difference between mix and browser based IDE. How do you use them?
An IDE is an integrated development environment.
That is a programming environment integrated into a software application that provides:
- GUI builder
- text or code editor
- compiler and/or interpreter
The advantage of decentralization is that you can use the browser-based solidity compiler which works on top of your ethereum node. Except for the node, no additional software has to be installed.
Mix is no more used to code, See https://blog.ethereum.org/2016/07/08/c-dev-update-summer-edition/.
you could check some alternatives listed at http://solidity.readthedocs.org
you could also try remix ( https://github.com/ethereum/remix ) which will i hope soon provide the same level of functionality as mix. Remix is in the early stage (alpha version). it only provides VM debugging for now. Remix has already been integrated with browser solidity ( https://ethereum.github.io/browser-solidity/#version=soljson-latest.js ). You can use it right now. But as remix is still alpha, i would not recommend to use it as a production tool. please wait for further announcements.
be careful, solidity browser is only to code small and medium size contract it crashed for me coding some big ones.