Google Wants You to Code in a Browser With Project IDX

Project IDX logo.
The Project IDX logo. Image: Google

Google has released a sneak peek at a new tool for building, managing, and deploying full-stack web and multiplatform applications in the cloud. Project IDX, which brings development capabilities from a Linux-based virtual machine to a browser, does not have a release date yet. Interested developers can join the Project IDX waitlist, but pricing information is not yet available.

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Development anywhere, as long as it’s Google Cloud

A key differentiator for a browser-based development tool is that developers will ideally be able to move their work across different devices while maintaining the same toolset. Project IDX can do that because it is hosted in Google Cloud, like Google Docs. Developers can also import their projects from GitHub.

Must-read developer coverage

“Project IDX starts with a web-based workspace that’ll feel familiar for coding but fresh,” the IDX team of Bre Arder, Kirupa Chinnathambi, Ashwin Raghav Mohan Ganesh, Erin Kidwell, and Roman Nurik wrote in a blog post.

To make sure it’s possible to develop for different devices all from within the browser, Project IDX includes a built-in web preview. Google expects to add an Android emulator and an embedded iOS simulator at a later date. When it comes to deployment, Project IDX uses Firebase Hosting, another Google product, to create previews of apps or deploy them.

Codespaces, Replit, CodePen, and StackBlitz are examples of other applications on the market that already enable this kind of code-anywhere online hosting.

What’s under the hood of Project IDX?

Project IDX builds on two other tools: Codey and Code OSS.

  • Codey is more specifically known as the family of Vertex AI Codey APIs, which uses the Vertex generative AI to write and complete code or to chat about coding problems.
  • Code OSS is an open-source development environment associated with and used to build Microsoft’s Visual Studio Code.

Project IDX has premade templates for the following frameworks:

  • Angular
  • Flutter
  • Next.js
  • React
  • Svelte
  • Vue
  • And the programming languages JavaScript and Dart.

Google expects to add the programming languages Python and Go to the list soon.

SEE: Google wants to be a major player in the generative AI race with PaLM 2 and Bard. (TechRepublic)

Project IDX will also include other generative AI aspects, including smart code completion, an assistive chatbot, and natural language actions, meaning the developer can type in commands like “add comments” or “explain this code.”

Google wants feedback

Google is feeling out what the developer community wants from a product like the one the Project IDX experiment may eventually turn into.

“The Project IDX team is focused on solving the complex full-stack/multiplatform problems as a starting point, but what direction they go from there is going to be influenced by what users want to do and what feedback they receive from developers,” said Alex Garcia-Kummert, Google’s public relations lead for developer products and tools, in an email to TechRepublic.

“We’re continuously working on adding new capabilities and addressing your feedback,” the Project IDX team wrote in the blog post. “We’re already working on new collaboration features, as we know how important those are in this hybrid work world, as well as deeper framework integrations and more personalized/contextual AI.”

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