Eclipse Targets Web Developers with OrionHub

Announced at EclipseCon 2011, OrionHub is a hosted implementation of the Eclipse Orion Web development framework.

The Eclipse Foundation announced the beta release of OrionHub, a hosted implementation of the Eclipse Orion Web development framework.

Eclipse has invited developers to sign up for access to the beta version of the OrionHub service. Orion is a new Eclipse initiative to define a platform for building and integrating Web development tools. An early release of Orion provides Web developers with an editor for JavaScript, HTML and CSS that runs in popular browsers and the ability to easily link with popular Web-based tools. The OrionHub service provided by the Eclipse Foundation will allow developers to experiment with Orion and provide feedback to the Orion open-source community. Eclipse announced OrionHub at the EclipseCon 2011 conference, which ran March 21-24 in Santa Clara, Calif.

"Eclipse has been around for a number of years and is known for its tools for enterprise Java developers, but we've been less successful appealing to Web developers." Mike Milinkovich, executive director of Eclipse, told eWEEK. "But as more applications move to the cloud, we need to make sure there's tooling that appeals to that audience. With Orion, we're leveraging the browser as the way to navigate your code base."

More and more applications are being moved to the Web and cloud infrastructure. A key question is how software development tools will move from the desktop to support a Web-focused development workflow. Orion moves software development to the Web, as a Web experience. It implements the workflows required by Web developers building open Web applications -- workflows that are dramatically different from those implemented by existing desktop-based integrated development environments (IDEs). Orion enables the creation and integration of browser-based tools for open Web development that are both powerful and flexible.

Orion is an open-source project at the Eclipse Foundation. An important goal of this open beta is to reach out to the Web developer community to solicit feedback and input into the future directions of Orion. The first Orion Planning Summit was held March 17-18 in Palo Alto, Calif., to establish the scope and roadmap of the Orion project.

Some key features of Orion include:

  • A very fast, scalable and responsive editor for JavaScript, HTML and CSS development.
  • A new client-side plug-in architecture, using HTML5, that allows tools written in JavaScript to be integrated into the Orion client. Examples of existing integrations include JSLint and jsbeautify.
  • Orion is supported in Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox 3.6 & 4.0, Microsoft IE 8 & 9 and Safari 5. The Orion client is written in JavaScript and provides full integration with browser capabilities such as tabs, bookmarks, url sharing, etc.
  • Initial integration with git provides local history for Orion projects. A new git comparison tools allows for easy identification of changes. Future support for git commands (fetch, tag, logo) will be added.

"It is still very early days but I expect Orion will be as important for Web developers as the initial Eclipse Java IDE was for Java developers," Milinkovich said. "Right now we are looking for people who are interested in using or adopting Orion and who are interested in participating in the community."

"JavaScript developers need flexible lightweight tools available from a browser," said Andre Charland, CEO of Nitobi, maker of the popular PhoneGap tool for mobile developers. "Orion's approach to providing browser-based tools is something we may integrate into our PhoneGap Build service. Adopting the Orion tools would allow us to provide our JavaScript developers access to lightweight tools that make it easier to develop and build cross-platform mobile applications."

The Orion hosted service is open to the first 5,000 developers who sign up. In the future, additional slots may be added as the Orion community grows. The Orion server is also available for download for developers who want to install Orion on their own computers. The Orion source code is licensed under the Eclipse Public License (EPL).

Meanwhile, although there are competing efforts to deliver a cloud-oriented IDE - such as the Cloud9 IDE and eXo's Cloud IDE - the Eclipse approach with Orion is different, Milinkovich said. One way it differs is that the other efforts attempt "to be a desktop IDE running in a browser tab, but Orion is trying to make it feel like the natural way you use the Web every day," Milinkovich said. He also noted that Orion is very focused on integration and has the Eclipse community behind it.

"We hope we can see the same replication of the success of Eclipse with the Orion platform," Milinkovich said