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Review: 4 killer cloud IDEs

Peter Wayner | April 18, 2013
Surprisingly beefy, browser-based JSFiddle, Icenium, Cloud9, and Codenvy stretch from client-side JavaScript to server-side Java and Web stacks

Icenium: Mobile dev in the browser When I said above that developers of native code for mobile devices may be among the last to adopt Web-based tools, I left out a curious hybrid path now popular for apps that don't require squeezing every ounce of performance out of the hardware. Some developers are building their iPhone and Android apps in HTML, then wrapping them in a thin layer of native code. This is a fast way to create apps for different platforms, and it can work well if you're not building cycle-sucking apps such as games.

Telerik's Icenium Mist is a browser-based tool for building mobile apps around the Apache Cordova project, the latest version of a thin layer of device-specific code that was once known only as PhoneGap. Icenium Mist lets you create the apps in your browser and run them in a simulator for the different versions of the iPhone. It's a very quick way to spin up an iPhone app. Icenium Graphite, a companion tool that runs on Windows, handles the build, deployment to your device, and publishing the app to the App Store and Google Play.

The good news is that the tool has a solid code browser, a fine editor, and a sturdy connection with Git repositories for saving your revisions. Telerik has already folded in jQuery, jQuery Mobile, and Kendo for building the widgets, but you can replace them with your favorite code. Although the debugging isn't very robust -- the tool often produced inscrutable remarks like "Error: Script error. (URL: , LineNumber: 0)" -- I was able to work around it using the browsers' built-in debuggers. After all, the apps are just HTML and JavaScript, and the so-called simulator is another browser window.

Icenium is enough to build many basic apps for your mobile needs. It's not exactly native code, but that power is not necessary for most basic apps. It's a clever remix of the browser environment with the mobile.

Icenium is free through May and $19 per month afterward, with a discount for purchasing a full year in advance.

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.


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