For those that aren’t in the know, the browser based “IDE” is an abbreviation of Integrated Development Environment. Very simply said, it’s an application that can be used to write code, but usually with added compiler/interpreter, debugging and automation features.
Finding a decent freeware code writing application (view previous code-editor compilations for Windows or Mac), never mind an IDE, can prove difficult. Some operating systems have it harder than others, and if you use more than one, or are on the move a lot, coding can be a bastard.
Hence it pays to code in the cloud. By elevating your coding platform to an online environment, you not only rid yourself of OS issues but even of hardware independence. No matter where you find yourself, you can always access all your files with the same IDE.
Here’s Why You Want An Online IDE
If the aforementioned motivation of increased portability and accessibility wasn’t enough, here’s something else to think about.
With your coding environment in the cloud, an IDE can be used as a programming environment for multiple people. You’ll be able to access code directories as a code, and collaborate through the web. Some of the IDE’s even offer a Google Wave-ish experience, where people can navigate and edit a single file together, at the same time.
Most of these can even be installed on your own servers, eliminating the intermediary. Web hosts can even integrate them in the administrator dashboard, opening a whole new range of possibilities for their customers, by default.
Bespin from Mozilla Labs
Remember Mozilla? They’re the guys that brought you Firefox, Thunderbird, Ubiquity, and a bunch of other stuff. Included in the ‘other stuff’ is a browser-based IDE, called Bespin. The editor is built using the rather fresh HTML5 standard, so you won’t be able to use it with the older Internet Explorer versions (as if).
As mentioned, this one can also be downloaded and hosted on your own server, or even integrated in one of your own web applications. An example of this, Kodingen, is discussed below.
Due to it’s minimalistic features, you can expect a lightning fast code editor, albeit slightly complex. The command line-like interaction might take some getting used to. All expected features are present: syntax highlighting and standard text manipulation. You can also access frequently used actions via the command bar and view the history of files, and how they were adapted.
Groups of users can work on a single file at the same time. The code will automatically be updated in other browsers. This same feature can also be used to work on the code on multiple computers, without even needing to save and refresh.
Coderun Studio is a similarly powerful browser-based IDE, also boasting extensive collaborative features. Code can be automatically shared on a number of social networks, or otherwise distributed via unique hyperlinks. These will allow the recipient to view, and optionally edit a parallel version of the code.
Because of the HTML5 absence, Coderun Studio can run in pretty much every browser, even the much faulted Internet Explorer.
On the other hand, some of the features that would elevate this to a full-fledged IDE, like compiling and deploying web scripts, are only available with one of the premium Coderun Cloud extension plans, ranging from $10 to $169 per month.
Browser-based IDE Kodingen was based off of Bespin, mentioned above. Is it fair to mention it in this top 3 as well? You bet it is. Kodingen does away with the minimalistic interface, and becomes more of a GUI tool like Coderun Studio, albeit with a Bespin core. In a way, it features the best of both worlds.
For Kodingen, although officially still in sign-up beta, the full launch is very near. As such, the advertised sign-up limitation will not be kept in effect. With the launch, a number of non-beta features will be rolled out as well.
The discussion is still an ongoing one: do we need IDE’s in the cloud? Tell us your personal opinion in the comments section below!