Dec 13, 2019

Spin it up, fast

Repl from Repo

Repl.it, the creators of an instant online coding environment, launched Repl from Repo, a new tool to automatically open and run any GitHub project in its cloud-based IDE.

Developers can take any GitHub repository and visit repl.it/github/<GitHub URL> to automatically open that repository in the Repl.it IDE and spin up a development environment.

How it works: When prompted by a user, Repl.it will clone a GitHub repo and its code into an online IDE.

Repl.it tries to detect run commands, but if it is not able to then the IDE will help the user configure a .replit file. The newly created file contains instructions to create a development environment.

Developers can then automatically create a pull request to the original repository to add the Repl.it configuration file so that other users can skip the entire setup process. Maintainers can also add a badge to their repositories that lets anyone open the project on Repl.it in a single click.

It’s getting a bit crowded: Repl.it is not alone. Cloud-based IDEs and disposable development environments are gaining attention in the developer world.

Gitpod similarly lets you import any GitHub repository into its online editor by prepending https://gitpod.io/# to any GitHub URL.

Other projects are taking slightly different approaches. Tools like Coder.com and Microsoft’s Visual Studio Online mimic local instances of VS Code in the browser, which acts as a portal to a server running your code editor and development environment.

Other online IDEs, like CodeSandBox and StackBlitz, focus on specific types of development stacks, like web development.

Hybrid approaches, like Visual Studio Remote, let you use local instances of your code editor but run all code on a remote server.

Why it matters: Cloud-based and browser-based development is becoming incredibly powerful, but also increasingly fractured.

Different online IDEs focus on different technologies and workflows. Moreover, some development environments are more disposable than others; some are geared more towards rapid prototyping and others focus on the entire software life cycle.

Integrations differ, too. Certain tools integrate with GitHub and allow easy sharing, while many do not.

With so many options available, developers will need to navigate their way around a growing ecosystem of online development environments to make the most of this new wave of innovation.

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