GitPod to the Rescue

A few weeks ago I wrote about using a Chromebook as a Developer Device. This worked quite well with my really fast Chromebook, which is equipped with an Intel Core i5 8th Gen. and 16 MB RAM, with the IDE installed in the Linux emulation and I was able to work wonderfully. Nevertheless I was annoyed that I have to buy a Chromebook with a fast processor and enough RAM only for the software development. Everything else was already running in the cloud, so why not the IDE?

Well, I’ve tried several cloud IDEs that I found in a Google search. The selection is already remarkable and positively surprised me. Of course, there were also some IDEs that were, to be honest, hardly more than an online editor, but I still take a positive note. I don’t want to compare different cloud IDEs at this point, there are already enough website comparing them and they are developing so fast that it doesn’t make much sense in my opinion. But I would like to introduce you which I have chosen and how I will move on.

I choosed GitPod. But it has one big disadvantage: It only works with repositories on GitHub. Since all my repositories are hosted on GitHub, this restriction is not relevant for me. On the lucky side! Because one thing makes GitPod so interesting for me: It’s so easy to use, it doesn’t even have to be configured! If I have opened a GitHub project in my browser, I only need to write in front of the URL and an IDE with this repo will start and I can begin working after a few seconds. There is also a small browser plugin which adds a GitPod button to GitHub repositories. Very convenient!

In Lucerne I organize the Hackergarten every month. There we meet and work on Open Source projects. Sometimes it takes a lot of time to set up the IDE for a new project. You need the right compiler, the right build tool, possibly some plugins for the IDE – and everything in the right version. With GitPod, I don’t have to worry about it anymore! I click the GitPod button and an IDE is started where the repository is already checked out. The most common compilers and build tools are preconfigured and you can start developing immediately. For special cases GitPod can be configured accordingly and even influence the underlying Docker image. If the corresponding configuration file is added to the repository, GitPod recognizes this and takes it into account in any future editing of the project, even by other users. Very nice, because now I can say for my own projects: Click on the GitPod button and you can start contributing immediately. Cool!

Behind GitPod is the online IDE Theia, which is based on Visual Studio code. VS Code is a more and more popular IDE lately, which has gained a big fan community. I really like the fact that GitPod is based on it. I’ve been using it for a few weeks now and am very happy with it except for one annoying bug. A very annoying bug. Sometimes the displayed cursor position doesn’t match the real one and the cursor is displayed a few characters further than it is. Then the input appears in the wrong place. This can be fixed by changing the focus, but unfortunately only temporarily for a few minutes. I will take some time tonight to record a small demo video and create a bug report.

Despite this bug I still use GitPod because the advantages outweigh for me and I can develop very well, easily and fast. If the cursor bug is fixed then GitPod is the perfect IDE for me. At least it fits my needs very well. Maybe yours? Just try it out and compare it with other cloud IDEs.

Written on February 19, 2019