Review: 4 killer cloud IDEs

Browser-based JSFiddle, Icenium, Cloud9, and Codenvy stretch from client-side JavaScript and HTML5 to server-side Java and Web stacks

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Cloud9 IDE: Node, Ruby, Java, and PHP

The Cloud9 environment is full of features aimed at the fat part of the dynamic Web app development world: Ruby, PHP, and Node.js stacks. The Cloud9 IDE offers a classic file browser and editor for your projects that can be debugged on their server and deployed anywhere you like.

The editor is quite powerful, offering code highlighting and error detection. Syntax errors are flagged immediately in your browser before they're even saved to the server, speeding up the debugging cycle. This won't catch runtime errors, though. You'll need to insert console logging methods.

The environment comes with both a console log and a command line, so you're logged into the Unix directory where your code is running. For grins, I typed "emacs" and it worked. I'm not sure what anyone would do with the command line when a full editor is above it, but it's bound to come in useful for some odd occasions.

The company is generous with free demonstration projects, with the exception of one private workspace that requires your projects be public where others can watch them. The premium membership, which is just $12 per month, offers six private workspaces, plus better access to the shell and the VM. There's also no limit on collaborators, people who can edit your projects with you. The only other thing you might need for bigger development projects is local access to a database like MySQL.

Codenvy IDE: Java and Web stacks

The Codenvy IDE is another incredibly rich code development environment with deep connections to a number of hosting platforms like Amazon's Elastic Beanstalk and AppFog. There are at least a half-dozen options, and they light up depending upon which type of application you want to create. The IDE offers three types of Java projects (library, WAR, and Spring) and the classic dynamic languages such as Ruby, Python, and PHP.

Java is clearly one of its strengths. Working in Codenvy IDE is not much different from using Eclipse. Most of the features are similar, and the code highlighting and editorial support are good. When I first started making subtle mistakes with my code (on purpose, of course, in the name of science), the browser didn't react. Then about five seconds later, the mistake was highlighted and flagged. After watching the network traffic, I came to the conclusion that the editor was often phoning home with big JSON packets full of code and waiting for instructions from the mothership before flagging my errors. The quality of the suggestions were great. Codenvy would even flag variables that were defined correctly but not used.

The connection with the various deployment platforms will attract users because Codenvy is a more effective front end for managing your code. There are custom tools for the seven major clouds that make configuration that much simpler. The Amazon dialog, for instance, will let you juggle your instances and data stored in Amazon S3 buckets.

Further, I can imagine deploying my code through this service in order to use the debugging features to get everything running. The ability to tweak some of the code and redeploy is not only useful, but it offers a more sophisticated interaction than simply pushing code up onto the server with Git. The Codenvy debugging tools are quite nice. I'm not sure I'll always be willing to wait for a JSON call to highlight the issues with the code. But if your Internet connection is fast, Codenvy may be enough for hard-core development.

The free version offers unlimited public projects. If you want some privacy, the basic subscription is $9 per month; advanced subscriptions that support more projects and dedicated VMs are $49 and $99.

Review: 4 killer cloud IDEs
Codenvy is a rich, sophisticated IDE with nice debugging features. It feels more like using Eclipse than working in a browser.

This article, "Review: 4 killer cloud IDEs," was originally published at Follow the latest developments in application development and cloud computing at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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