Using Browser as an IDE for Coding

Dinakaran Sankaranarayanan


Using Browser as an IDE for Coding

Gone are the days when setting up a Development environment can take weeks. Typically the process involves requests for installing software, Integrated Development Environment IDE, admin access etc. Other times, when you read about some exciting new stuff and want to quickly dirty hands, there is a lot of software that needs to be installed and it makes the whole exploration not so super smooth.

But with the advent of cloud, there is some momentum around the usage of the browser itself as IDE. These tools abstract the whole CI-CD process of build and deployment thereby making the whole process seamless and effortless. I was a non-believer in using browser for software development, but using these tools helped me changed my mind.

Popular Browser based IDE’s

Some of the browser-based IDE that I have explored for Web Development mostly on front end technologies includes the following.

  1. Stack Blitz
  2. AWS Cloud 9
  3. Glitch
  4. Github Codespaces

And in 2020, similar tools available for back end technologies and machine learning as well. Some of the online browser-based IDE’s available in the Machine Learning space are

  1. Juptyer Notebooks Online
  2. Google Colab
  3. Microsoft Azure Notebooks

Advantages :

Some of the advantages of these browser-based IDE are:

  1. Easy to set up
  2. Lot of pre-built tools may be available like out-of-box like git, aws tools etc
  3. Better integration with the version control system
  4. No need for a high-end desktop or laptop to write and run code

Disadvantages :

Some of the disadvantages of these browser-based IDE are:

  1. Not very user-friendly. Search and other frequently used short cuts will be sorely missed.
  2. Frequent session time out and lack of good state management.
  3. Plugins provided by IDE for better development workflow will not be available

All these online browser-based tools help us to get started easily to write some code and see the results immediately. It is always a pleasure to see things up and working quickly. However, for more advanced scenarios, we may require a better set up with a dedicated environment and browser may not suffice for an end-to-end workflow. But to get started with exploring new technologies, these browser-based IDE can be a good starting point.