While a lot of the talk surrounding productivity in the HPC space has to do with parallel programming models and language compilers, for coders in the trenches, the most important productivity tool is their text editor. A good source code text editor can make even a poor programming environment seem tolerable. If you doubt the significance of a developer’s relationship with their editor, just suggest he or she ditch their beloved Emacs or vi for Brand X.
Bespin already seems to be getting a lot of praise in the press, and with Mozilla behind it, this may be a tool with a real future. The obvious advantage of coding in the cloud is that you’ve freed yourself of maintaining your editor tools — licenses, updates, custom configurations, etc. – on all your computers. Also, the online nature of the tool makes real-time collaboration of source code a no-brainer, although this capability doesn’t exist in the prototype.
The developers also paid a good deal of attention to the user interface and strived to make it as intuitive as possible. The fact that they used canvas to implement the UI graphics enabled them to incorporate a lot of intelligence in the layout and navigation of the source code files. A nice video demonstration of Bespin from two of the developers is provided below.
If you want to give Bespin a spin, you can register at https://bespin.mozilla.com/. But since the tool uses HTML 5, you’ll need to install Firefox 3.0 or WebKit Nightly to test it out.