Code in the Cloud with Cloud9 IDE

One of my favourite cloud innovations has been a Cloud IDE. I always found that setting up for development was a chore. I had to sit down, open all my apps, load all my work, and get my windows setup the way I need them.  It sounds trivial yet the task is so tedious. It was a great excuse to procrastinate. Finally, those days are done and I’m more productive for it.

I’ve been playing around with Cloud9 IDE (http://c9.io) and I love it. I can sit down anywhere and just log in and work. I don’t need to worry about things like where my latest source code is anymore. I haven’t done any really heavy lifting with Cloud9 IDE but I like what I’ve seen.

Let’s start with the dollars and cents. Cloud9 IDE is free to use as long as the project is open-sourced. This means the more popular Cloud9 is the more open-source code is developed. This is great as open-source software is the lifeblood of the Cloud. As not to be hypocritical, the Cloud9 IDE is open-sourced on Github too. So what if you need a private project? That is where the business model comes in. For $15/month you can have a premium membership that is capable of creating private projects. Seems like a pretty good deal to me.

The Cloud9 IDE is heavily invested in Node.js which is another big interest of mine right now. What is Node.js? The short answer is that it is server-side JavaScript with some pretty handy libraries for network applications. I really didn’t think much of server-side JavaScript but after seeing a web server written in 6 lines, I was impressed. Here are all 6 lines straight from nodejs.org:

var http = require(‘http’);

http.createServer(function (req, res) {

res.writeHead(200, {‘Content-Type’: ‘text/plain’});

res.end(‘Hello Worldn’);

}).listen(1337, ‘127.0.0.1’);

console.log(‘Server running at http://127.0.0.1:1337/’);

As Cloud9 IDE supports Node.js out of the box there is no install necessary, just sit down and start coding. So if you want to play around with Node this is a great way to get your hands dirty without so much as an install.

Aside from Node there are a plethora of languages supported. The main design was for HTML5 and Javascript but there is support for C/C++, C#, Coffeescript, CSS, Java, Lua, Perl, Ruby, Python, SQL, Powershell and more. All your favourites are here and they come with full syntax highlighting.

So you get a fully web-based IDE with syntax highlighting for numerous languages with easy integration for git or mercurial and the ability to share your projects with anyone anywhere for free? Or worst case $15 a month?

So what are the downsides? Well, if you don’t want to open-source your project you’ll have to pay to play. As well, Cloud9 IDE was designed with Javascript in mind so although it supports C# I wouldn’t go replacing Visual Studio just yet. VS offers far more features than syntax highlighting after all.

Although Cloud9 IDE might not be able to replace every development environment it certainly has more going for it then against it. Plus with support for Node and the Node Package Manager it is a great digital playground for some up-and-coming technologies.

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