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Mozilla to cram a full web-dev IDE inside Firefox browser

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All of the major web browser vendors now ship developer tools with their products, but Mozilla is planning to go whole hog by building a full integrated development environment (IDE) for web apps right into its Firefox browser.

WebIDE in Firefox Nightly - June 2014

Called – naturally enough – WebIDE, the feature is still in its early phases but is available in Firefox's bleeding-edge Nightly builds beginning on Tuesday.

"Developers tell us that they are not sure how to start app development on the Web, with so many different tools and templates that they need to download from a variety of different sources," Mozilla's Dave Camp wrote in a blog post. "We're solving that problem with WebIDE, built directly into Firefox."

Camp describes WebIDE as "simple but powerful." Its text editor component is based on the open source CodeMirror and tern.js projects and can be used to edit HTML, JavaScript, and CSS files, complete with basic auto-indentation and syntax coloring.

More importantly, WebIDE is built around Mozilla's Firefox Remote Debugging Protocol, which allows devs to connect to remote devices and test their apps while still working on their desktop browsers.

For now, "remote devices" means the Firefox browser and Firefox OS phones – presumably you've got a few of those lying about, yes? – but in the long term, Mozilla hopes to make WebIDE a tool that can be used to develop apps and test them on any platform.

"We're working on a protocol adapter that will allow clients using the Firefox Remote Debugging Protocol – including the Developer Tools and WebIDE – talk to all mobile browsers, regardless of rendering engine or runtime," Camp said. "Our first targets are Chrome for Android and Safari on iOS."

Mozilla is also hoping that other tool makers will support its protocol, allowing developers the same kind of remote debugging capabilities from other, standalone text editors and IDEs.

For now, however, the whole thing is still a bit wobbly – enough so that just downloading a Firefox Nightly build won't get you WebIDE right away. You'll also need to enable a preference in "about:config," as described in Camp's blog post – and best of luck to you from there. ®

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