Bespin: Collaborative Coding in the Cloud

Bespin is an online code editor from Mozilla Labs. When Bespin was first announced, one of the high-level goals of the projects was to enable real-time collaboration. Now, in version 0.4, the team has made good on this promise and released a beta version of its new collaboration tools. Some graphical elements are still missing, but with the help of a few text commands, users can already follow other users, organize users into groups, and share projects with others.

The team only released the first prototype of Bespin in February, but the project already features an impressive array of features. Collaborative coding, the Bespin team argues, is one of the most important reasons to use a cloud-based development environment. One neat aspect of Bespin’s collaboration system is that the team adopted a Twitter-like follow/unfollow model.

One feature the team purposely left out of the editor for now is an in-page chat. Given how many users already us IM or IRC already, this wasn’t a priority for the team, though this might come in a later version.

Try It

If you want to give Bespin’s collaboration a quick spin, here are some instructions courtesy of Bespin developer Joe Walker:

  • Sign up or login to Bespin.
  • Press CTRL+J/CMD+J to open the command line.
  • Type ‘follow joewalker’ to get someone to share files with. Joe shared a project called pubproj globally.
  • Type ‘project list’. You should see joewalker+pubproj in your list of projects.

    Type ‘set collaborate on’ to turn on shared editing.
  • Open a shared file by typing ‘open /joewalker+pubproj/example.txt’.
  • You should then be in a collaborative editing session with the rest of the Internet.
  • Click on the collaboration icon (2 people) in the top right hand corner to show you who’s editing with you.

For more details about Bespin itself, have a look at our earlier coverage.

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