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Category Direction - Web IDE


Stage Create
Maturity Viable
Content Last Reviewed 2020-05-27

Introduction and how you can help

Thanks for visiting this direction page on the Web IDE in GitLab. This page belongs to the Editor group of the Create stage and is maintained by Kai Armstrong (E-Mail).

This direction is constantly evolving and everyone can contribute:


Building new features involves more than just the primary code development process. It includes configuring GitLab CI, writing documentation, reviewing code, making bug fixes and other tasks. We envision the Web IDE becoming the primary tool for these ancillary engineering efforts.

These tasks are essential parts of the engineering process, but can often be disruptive to local environments and have challenges when working inside of GitLab. Currently GitLab supports editing multiple files within a single interface, but editing files alone isn't enough to support these efforts. This makes it harder to resolve feedback in merge requests, fix small bugs when reading source code, or contribute to projects.

Development environments are also a very personal tool of engineers and customization is an important part of that. Engineers working on teams need to standardize on coding standards and styles in all of the editing environments they use. Configuration and customization are important features to make the Web IDE a valueable tool for developers.

We want to make it easier for engineers to work on secondary development items in the Web IDE. By removing barriers to the code review process, working on standardizing configuration, enabling better experiences for GitLab specific files and other support tooling engineers will be able to provide more meaningful feedback in a GitLab native environment.

Target Audience and Experience

The Web IDE is primarily targeted at engineering personas working on secondary development tasks (e.g. code review, ci configuration, docs, and small fixes) who are familiar with working in local development environments. GitLab personas that the Web IDE is seeking to solve for are:

By prioritizing the needs of engineering users for non-primary tasks GitLab can focus on providing an experience that supports the ability to contribute in a cloud environment.

While we're prioritizing the needs of engineering users first, the Editor Group is also supportive of other editing personas and existing editing use cases within GitLab. Additional improvements will be addressed via issues and in other areas like the Static Site Editor.

Challenges to address

Engineers generally hold very specific editing preferences and engrained workflows. Supporting user preference and configuration in the Web IDE will be important in garnering adoption for the Web IDE. It will also be important to introduce value added workflows that don't try to replace primary engineering activities.

Where we are headed

Editor configuration and customization are important parts of IDE experiences. Teams working together often standardize editor configurations through the use of an .editorconfig file and developers customize other aspects of the editor to their own preference. Ensuring support for various syntax highlighting preferences and colorization will make working in the Web IDE feel more like a user's local editor.

Providing first class support for editing specialized GitLab files like .gitlab-ci.yml file, issue templates and CODEOWNDERS ensures developers have the tools needed to efficiently accomplish their goals.

Extending the Web IDE to support other GitLab features like executing CI Jobs and integrating review app preview will help provide more feedback to changes in the Web IDE.

Documentation is a less intensive type of engineering effort that requires fewer tools than traditional development environments. Enabling technical users to produce documentation in the Web IDE easier and more quickly will be important as we continue to expand the Web IDE. This includes enhancing markdown tooling and support for more prose based content in the Web IDE.

When working through the code review process users are often trying to understand feedback in the context of their changes. Engineers must examine feedback in one window and then return to their editor to make changes. By expanding code review tools in to the Web IDE we can help provide that review feedback in the Web IDE so that changes can be made more easily.

It's also important to help users quickly jump to definition and find references while reviewing and editing code within the Web IDE. Supporting code intelligence features in the Web IDE will move that vision forward.


Currently, GitLab's maturity in the Web IDE is viable. Here's why:

A complete Web IDE category ensures that the Web IDE is used for tightly integrated editing experiences in GitLab. Moving beyond the focus will be on standardization of editing environments through the use of .editorconfig and support for user syntax highlighting (including dark mode). Finally, the Web IDE must provide 1st class editing experiences for GitLab features.

Part of a Lovable Web IDE comes by providing support for the Code Review process inside of the Web IDE. This involves support for both leaving and responding to feedback inside of the Web IDE. The Web IDE should also include code navigation features like Jump to Definition and Find References to better support this process.

What's Next & Why

In progress: Live Preview in the Web IDE &3138

Live Preview in the Web IDE is currently minimally functional for specific application configurations. There are issues with projects that have relative urls and binary assets which requires further investigations. Continuing to improve the usability and reliability of this feature will enable engineers to quickly test and debug applications.

In Progress: Use one editor experience for all file/code editing &498

Standardizing on a single editor experience supported by our use of Monaco will allow us to bring a consistent experience to users in both the Web IDE and single file editing modes like Snippets or GitLab CI.

In Progress: Customization, .editorconfig and .gitattributes support in the Web IDE &175

User preference and organization standardization are important aspects of the editing experience. We'll look to support user syntax highlighting preferences (inlcuding dark mode), editorconfig standards and other important preferences for user customization.

In Progress: 1st Class Editing Experiences for GitLab features &2707

Providing realtime feedback for editing .gitlab-ci.yml files and other GitLab specific files should make editing these effortless inside of the Web IDE.

What is Not Planned Right Now

We're not currently focused on solving the needs of non-engineering based personas with the Web IDE. Non-engineers require a different type of editing experience and that can largely be focused around different types of content. These editing experiences may include documentation or notes based in Markdown, or more WYSIWYG experiences related to content management systems. The Static Site Editor group will be more focused on these efforts.

While our complete maturity plan also aims to ensure some compatibility with the iPad. We won't be focusing on making the iPad or other mobile devices 1st class devices due to our upstream dependencies on Monaco and various mobile OSs. We also do not have sufficient evidence to support mobile devices as code creation devices inside the Web IDE. As our research in this area continues to expand we may revisit mobile support.

We'd ultimately like the ability for remote development environments to be attached to the Web IDE, but will be addressing this work in the Editor Extension category. This work will likely be prioritized behind the ability for remote development environments connected to a local VS Code editor.

The Editor group does not have plans to bring real-time collaborative coding features to the Web IDE at this time. While we previously outlined this as a category to focus on, we don't believe there is enough market demand to warrant investment. We'll continue to evaluate the space and may revisit this use case at a later date.

Competitive Landscape

Analyst Landscape

Currently the Analyst landscape is fragmented on cloud native development experiences. This market will continue to mature as Microsoft pushes ahead with VS Code Online and Amazon further integrates Cloud9 in to their offerings.

Top user issue(s)

Top user issues relate to the configurability and customization of the Web IDE. These focus on items like standardizing editor coding style through configuration files and supporting user customization for themes and other preferences.

Top internal customer issue(s)

GitLab's current internal usage of the Web IDE is very heavily focused around non-technical personas and so there are not any current issues. As we look towards delivering on an IDE for technical users we'll update this section as appropriate.

Top Vision Item(s)

The most important items to delivering on the Web IDE Vision are:

It will also be important to standardize current editing experiences on a single editor to provide feature parity across all types of edits.

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