Eclipse Orion Online IDE Provides Effective Tools for Web Development

By Jeff Cogswell  |  Posted 2013-03-12 Print this article Print

There's even a page where optional plug-ins are published, which you can get to from a "Get Plug-ins" link at the top. That page lists the plug-ins and includes an "install" link for each. I was curious how it would go about installing the plug-in since we're dealing with software on our own server. So I looked closely at the URL for the install links.

Sure enough, it points to a local URL running inside Orion, again using the REST interface. Included in the URL parameters is a link to the actual plug-in. This presumably makes the REST request to the Orion installation by sending it the plug-in URL and allowing the plug-in to be downloaded and run.

Great Start but Room for Improvement

This seems like a bit of a security concern as it will allow Java code to be downloaded and run on your server. However, if you're installing plug-ins through this main Eclipse Foundation-approved server, I think it's pretty safe to assume they'll be legitimate plug-ins and not malware.

As such, I installed a plug-in called "HTML5 local filesystem." Clicking on the Install link takes you to a page within Orion featuring a text box labeled "Plug-in URL" that's filled in with the URL of the plug-in, and a "Submit" link. After clicking it, I saw a message at the top that says that the plug-in was indeed installed.

This approach to plug-ins was actually very similar to the way plug-ins work in the desktop Eclipse. There, you click a menu to add new software, and you can provide a URL. You can then install the software found at that URL by simply clicking a button. It's the same idea.

The plug-in architecture itself is a bit unusual, but it makes sense. The plug-ins are loaded by the browser through a hidden iframe. That iframe loads an HTML file for the plug-in, which includes JavaScript code and can load additional JavaScript files. The JavaScript code uses a plug-in API to communicate with the server and with the client side, including the editor. For communicating with the server, the JavaScript code uses the HTML5 messaging system.

All in all, this looks like a great start. It has been successfully tested in virtually all the modern browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer 10 and Safari 6.0.2). The server-side code is written in Java. So it will run on nearly any server that supports Java. The documents say they're also working on porting the server-side code to Node.js.

It's still lacking in some features such as what you find in products that are more mature, including the aforementioned Cloud 9. But it's moving along quickly, and in the future, I'm sure we'll see some great features come out of it—just like good old desktop Eclipse. For example, there is work under way to support full debugging.

You can learn more at, and you can try it out live on a test server at


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