Life at Eclipse

Musings on the Eclipse Foundation, the community and the ecosystem

Introducing Orion

Sometime later today some very exciting new code is going to show up in the e4 git repository at Eclipse. “Orion” is a brand new adventure for Eclipse, and one which we hope will interest and excite a whole new community: web developers.

Orion is not a set of Java plug-ins which run in the existing Java IDE. It is browser-based open tool integration platform which is entirely focused on developing for the web, in the web. Tools are written in JavaScript and run in the browser. Unlike other attempts at creating browser-based development tools, this is not an IDE running in a single tab. Links work and can be shared. You can open a file in a new tab. Great care has been taken to provide a web experience for development.

Orion’s server-side is currently a simple OSGi-based Java application using Jetty as its web container. But the communication with the client is through a fairly simply RESTful interface, and we definitely hope to see implementations in other languages and technologies.

I cannot emphasize strongly enough that this is not the same old same old from Eclipse. Orion is a new code base, whose client-side is written in JavaScript and provides the foundation for a new and different web tooling platform. We hope that a new ecosystem of web tools will emerge that make it easy to link together a web developer’s toolset.

Another key point is that Orion is not finished. It is not, for example, a complete JavaScript IDE. This is the very beginning of a new project, and everyone involved knows that we have a lot to learn. Unlike the early days of the Eclipse project itself, the team from IBM is contributing a relatively modest — but very useful — piece of code to spur the creation of whole new community of contribution and participation. We invite everyone who is interested to try the code, join the mailing lists and forums, and figure out ways to both adopt and contribute to the work that has been done. Even more importantly, we are looking for people and organizations to get engaged in Orion in meaningful leadership roles for everything from adding code to defining the project to prioritizing the roadmap. We know that this needs to be a community-led process.

The team is going to be blogging about the details of the technology, so I won’t steal their thunder. But hopefully the screen shots will spur your interest. Certainly we think there is a very interesting and highly scalable editor tool which a lot of web developers are going to be interested in both using for their code and embedding in their applications. Update – you can now download the Orion code.

So today is the very beginning of something new. But there is a lot of work to do, and first and foremost we need you the community to provide feedback and to get involved. For those who can make it, we are going to have a face-to-face meeting in Ottawa the first week of March to discuss where we can collectively take Orion. The output of this meeting will be a first draft of a project proposal for the community to review.

So to set expectations, here are a few key dates to keep in mind.

  • This week we are going to get the initial code contribution into Eclipse’s git repository and some initial documentation into the wiki.
  • Next week we are going to start inviting a small number of people to try out the technology hosted on our servers.
  • By the end of January we will have a much broader trial available on our servers, and we will be inviting the entire Eclipse committer population to try it out.

We are awfully excited about the potential of the work done to date. Stay tuned!

Update: Changed the screen shots to show the Orion wordmark, rather than Eclipse.
Update: Added links to the wiki pages and Boris Bokowski’s blog post.

Written by Mike Milinkovich

January 11, 2011 at 9:00 am

Posted in Open Source

13 Responses

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  1. Any link to the MLs and forums?

    Pascal Rapicault

    January 11, 2011 at 10:51 am

  2. Hi Pascal, I don’t think we have that yet. Read the last post by Boris, at the end it includes the links for wiki, download page and IRC:
    IRC: #eclipse-orion on


    January 11, 2011 at 2:01 pm

  3. I already gave my opinion on the topic, about two years ago:

    BTW, Heroku is successful not because of the online IDE. The fact that they partnered with Aptana only shows that people wanted a real IDE.

    Zviki Cohen

    January 12, 2011 at 11:25 am

  4. @Zviki – You are certainly free to not use Orion 🙂 More seriously, we do realize that there are lots of developers who love Eclipse who won’t want to use Orion. But we also believe that the reverse is true. For web developers, Orion is a much more approachable and usable tool that desktop Eclipse.

    @Pascal – Please see

    Mike Milinkovich

    January 12, 2011 at 7:11 pm

  5. Indeed this is an incredibly exciting development!

    The screenshots seems to show a bias towards providing a web based IDE for javascript development.

    What excites me about all of this is the possiblity of new orion based plugins for things that are
    currently only available as Eclipse plugins i.e. the BEPL editor plus other numerous third party tools
    which require a rich GUI experience not easily made available on a web browser.

    My hope is that we see a explosion of web based GUI tools for tasks such as

    data mapping.
    business process flow creation and maintenance.
    human workflow.
    XText artifacts enabling browser based syntax highlighting and syntax validation of source code written in some DSL
    i.e. bringing your DSL together with the application that it will operate within.

    Essentially anything that has a business analyst or business owner audience.


    January 13, 2011 at 11:03 am

  6. Have you considered integrating Orion with CouchDB? It already uses a RESTful API, and it very dependent on Javascript.


    January 16, 2011 at 8:55 am

  7. David, I don’t think there are any plans at the moment to integrate with CouchDB. But that is a statement of scarce resources, not willingness to support it. I know that everyone on the team are looking for people to contribute. If you can help, please jump onto the orion-dev mailing list.

    Mike Milinkovich

    January 16, 2011 at 10:04 am

  8. Hi,
    It is awesome to be in web and create web app. But when I tried open the java file, I could not see the compilation of the files. HOw can I enable the feature.



    January 18, 2011 at 12:28 pm

  9. I saw Mike’s demo last week in San Francisco. Interesting, especially for some of our colleagues who deal a lot with JavaScript and Ajax-based sites.

    What I’m wondering though is, how Orion is going to align with RAP. Many of the RAP demos and examples go in a similar direction, although some try to feel a bit more like the native Eclipse IDE, but that is as we know more or less a question of applying the right kind of CSS skills. By using that one could make Orion more or less look like RAP or Eclipse (but please save the puppy, Mike 😉


    January 20, 2011 at 10:31 am

  10. @sivam1 – Orion does not support Java development at the moment.

    @Werner – I actually don’t know how RAP aligns with Orion, or even if such an idea makes sense. AFAIK, RAP is intended to provide single sourcing with RCP applications, and Orion clearly doesn’t intend to act as any sort of Eclipse desktop platform replacement.

    Mike Milinkovich

    January 20, 2011 at 10:39 am

  11. I have read so many articles concerning the blogger lovers except this paragraph is truly a pleasant paragraph, keep it up.


    January 31, 2013 at 5:44 am

  12. Waiting for orion to be a big success. How can I participate in it?


    April 12, 2013 at 11:17 am

    • If you haven’t already, get an account on and try it out. Bugs and feature requests are always welcomed!

      If you’re interested in participating on the Orion development team, join the orion-dev mailing list[1], announce yourself and your intentions and join in!


      Mike Milinkovich

      April 12, 2013 at 2:44 pm

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