The best cloud-based development platforms/IDE according to a panel of one person (me)

Posted on: 2021-11-27

Those past years have been awesome for cloud-based development. I think this one of the most exciting things that is being done in the development space right now. Can you imagine that in a few years, when you are a new developer being hired in a company, you won't even have to take days to setup your company's computer with tools, access keys, IDEs, SDKs... You'll just be able to sign-in in your browser and that's it ! Sounds as weird as awesome uh ? Let's explore some of the services/SaaS/projects that are starting to make this a reality. - An awesome cloud IDE packed with really interesting features. Their online editor is quite cool, simple (in a good way) and let you collaborate with other developers in real time. The range of technologies you can develop with is also great. To me, this is one of the best place to create/share the MVP of any application. Each Repl has an URL you can share (I mean not to review the code, but for people to actually use the app your are developing, as an end user, that's really great).

Could it be use as your main IDE? I don't think so, and I'm not even sure that's the point. For now it's seems more of a way to share proof-of-concepts/MVPs). For power-user, it's missing a few features like custom shortcuts (Ctrl+enter bounds to "run the app" by default and there is no way to change that), resizing/re-arranging the layout of the editor... that kind of things. But hey, while testing it I was able to create a typescript library from scratch, publish it on NPM etc... so it's not that bad!

Gitpod - Also freaking awesome... basically when you create a workspace on gitpod, you get access to vscode in your browser, with access to all extensions, a terminal to run your project etc... just as if you had launched vscode on your own computer and connected it to a remote server/container (except you had nothing to configure ^^). It seems to be the best service if you want the same experience you had on your computer... but in the cloud/browser. I love this one, and it's open source ! So at some point if you become a power user and need to use it on your company's private infrastructure that's completely feasible. They are like the gitlab of cloud development.

Could it be use as your main IDE? I think it could, at least it's the best to do that IMO. Yeah, one or two shortcut are missing (if you are used to Ctrl+w to close tabs in vscode, that wont work in your browser, since it's the same shortcut that closes tabs of the browser itself). The good new is, you can connect to a gitpod from your computer's vscode, they have an extension for that! - This one is a bit different than the other in that category, because of the way the applications you develop are executed. All of their competitors listed above rely on a somewhat similar approach regarding the backend, meaning you get some kind of container in the cloud that their frontend app gives you access to. With stackblitz, everything happens in your browser. They rely on webcontainers to allow you to develop backend applications right in your browser (it's not giving you access to a container somewhere in the cloud). This is really awesome, but the limitation is that you can only create nodejs backend apps right now (because for every language they would want to add they would have to make the compiler or VM run in the browser with webassembly). Also important IMO, unfortunately the webcontainer part is not open source, which I think is a real bummer.

Could it be use as your main IDE? As much as I love this service, I think it a no. After using it for a few days, even on frontend-only projects (React), I think it's a bit too buggy, especially the github integration that sometimes crashes/loads forever without explanation. But it's a pretty new service so if they keep improve it that could become an awesome IDE.

Github codespaces - You probably know this one already, but that does not make it less awesome ! It's basically vscode + a container in the cloud. It's very similar to what Gitpod can do. Unfortunately it's only available for enterprise tiers right now.

Could it be use as your main IDE? Well apparently developers at github are now using it to develop github itself, so it seems to be viable solution, but I didn't tried it.

Code-server - - code-server is one, if not the most popular open-source solution to run vscode in the browser. It's self hosted, and you can use docker to run it on your own server/VPS. IMO it's the best and most simple solution if you want to go old school about all this (yeah, old school is relative in that ecosystem, I know ^^) and develop in the browser, but from your own server. They also offer a cloud-based solution, but it's enterprise only.

Could it be use as your main IDE? I guess yes, but you will have to set this up yourself at first... you won't have the benefit of just clicking a button and having a environment ready in a few seconds like the other services.