Getting started with Eclipse Orion

Getting started with Eclipse Orion

Many Eclipse committers have been hard at work on the Eclipse Juno (2012) release. There are already many new features including a whole new workbench model.  While this is obviously an exciting time in the history of Eclipse, many of the long time IBM committers have been focusing on future — Eclipse Orion.  Eclipse Orion is a web-based tooling platform. While I’m personally not involved in this project for my day-to-day work, I’ve been exploring the possibilities it exposes. To help you get started with Orion, I thought I would share my experiences.  In this article I’ll show you how to use Orion to develop a simple web application. In future articles I’ll explain how to create both client and server side plugins, as well as how to host your own Orion server.

Why Orion?

Before we can answer this, let’s look back 10 years.  A decade ago Eclipse had just shipped 1.0.  While many people saw Eclipse as a great Java IDE (which it is), Eclipse was also a universal tool platform.  Eventually Eclipse became a platform for Everything and Nothing In Particular, but in December 2001 it was a general purpose platform for development environments with Java Development as one such exemplary tool (C/C++ development was added shortly afterwards).  Many people attributed the success and quality of Eclipse to the fact that the developers used Eclipse for their day-to-day work, a concept known as eating your own dogfood. This model ensured that the quality of Eclipse remained high since any regressions would immediately be seen.

Fast-forward 10 years and we are starting to see many software tools moving to the web. Services such as GitHub, CloudBees, Cloudant, YouTrack, etc… reduce your IT overhead by moving many of your tools to 3rd party service providers, accessible via the web. Also, many of our applications are exposing web-based front ends and developers are relying on tools such as FireBug and other browser extensions.  Since most ‚coding‘ still takes place on the desktop using tools like Eclipse or TextPad, developers are no longer using the tools they develop.

Eclipse Orion intends to change this.  Eclipse Orion is positioning itself as a Tooling Platform for the Web, on the Web.  If you’re currently building Web-Based software, then Orion will be of interest to you.

Is Orion Replacing Eclipse?

The aim of Orion is not to replace Eclipse.  Orion provides another tooling platform — this time for the web.  Not everyone is doing web development and not everyone wants their tools on the web.  However, if you are spending more of your time in a browser, Orion might be of interest.

Also, Orion is an entirely new code-base. This is not Eclipse running in a browser.

Getting Started

The easiest way to get started with Orion is to look at OrionHub.  OrionHub ( is a public beta server of Orion.  Anyone can request an account, but keep in mind that the workspaces are cleaned occasionally so there is no  guarantee that your data will be persisted.

1. Request an Account

Go to to request an account.

2. Login to OrionHub

Go to and login. Once you’ve logged in, you can access you profile and associate other accounts if you wish.

3. Create your first project

There are a few helpful links across the top of the page. To create you first project, select the navigator and choose New Folder. You can also clone a project from a remote git repository if you choose.

4. Upload an existing project

Initializr allows you to create a bare-bones HTML 5 site, and download it as a zip file. This means you can get started on a new fancy web project without all the boilerplate setup.  I decided to download a bare-bone site from JavaScript InfoVis Toolkit for my example since I was interested in creating a graph based visualization. Using Orion, you can upload this zip file and start working immediately.

This this is on the web, you can review my code as I work:

5. Launch a site

To test / debug your web application as you develop it, Orion allows you to launch a site containing the newly developed project. You can develop in one browser tab, and test (and debug) in another one. This paradigm means that all your tools are in one place.  To launch a site, choose the ‚Sites‚ link and Create Site.

You can map your project to this site.  In my case, I created a site called irbullvisualization. Feel free to access it at:

6. Share your project

By default, a Git repository is created for all projects on OrionHub.  Of course, this is just a local git repository (local to OrionHub), but you can easily add new remote references and push your projects around. You can commit changes using the Git Status Page:

And push your changes to remote hosts using the Repositories View:


The Eclipse Orion project is still in its infancy. Unlike the Eclipse project — which was opened sourced at the same time as its 1.0 release, the Orion project is still in its pre 1.0 stage. However, you can get involved with the project, tryout the beta at or download your own Orion Server.

In my next article I’ll talk about Orion Plug-ins.