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ICEcoder aims to revolutionize website development

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by Startacus Admin

icecoderAt Startacus we're always looking for the next great solution to improve on an existing product or service and we think we might have found just that with ICEcoder, a browser based code editor that's aiming to revolutionize website development.

We were chuffed when Founder (and Startacus member) Matt Pass showcased his big idea in our Collaboration area and equally delighted when he agreed to answer a few questions. So let's start with a 'break the Ice' question...

So, Matt, what is ICEcoder?

ICEcoder is a free and open source code editor that runs in the browser. It's very lightweight (I think the zip install package is about 360kb right now), yet is very powerful and does pretty much all that desktop software equivalents do, but in a much more modern and customisable way. The biggest difference I guess is that it's not an application you install on your OS, it's built with code you're likely already familiar with - HTML, CSS, PHP and JavaScript, so runs in the web browser and you can modify it to your needs if you wish.

Sounds like a new sort of web dev solution?

Well, yes and no. Browser based editors and cloud/web IDE's have been around for a while now, and really got much more popular over the last couple of years. I've seen the mood change in that time from "Nah, not going to use them, nowhere near as good as my desktop software", to today's attitude being "Actually, this is pretty awesome, I can see the benefits now". There's not much you can't do in a web browser and it opens up a whole load of possibilities that desktop software just may not offer. Where ICEcoder is different, is that most solutions out there are an online paid service - you log into their site and code. ICEcoder instead, is a downloadable solution you can run online, offline and customise to your hearts content.

It's free then? Why?

I started building this for myself a couple of years ago as an experiment, mainly because I got fed up with having multiple programs open. Typically I'd have a code editor, file explorer, image viewer, web browser, database management tool and maybe more open. I spent a lot of time hopping between programs and occasionally losing focus and wasting time. I thought how great it would be to have everything in one place and if I built something browser based, it could also be available in the office, web cafe, at home etc. Initially I built a very simple tool that you could just enter web addresses into, edit code and save. I never figured I'd continue to evolve it, but kept ICEcoderthinking "how cool it would be to build this and that" as ideas popped up. In spare time I built them and it started to get much more polished and feature rich, so I put it out there for others to use if they'd like. Pickup was slow to begin with, but over time I had people downloading it, providing feedback, letting me use their systems to bug test and contributing features. Over the next couple of years it got increasingly more downloads as web devs started to accept web IDE's more. So, I stuck with it, improving it for myself and others, leaving it as an free & open source solution.

That's cool. How many users does it have right now?

That's very difficult to gauge. Because it can run completely offline and I don't track usage, it's hard to say how many people truly use it. I know it's had almost 40,000 downloads to date and many of those are to set up multiple computers such as at schools, universities, workshops etc.

Wow, that's quite a lot. You don't charge though?

Nope. It's free. Even where we are right now at version 4.1, it's got some bugs to fix and some way to go. It's by far the most stable it's ever been and the bugs are very minor. I use it myself, for instance, to build sites, so is constantly being tested by me and others to iron out any wrinkles. I figure until it's a properly solid solution, maybe version 5 or 6, it'll remain free. Probably one day I'll go beyond asking for donations and instead charge a really small fee to use it, but for the foreseeable future, it's completely free.

You mentioned it's customisable. How?

A big drawback with software code editing solutions is that they're closed source. That means you can't easily modify how the program works. Sure, they have plugins, settings etc, as ICEcoder does - but if there's something you don't like about the program, tough, you have to stick with it. The same with bugs, you have to report it and wait for a patch to fix it. ICEcoder is built with the most common web languages, so most web devs are already knowledgeable enough to fix issues or alter it to suit them. You can mould it to the way you work. If you do something you think others will like too, you can submit it to the main ICEcoder project and it'll maybe be picked up as part of the official release.

What does the future hold for ICEcoder then?

Lots! I've just finished a crowdfunding effort where users paid towards new features. They voted on the features they'd like to see most and the crowdfunding money is being used to build those. It's allowed me to spend the time to integrate with the version control system, GitHub, plus also code difference views, an FTP manager and collaborative code editing. They're all due to be released over the coming months. About a week ago I also ICEcoder released a desktop version of ICEcoder for Windows as an offshoot project with lots of possibilities. Hopefully we'll get to a version 5 release at the end of the year and it'll be even bigger and cooler than it is right now. I've had a number of investors interested in ICEcoder, but not anyone I'd like to work with as yet. I've built this from the ground up and got a pretty awesome & popular project, so any partnership better be pretty awesome too.

Any success stories to speak of?

A few, yes. ICEcoder was named one of Net magazine's favourite code editors according to a user poll last month. It's also the most popular solution on the #GetStarted2014 contest. It's been used in quite a few lectures, seminars and workshops around the world and I get positive feedback from users pretty much daily. That to me is just as good as money in the bank. People have got a lot of love for ICEcoder and it's like a daily pat on the back - that's pretty awesome to me. There's probably some other successes, but I those are the ones that spring to mind right now.

How can others get involved?

There's a number of ways really. Web devs can submit bug fixes or features to help improve it for everyone. If you're not savvy enough with the code side, but find a bug, you can still report it and I'll look to fix. Promoting ICEcoder is also very welcome, I'd like to hit the 50,000 downloads pretty soon! If any businesses or investors like the project enough to talk shop, I'm happy to hear from them, but note I have turned offers down. I'd like some help with the marketing and finance side of things for sure, to take it to the next level, but don't just want someone with deep pockets that expects to sit back and wait for huge profits from me. Someone with a real love for the web and wanting to push it forward is just as important I think.

Finally, how can they get in contact?

The ICEcoder website is where you can find most info. You can reach me by Twitter and Google Groups also. Oh, speaking of Google Groups, there's also information right now regarding a competition to win a goodie bag of ICEcoder stuff. Just code a tweak or feature, get it accepted and you can get an ICEcoder tshirt, USB key and other bits.

Thanks Matt! Well, interesting thoughts there, especially as Matt isn't just interested in the money side. If anyone wants to get involved or win one of those goodie bags, all the info is there. Looking forward to more ICEcoder developments soon.

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Published on: 20th July 2014

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