Now and Then - Integrated Development Environments

Now and Then: The Fate of 5 Open Source Integrated Development Environments

It’s fun to experiment with new software that isn’t anywhere near the polished article. But there’s associated risks, even with open source software. You’ll invest time and effort in learning in the program’s foibles. That software might never see a stable release, it might be a big time sink even getting it up-and-running on your system. The upside is that promising software might turn overnight into a huge success, or it might be a slow burn success. And while there’s a huge array of open source successes, there’s been awful open source failures along the way. It can be a bumpy ride!

Back in early 2014, we carried a feature looking at 5 Integrated Development Environments that were a tempting prospect. The five IDEs are Brackets, Light Table, Julia Studio, Dart Editor, and Aptana Studio.

How did these IDEs fare over the past 6 years? Did they see a stable release, were they able to capture any market share at all, or are they only remembered like fingerprints on an abandoned handrail?


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Brackets is a code editor for the web, written in JavaScript, and HTML. It offers live HTML, CSS, and JavaScript editing functionality.

Brackets saw its 1.0 release in late November 2014 adding things like better JavaScript hinting. Since then the project has been actively developed and maintained. Recent development has included the addition of Language Server Protocol Support and PHP tooling support. The latest minor release (1.14.2) is targeted only at Windows and Mac users.

Brackets has amassed an impressive 32k GitHub stars.

Brackets has matured and has definitely fulfilled its promise. But we’re not keen that Brackets sends statistics to Adobe, its developer, about your usage of their program.

Light Table

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Light Table billed itself as a next generation code editor. It’s written in ClojureScript.

When we looked at Light Table in 2014, designating it a promising IDE, we evaluated version 0.6.4. Since 2014, there were only a few new public releases. The project saw a move from NW.js (previously known as node-webkit) to Electron but most development consisted of bug fixes. And the last public release was in January 2016.

The project has amassed over 11,000 GitHub stars. But this IDE has definitely not lived up to its promise. The project appears effectively to be dead. There was discussion about adopting a new design using Xi-Editor, NeoVim built with CIDER/Orchard but that initiative doesn’t appear to have gone anywhere. A shame!

Julia Studio

Julia Studio was a cross-platform IDE for the Julia language based on Qt Creator and the Qt framework.

When we looked at Julia Studio it’s current version was 0.4.2. Sadly the project never saw a further public release. The project is definitely as dead as a dodo!

Dart Editor

Dart Editor provided a large set of libraries and tools, combined with all the essential features of an IDE in order to provide programmers with a stable and organized environment for building applications.

The aim of the Dart Editor was to make Dart developers productive with code completion, source navigation, and static analysis.

Google decided to retire Dart Editor in April 2015 in favor of WebStorm, a JavaScript IDE that’s proprietary software.

Aptana Studio

Aptana Studio is the final application we identified as promising in our February 2014 article. It’s also an IDE for building web applications. The software is based on Eclipse, and supports JavaScript, HTML, DOM and CSS with code-completion, outlining, JavaScript debugging, error and warning notifications, and integrated documentation.

Back in 2014, the program was at version 3.2.0. Since then, there’s been fairly steady progress, although the pace of development has slowed in recent years with latest release (version 3.7.2) being published in September 2018.

The IDE hasn’t attracted mainstream adoption. There’s a package in the Arch User Repository (for Arch-based distro users), but that fails to build.


Out of the 5 promising IDEs, only one (Brackets) has achieved its potential. Dart Editor was the victim of a cull by Google (something they do with a surprising number of promising projects). The death of Light Table was also particularly disappointing.

Regarding the other two IDEs, the less said, the better.

All the articles in this series:

Now and Then - See How Promising Open Source Software Has Fared
DFileManagerA venerable file manager
More DistributionsThe fate of 15 more distributions
Programming LanguagesGo, Rust, Dart, Julia, Clojure, Elixir and more
File ManagersSpaceFM, gentoo, Marlin, Eagle Mode, and Beesoft Commander
DistributionsThe fate of 15 distributions
Lean Desktop EnvironmentsXfce, ROX Desktop, LXDE, FVWM-Crystal, EDE, and √Čtoil√©
IDEsBrackets, Light Table, Julia Studio, Dart Editor, and Aptana Studio
Music Playersqomp, Lollypop, Yarock, Pragha, and Volumio
Web Browserseww, Liri, Vivaldi, Ubuntu Internet Browser, Fifth, Dooscape, and Breach
Terminal EmulatorsTerminology, Cool-Retro-Term, and Final Term
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3 years ago

I vaguely remembering using Julia Studio. It’s amazing how much development effort is needed to maintain an IDE.