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3. April 2020


The Eclipse Foundation have released Theia, an open source desktop and cloud based IDE with it’s targets set firmly on Visual Studio Code.  In fact, it’s even compatible with Visual Studio Code extensions!   Theia 1.0 isn’t actually a downloadable product, instead representing a framework for creating your own IDEs on top of the modular and extensible core provided by Theia.

Details from the Eclipse Foundation press release:

The Eclipse Foundation, one of the world’s largest open source foundations, today announced the release of Theia 1.0, a true open source alternative to Microsoft’s popular Visual Studio Code (VS Code) software. Eclipse Theia is an extensible platform to develop multi-language Cloud and Desktop Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) with state-of-the-art web technologies that enable developers, organizations, and vendors to create new, extensible developer experiences. Early contributors and adopters span a broad variety of industries and applications, and include companies like ARM, Arduino, EclipseSource, Ericsson, Gitpod, Google Cloud, IBM, Red Hat, SAP, and TypeFox.

“We are thrilled to see Eclipse Theia deliver on its promise of providing a production-ready, vendor-neutral, and open source framework for creating custom and white-labeled developer products,” said Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation. “Visual Studio Code is one of the world’s most popular development environments. Not only does Theia allow developers to install and reuse VS Code extensions, it provides an extensible and adaptable platform that can be tailored to specific use cases, which is a huge benefit for any organization that wants to deliver a modern and professional development experience. Congratulations to all the Theia committers and contributors on achieving this milestone.”

Started as a project by Ericsson and TypeFox in 2016, the Theia project has become an integral part of enterprise cloud solutions around the world. Its momentum and distribution became significant enough that last year, the project approached the Eclipse Foundation as a potential host and vendor-neutral foundation that could further guide the project’s growth. Today, Theia is one of the Eclipse projects encompassed by the Eclipse Cloud Development Tools Working Group  (ECD WG), an industry collaboration focused on delivering development tools for and in the cloud.

The most significant differences between Eclipse Theia and VS Code are:

  • Theia's architecture is more modular and allows for significantly more customizations
  • Theia is designed from the ground to run on both Desktop and Cloud
  • Theia is developed under the community-driven and vendor-neutral governance of the Eclipse Foundation.

Eclipse Theia is designed to work as a native desktop application as well as in the context of a browser and a remote server. To support both situations with a single source, Theia runs in two separate processes. Those processes are called frontend and backend respectively, and they communicate through JSON-RPC messages over WebSockets or REST APIs over HTTP. In the case of Electron, the backend, as well as the frontend, run locally, while in a remote context the backend would run on a remote host.

While Theia isn’t a downloadable product, you can easily check out a Theia implementation in the cloud in the form of GitPod.  You can also learn more about Theia and see GitPod in action in the video below.

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