Having the option to program online is not just essential in my ‘Making the switch to a Chromebook’ series of articles I’m writing simulating the Chromebook experience in a Chrome Browser. It’s equally essential to the entire premise that a Chromebook or cloud computing device has any validity in the foreseeable future, as the need for Google Docs is. It can’t do without.

As a blogger you mostly depend on your own skills to maintain your blog, maybe even to build it. At the very least you’ll want to tweak the code every now and again to keep your blog afloat. And if you’re anything like me you’ll do most of your writing and quick code editing away from your home office and trusted setup. In other words, if we’re gonna buy a Chromebook it’s going to be the machine doing most of the work, it should be able to handle that.

There are quite a lot of programming languages out there, so I will be specific in what I seek. I need to be able to work on my website’s CSS and create, edit and store PHP, C++ and maybe HTML5 files online. It would be nice if I could find some kind of sandbox or service that offers that option where you can trial run your code. Preferably in the same IDE (integrated development environment), and for free.

Like I just don’t want to learn I was again completely surprised by how advanced the developments are and what great quality services you can find. Not only can I get free apps for programming online in the languages I want, the ones I tested also performed better, were more user friendly and had a richer set of features than I had imagined possible.

When you’re looking to move your coding to the web, do give the following five IDE’s a bit of your time. Try them out. I’m sure that one of them will be of your liking. Do not forget to F11 for the full screen experience, that really makes it better!

Shift Edit

It blew my mind. An online PHP, Ruby, Java, HTML, CSS and JavaScript editor with built-in (S) FTP and the ability to store your files in Dropbox! It does everything you expect from an IDE like full syntax highlighting and it handles easy too. It literally took me only 1 minute to set the IDE up on the ChromebookHQ website after which I could immediately start editing my site. In design mode, or split pane or just code, you choose. Find the app here.


Again, awesome! Supported languages are HMTL, CSS, XML, Javascript, Node.JS, Go, Java, JSP, Ruby and PHP. For Chromebook users, Codenvy’s cloud developer workspaces provide the ability to code enterprise level projects without having to transition back to heavy desktops or laptops. An extensive online IDE which makes programming on a professional level certainly possible. To help you get started their site comes with some sample projects, provides extensive user documentation such as tutorials, video demos, webinar archives, product screenshot galleries, datasheets, features and benefits tables and more. Find the app here.

Source Lair

A deceptively simple IDE which you can use to write code in C, C++, Objective-C, Fortran 90/95, Javascript, PHP, CSS, HTML, and Pascal everywhere. How far you can go with it I do not know, but for the novice C++ coder this is certainly a good solution. You can also use SourceLair for its highlighted editing capabilities for Python, Ruby, Java, HTML ( with previewing ), CSS, Javascript and PHP. Find the app here.


Without a doubt the IDE with the best user interface I’ve seen so far. Perhaps the main reason why I am so enthusiastic about Cloud9. Not to say that it’s lacking on other parts, definitely not. In addition it offers seamless integration with the two most popular web-based hosting services where you can find full software development projects and host Github and Bitbucket. And to sum up there’s collaboration, you can edit, run, and debug your code live and much more. Find the app here.


It’s in the name.. Codeanywhere lets you code anywhere, without the need to bring anything along with you. Just install Codeanywhere in Chrome, and all your servers, files, everything is waiting for you, even the files you left open will be open when you login again. Best of all everything is synchronized with your Codeanywhere.net account. It offers: FTP Client, PHP Editor, HTML Editor, CSS Editor, Javascript Editor, XML Editor and a bunch more. Visit their site to sign up.

Conclusion to date

These five IDE’s are all just very good tools in their own right. Yes, I prefer some over others. But that’s more due to what it is I use them for than that the others wouldn’t be as good. Overall I can say that what I summed up in my previous post is all possible. It’s that good that I myself have switched over these past couple of days from coding locally to coding online.

UPDATE: I’ve added an in-depth buying guide to help you pick the right Chromebook for your programming needs.

Up Next

I really don’t know what to check out next. I believe I’ve covered the most important things so far! Let’s go back to my mind map from post number one and see what I’ve forgotten. In the mean time let me just ask you to leave any comment if you so wish. Maybe you’ve got a good idea for my challenge to test.

Have fun Chroming and until next time!

Join the discussion 58 Comments

  • Mark Reale says:

    Great article –

    Quick note – your link to Shift / Edit is actually pointing to Cloud IDE

    Also – looks like Shift / Edit doesn’t support the Dropbox syncing anymore –

    Thanks again for the great article –


    • Kain Young says:

      Hi Mark, thank you so much for pointing out the incorrect link, I really appreciate that. It’s now fixed.

      On your point to Shift / Edit no longer supporting syncing, I did a quick search on their site”, http://shiftedit.net/. The second Top Feature as listed today says: “Access and publish files through FTP/SFTP and Dropbox”. So it seems to have at least some support. Does your comment have anything to do with the changes Dropbox itself made concerning the Public Folder (or lack thereof), effective with new Dropbox accounts?

  • May sound weird, but I’m seriously thinking about moving to a Chromebook and I design wordpress sites. Do you see any problems using wordpress on Chrome? I’d need to be able to edit css files either on the hosted server, or download via FTP, edit and reupload. Would need to be able to login to wordpress sites and edit/upload content. Lastly would need to be able to edit images (but you covered that in your other review!)

    Thanks in advance. This really is the only thing left before I drop the hammer and buy that bad boy!

    • Alex says:

      I have a Chromebook. It’s not my full time coding platform by any means. However there are plenty of tools that make this kind of work easy. If I’m on the road & feel like doing some coding I just jump straight into Cloud9 & off I go.

      There’s S/FTP clients & plenty of tools that will enable you to do what you need.

      Don’t think of it as a laptop replacement. It’s not. If anything it’s an awesome netbook/tablet replacement. I have my MBP for everything else.

  • Marius says:

    Thanks for the article.

    Have a wonderful day. 🙂

  • Al Byers says:

    I use ShiftEdit and I like it except that it lacks a validating XML editor. By that I mean I am not prompted with allowed tags when I go to add an element. For the frameworks with which I work, ofbiz.apache.org and moqui.org, which are highly dependent on XML config and scripting files, this is a problem. Do you know if any of the other IDEs support that or if there is an online XML editor that does not cost and arm and a leg that does this?

  • Bee says:

    I’ve got a somewhat related question. Is the Chromebook a good laptop for computer science courses? Learn programming, etc.?

    • Percy says:

      I’ve got the Samsung 11.6-inch Chromebook (Wi-Fi) and found it a very reasonable solution for basic programming between lab sessions with a workstation desktop.

      Compared to the other light-weight alternatives, macbook air, ultrabooks, and some of the lighter-weight 11′ laptops, I think it stands near the top in terms of value if you are inclined to tinker.

      Bear in mind you also gain an immense amount of utility from installing a reasonably large SD card and dual-booting linux.

  • Kain Young says:

    Hi Percy, I’m j interested took hear what distro you’re running. Would you like to share that?

  • Patrick says:

    Hi I’m completely new to programming and want to try my hand at Python as a hobby. I’ve only got a Chromebook to play on, would that be a problem? And which of the above would you recommend?

  • Randy says:

    Do any of the IDEs support C#?

  • Tico says:

    I have been working with Kompozer but just got a Chromebook. I love it. I’m not a programmer but use simple HTML pages as marketing tools. Can you tell me if there is a wsywig editor like Kompozer for Chromebook?

  • Brandon says:

    Does anyone know if Cloud 9 or any other programs would be good for a classroom? I need one that not only allows private and “public” access to code, but tutorials for the coding as well. Can’t find any of Google search. Using Chromebooks, so they have to be compatible with them. Preferably easy to use too.

  • Great article.

    But you forgot to mention one, http://koding.com. It offers a full free VM with root access, Terminal and whole lot of other cool stuff. Definitely worth checking out.

  • Caroline Meeks says:


    I am going to be teaching a high school beginner programming course on chromebooks. What would be a good choice for a beginners, who will start with html, then add CSS, then add javascript/coffee script. They will probably learn with code academy and the cut and paste to get something “real” up on the web thus It would be great to have easy, hopefully free, hosting.


  • Àlex says:

    Most of these are actually great, but the point to me to code within Chrome is to do it using a Chromebook, and to do that you need an offline-capable IDE. And only the first one is

    • Andrew says:

      (yes, I know this thread is 6 months old, but oh well)

      The Google Chrome Dev Editor has emerged recently as a pretty good local IDE for HTML, CSS, Javascript, and some of the newer Google Web dev technologies like Dart and Polymer.

      To answer Caroline’s (old) question: Cloud9 has great features for editing web content, like a very slick editor and to me amazing ability to preview pages using dozens of combinations of browsers and OS’s.

  • Jess says:

    Theres a new FTP/sFTP program allows you to edit HTML, CSS, JavaScript and much more sftpclient.co.uk built for Google Chrome OS

  • Rhys says:

    Source Lair has dropped support for FORTRAN unfortunately.

  • Chris says:

    ShiftEdit is only trial for free. Not paying for an IDE unless it is commercial grade and I’d still stick with Eclipse on a Windows box. I’ll try the others else live with a text editor on my chromebook.

  • Seeking help for a client with the following issue for my client who is a high school advance placement teacher.

    “I teach AP Computer Science and C++ at Flowers High School. The great majority of my students have been issued chrome books. Because native applications cannot be installed on the Chrome OS, I installed Crouton in developer mode to toggle between Ubuntu and Chrome OS. With Crouton installed, I was able to use Eclipse as my IDE. This solution was great until developer mode was disabled.

    The online IDEs that I have tried are CodeEnvy, IDEOne, Codepad, Browxy, Jdoodle, JavaLaunch, Compilr, Codebox and ShiftEdit. Each of these online resources come with their own limitations. Either there is no multiple file support, no user input support, no support for applets or no step debugging.

    Can you tell me of any resources that my students can use that will allow multiple file support, user input, applets and pop up windows? Do you know what other schools are doing to work around this issue? ”
    Please let me know if you can help with a recommendation for him! Thanks so much – Anita

  • I teach AP Computer Science and C++ at Flowers High School. The great majority of my students have been issued chrome books. Because native applications cannot be installed on the Chrome OS, I installed Crouton in developer mode to toggle between Ubuntu and Chrome OS. With Crouton installed, I was able to use Eclipse as my IDE. This solution was great until developer mode was disabled.

    The online IDEs that I have tried are CodeEnvy, IDEOne, Codepad, Browxy, Jdoodle, JavaLaunch, Compilr, Codebox and ShiftEdit. Each of these online resources come with their own limitations. Either there is no multiple file support, no user input support, no support for applets or no step debugging.

    Can you tell me of any resources that my students can use that will allow multiple file support, user input, applets and pop up windows? Do you know what other schools are doing to work around this issue?

    Can anyone help with a solution…possibly one of the top 5 mentioned above? Thanks for your consideration – Anita – [email protected] – 301-335-7200

    • Andrew says:

      Cloud9 and Nitrous.io have multifile eding and Linux terminal windows (if that’s what you mean by user input). Cloud9 has debugging in the IDE. Both let you preview your app in your own browser window so that would give you support for whatever your browser can do. I don’t know about applets though – they disappeared into computing history at least ten years ago. Generally you’re going to have the best support for modern languages like Javascript, Python, Ruby etc.

  • jc says:

    No apparent or current documentation on how to deploy directly from Cloud9 to Azure Web Sites with the free version. Seems the product was updated and the UI also looks completely different from all the guides out there. I was able to deploy through GitHub manually with terminal commands, but would rather not have to do that. It would appear they use to have a UI feature, but dropped it at some point. 🙁

  • Ella Glaze says:

    I teach a java course using only chromebooks and am looking for an online site that will allow us to write/compile/run graphics programs using swing, etc. Any ideas?

    • Kain Young says:

      Hi Ella, Martin Lesage says on G+: Hi! 🙂 Iam following an university course Introduction to Java and I also use a Chromebook with an online IDE : Cloud9 : https://c9.io/ That IDE is an interface using Ubuntu. That’s not Netbeans, but it will do the job! I’m not sure if it will runs graphics programs… But I think so!

      Let us know if this helps.

  • Gabriel Navarette says:

    I am 11 years old and have an IQ of 127. I love programming and writing code. I have about 7 or 8 flash games online right now. I love this article and I have all of these programming tools and most coding tools. Great article!

  • I tried most of them out and Shift Edit seems to be the best one. The other two I tried just lag, a lot.

  • Eran Lavi says:

    Hello, I have created a website “WeldPad”, It also online development environment.
    But it has a slight different approach.


    I would like to get your opinion on this new approach.
    Do you like it?, is it cool?, what are the gaps?

    The platform has a social network of web elements (the cool technically that enables you to extend the standard HTML tags),
    The platform enables you to develop web components using the web components of the social network, It has a cool Designer for doing that.
    It also has a server side capabilities (DB JMS Emails, and more).

    I just launched this project, And I hope it defines a new way for developing, a different.
    Developing by welding (binding web components).

    It is a huge platform, and I have some gaps, I am working on closing those gaps.

  • chris the boss says:

    I want to learn how to code, where do I start?

  • adamjimenez says:

    That’s great to hear David. I’m glad ShiftEdit has been useful to you. Happy coding.

  • James says:

    Nitrous just launched a new version of their Chrome application with a bunch of new starter templates for Ruby, Ruby on Rails, Python, PHP, WordPress and Docker, you can download it for free here:


  • Matt Pass says:

    Also try ICEcoder (from https://icecoder.net). A self hosted solution that runs great on a Chromebook. Online editors FTW! 🙂

  • koding.com also good option, i heard lately now koding supporting to using their IDE by connect our server/vps via ssh, the user interface is neat too.

  • I tried Cloud 9 and CodeEnvy, and I’m very impressed by both.

    However, automatic refactoring is a very important feature of a modern IDE, and unfortunately it’s missing from both of these (at least with the languages I tried – Python in Cloud 9 and Java in CodeEnvy). So I can’t rename a variable and have references update automatically. I can’t rename a class and have the filename update automatically.

    I’m sure these features will appear in time, but for now it’s going to be a struggle to use these IDEs without this luxury I’ve become dependent on.

  • Brad says:

    There’s also a new open source option in Eclipse Che: https://eclipse.org/che/

    It can be used online for free through the codenvy cloud or downloaded and used from a laptop or server. It’s currently being used by SAP, Samsung, and others for use in their own products.

  • Rob Roosen says:

    Shiftedit improved a lot and is my favorite ! 🙂

  • Josh says:

    I am teaching AP Computer Science A (Java) next year to high school students. Because of scheduling I won’t be able to have a computer lab for this course! Chromebooks are available or I can purchase laptops—maybe, and budget is tight. Will one of these suffice? I was planning on using BlueJ then quickly shifting to eclipse. Thanks for any info!

  • I bought a chromebook specifically so I could do programming work at school, but so far every IDE I tried, well, sucks. Codeenvy is the only one that SEEMS like it would work for my needs, but it lacks a simple way to compile and run and even copying and pasting the terminal command to run the sample hello world didn’t work.

    What I am doing instead is remote accessing my windows 10 machine from chromebook to work in Visual Studios, which works great overall, except that classrooms are dead zones. What I really need is a way to synchronize a Visual Studios project with a folder that is also viewable in Chromebook and an offline IDE that can at the very least read and edit these projects with color coding support. It wouldn’t matter if it could actually compile since I could do that when I go online again.

    Is there anything that can do that? Storage space isn’t an issue with microSD cards, not that I’d need much since a .cpp file can be edited in any good text editor. It’s just that I need to maintain the directory structure for multiple compilation and require the comments to be discernible from code at a glance for readability.

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