|By Damon Young
|January 11, 2014 09:00 AM EST
The recent announcement of the open-sourcing of the Codebox IDE is a good excuse to take a break and examine some current cloud-based IDEs.
If you’re new to the space, a cloud IDE lets developers code and manage their projects from a browser. This lets you keep all of your code in the cloud, and means you don’t need to have a powerful laptop to do real programming work. Using a cloud IDE lets you more easily share development environments with your team, which lets new team members become productive faster. Some cloud IDEs also allow you to connect to backend services for build/analysis/deployment, further simplifying the workflow for individual developers.
Most cloud-based IDEs have a similar baseline set of functionality: file/folder management, tabbed editors, access to remote files via (S)FTP/Dropbox/etc. Most claim compatibility with browsers on lightweight devices like tablets, smartphones, and Chrome laptops.
There’s a lot of variance around the specific focus of each tool so if you’re considering a cloud IDE keep your specific use case in mind. For instance: does your whole team need to switch to the cloud IDE, or can some developers continue to use Emacs/TextMate/etc. ? Or does the cloud IDE provider connect to your existing source code repository (like ProjectLocker SVN)?
Cloud9 is a full-fledged coding IDE that runs in a browser. Among cloud-based IDEs, Cloud9 has a leading set of features including code folding, themes, drag-and-drop, and automatic deployment to cloud hosting providers. Each Cloud9 workspace is powered by a VM, so Cloud9 also offers a limited command-line and Git/Mercurial support. The Cloud9 core IDE is open-sourced according to the GPL v3 license.
Codebox is billed as a “Cloud IDE as a Service” and is similar in reach to Cloud9. Unlike other cloud IDEs, Codebox has an offline version that can be installed from the Chrome Web store.
Codenvy has a broader vision that encompasses more of the activities developers do beyond just writing code in an IDE. So Codenvy enables interoperability between developers using traditional desktop editors and those using the Web-based editor. On the other side, Codenvy connects into various continuous integration tools like Jenkins, and testing tools like Selenium. Codenvy also has a policy framework for controlling and monitoring access to workspaces.
Codeanywhere is focused on (like its name says) allowing developers to code anywhere. So there are Codeanywhere apps for iPhone, iPad, Android, Honeycomb, and BlackBerry Playbook. If you need a native app for a niche mobile platform, Codeanywhere might be a fit. Codeanywhere also has strong built-in support for PHP, including a sandbox with a MySQL database.
Koding has a focus on social development, and so has social network features embedded in the Web IDE. Unfortunately, the Koding website doesn’t provide pricing.
Shiftedit is a bare-bones Web IDE with a built-in (proprietary?) revision tracking system. ShiftEdit also offers a Chrome app for offline editing.
Collaborative coding is a key differentiator for Nitrous. This allows you to do e.g. pair programming and even run and preview code together in the same session. Nitrous is very transparent about the underlying computing resources you’re purchasing, letting you choose a plan based on the CPU and memory shares instead of the number of users or storage you need.
The cloud IDE space is full of potential to simplify development workflows and make developers more productive. The market is still in its early stages, so we can expect lots of exciting and useful developments in the future.
We’d love to hear your thoughts about cloud IDEs – please reach out to us on Twitter: @ProjectLockerHQ.
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