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To enable remote development, Facebook open-sources its web-based IDE ‘Atom in orbit’

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Software developers, rejoice! At a hackathon event earlier this year, an engineering team at Facebook decided to port the capabilities of the widely popular open-source Atom desktop text editor to the browser. And since you’re reading about it, they did succeed and now are open-sourcing the project for further inputs from foreign developers. It has been christened Atom in orbit (get the pun!?) and Facebook’s Nuclide IDE has been employed in its development.

The social networking giant has made the source code for this project available on Github under a BSD-3 Clause open-source license and has laid emphasis on it being more of a hack rather than a full-fledged demo release. Being built on Nuclide, which itself runs atop Atom editor’s infrastructure, provides the app compelling support for remote development.

Talking about how Atom in Orbit came into existence has been described by Facebook product manager Roy Zhang as under:

A few engineers set out to produce a version of Atom that runs in the browser as a step toward supporting remote development. While web apps, in general, offer several advantages for engineers — for example, automatic backups, remote access, and server-side processing — Atom on the desktop still enjoyed several features that weren’t available in the browser.

The engineers found workarounds to these obstacles and contributed a set of scripts that repackages Atom’s source so that it runs as a web app.

Atom in Orbit builds upon the already extensive user base and extension ecosystem of the said desktop editor, which leads to this project. It enables developers to not care for initial setup processes, store code in the cloud, use an up to date feature-packed editor and be completely free of heavy-lifting in this web app. Also, you gain access to the already rich and extensive library of Atom packages, themes, and numerous other customization options.

And if you were worrying that the coding environment being a web app will affect your product and constrain your thinking to the browser. But Atom in Orbit is desktop first and web developers instead of using Javascript have deployed certain libraries using C. This web IDE now support the development of mobile/desktop software, which is highly unlikely on competitor web apps. GHEdit is another alternative that provides a web experience for Microsoft’s Visual Studio Code open-source text editor.

For those willing to try out the web-based development environment, you can click here to open the editor window right away. But if you’re interested in contributing to the project, then go to the Github page. This project is one of the few, which have been included in Facebook’s favorite hack of 2016 listicle.

A hands-on guy fascinated by new apps, technologies and enterprise products.

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