If you're planning a development project, you'll need the appropriate tools. This often starts with an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) or editor. These are often downloaded to your computer and used locally. With the internet and cloud computing becoming more refined, editors and IDEs have now been developed that can be used completely online; we recently profiled five online IDEs. These online editors give you the ability to code from anywhere using any machine that has access to a web browser and the internet.
One such online editor worth a closer look is Repl.it. This is an editor used by both developers and educators for coding in a variety of programming languages. There are a number of things that make Repl.it worthy of your attention.
What is Repl.it?
REPL stands for Read-Eval-Print-Loop. Repl.it is a programming environment that provides for interactive coding using a large number of programming languages. As the following figure shows, the development environment provides two main areas, an editor and a console, which allows programmers to code their applications and then see them in action.
In addition to supporting a standard desktop browser as shown in the previous image, Repl.it also works effectively on a mobile device. For those interested, Repl.it uses the Monaco technology for its browser version. This is the same technology that is used with Visual Studio Code. In its mobile platform, Repl.IT uses the Ace editor. There is also support for GitHub.
Repl.it has a free version that allows for development in the various programming languages as well as collaboration. It includes 500mb of storage. It is limited by the processing power that it provides, which includes up to 500 MB of memory and .2 to .5 vCPUs. For more resources, there are paid versions.
Getting started with Repl.it
There is no installation on your local machine to start coding. When you first go to Repl.it, you are asked to sign up to start using the tool. You can click the “<>Start Coding” button on the Repl.it page to start using the tool. The first time you sign in, you will be walked through an onboarding process. This starts by filling in a username as shown in the following figure, then progresses through a variety of questions:
One of the questions will allow you to select up to four programming languages you are primarily interested in. This prompt shown in the following images displays the 50+ languages supported. These include popular languages such as Python, Java, Node.js, C, C++, PHP, and C#, as well as more recent languages such as Go, R, Kotlin, and Swift. You can also see the ones I’ve selected:
While you are asked to select languages during the setup, it is easy to access additional languages after the installation.
Repl.it is Easy to Use
After signing up and walking through the onboarding process, you will be ready to use Repl.it yourself. Note that when you add a language, Repl.it provides what you need, including the compiler or interpreter along with the IDE and interactive environment. Once started, you can type code into the editor and then click a Run button at the top of the page. From there, your code will run in the console window. In the earlier image, you saw a standard “adder” Java program that contained two files in the left pane and the results displayed in the right pane after the run button had been clicked. It is worth noting that Repl.it takes care of managing the environment as well as dealing with versions.
To create a start a new project, you can select the “+New repl” button on the left side of the page. This will prompt you to select a programming language and name your new project (repl) as shown:
Note that you can also select the tab shown to import a project from GitHub directly into Repl.it as well. Once you select the programming language for your project, Repl.it it will create a random project name. You are free to change that project name to anything you want. With the language and name entered, you can click the “Create repl” button to create your project.
It is important to note that with the free account, the project you create will be public. This means anything you put into your project could be accessible to others, including passwords, comments, and any personal information. You’ll want to keep that in mind as you create your projects. You need to upgrade if you plan to do private projects or are not interested in sharing your work.
Once you’ve clicked on Create repl, a new workspace is created, and you are ready to code. You can add files, folders, and other elements as you wish.
Repl.it Can Be Shared
It is easy to share your Repl.it projects. You can do this by simply sharing the URL for your project. This URL can be simply copied from the browser. The first image in this article shows a simple Java program with an adder() routine. If I’ve not deleted that project, you can access it by copying the URL at the top of the window, which is https://repl.it/@zyvxn/FatherlyPlasticPrograms:
Entering this will show you my Java project. If you try to make changes to the program, Repl.it should automatically ask you to copy (Fork) the project.
If you want to be able to share a single copy of code and work on it collaboratively, this can also be done in Repl.it. To share collaboratively, you can click on the Share button in the upper right corner of the screen. This will present a dialog that includes a URL that can be used for collaborative sharing of the project. You also have the option of entering an email address or Repl.it username and sending an invite.
Repl.it is used in Education
Repl.it is used by a lot of educational and training organizations. This is not only because it is freely accessible from web browsers, but also because it can be embedded into lessons. Embedding it into lessons (or articles) is an easy process, which will be covered in a follow-up article!
If you are a developer and are looking for a collaborative tool, one that you can use from any machine anywhere, or simply looking for a tool that lets you pull up an editor to try a quick snippet of code, then Repl.it is a fast, accessible solution worthy of your attention. As mentioned, you can look at it now by simply going to https://repl.it.
This article was originally published on February 20, 2021