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Eclipse Orion: A Browser-based Editor for Web Applications

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The Eclipse Foundation has released Orion 1.0, a browser-based editor for web applications written in JavaScript, HTML, and CSS.

Eclipse Orion starts with the concept that the browser is the new IDE. Orion is not meant to be a new Eclipse, a full blown IDE with everything in it, but rather a set of components providing support for creating and editing web applications. Nonetheless, Orion has an extension mechanism similar to Eclipse, and additional functionality –source control, testing tools, graphic tools, etc. – can be created and linked with Orion through its plug-in mechanism, but it is loaded and used in a separate tab in the browser. It is possible Orion to provide plug-in functionality inside the same web page in the future, but that is not the case now.

The plug-in infrastructure is fundamental for Orion. A developer can add various functionality to the editor that can be hosted locally or on separate websites. The external content is loaded in an Orion template page in an iframe through page services. Separate projects such as Firefox Scratchpad, Scripted, Cloudfier have already been built on top of Orion using the plug-in capabilities offered.

Currently, Orion provides several basic components: a project navigator, a website navigator, a repository navigator, a shell with few commands – cd, edit, ls, pwd-, and a basic editor for JavaScript, HTML and CSS with code assist, line annotations and outliners. Additionally, Orion has a dozen of plug-ins for Git integration, managing user profile, user authentication, JavaScript validation with JSLint, task management and others. On GitHub there are available other plug-ins for code mirroring, JavaScript beautify, image editing via Pixlr, string externalized, etc..

The editor can be tested on the OrionHub which provides support for code repository, editing and website hosting, but it can also be downloaded and used locally or on a private website.

The 22-committers team made mostly of IBM developers intends to release a new point version every 4 months, according to Ken Walker, Eclipse Orion Project Lead, version 2.0 being expected in February, 2013. The team will focus on UI and UX improvements enabling better integration with extensions which will be able to have their own UI, better JavaScript, HTML and CSS tools, support for deploying a project outside OrionHub, support for deploying code onto Node.js, offline support, and others.

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