Visual Studio Code Comes to the Web

Posted on October 21, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Dev with 6 Comments

This week, Microsoft released a new web-based version of its Visual Studio Code Integrated Development Environment (IDE). It joins the Windows, Mac, and Linux versions of the product as an alternative primarily aimed at web developers.

vscode.dev [is] a lightweight version of VS Code running fully in the browser,” Microsoft’s Chris Dias explains. “Open a folder on your local machine and start coding. No install required.”

Microsoft describes vscode.dev as a realization of a long-time dream to host a sophisticated development environment that can run fully serverless in a web browser. It’s not as full-featured as the client versions of Visual Studio Code, of course, but it does support the following features:

Local development with cloud tools. Using the File System Access API, vscode.dev can view and edit locally stored files. This lets developers build client-side HTML, JavaScript, and CSS applications while using the web developer tools built into modern browsers for debugging. It also enables Chromebook users to access Visual Studio Code without needing to install Linux as well.

A light(er)weight experience. The browser version of Visual Studio Code can do less than its client siblings—there’s no terminal or debugger, and you can’t compile, run, and debug non-web application types—but the resulting product is also more lightweight. For things like JSON, HTML, CSS, and LESS, the coding experience in vscode.dev is nearly identical to the desktop.

Extensions. Visual Studio Code’s success can be tied largely to its extensibility capabilities and most of the extensions that customize the UI—things like themes, keymaps, and snippets—all work in vscode.dev. And you can even enable settings roaming between the browser, the desktop, and GitHub Codespaces through Settings Sync. Incompatible extensions are marked as unavailable.

GitHub integration. VS Code for the Web comes with the GitHub Repositories, Codespaces, and Pull Request extensions built-in, helping you make edits, review pull requests, and continue on to a local clone or a GitHub Codespace. (In this way, it’s similar to github.dev, which is a customized version of VS Code for the Web that is integrated into GitHub.)

“Bringing VS Code to the browser is the realization of the original vision for the product,” Dias concludes. “It is also the start of a completely new one. An ephemeral editor that is available to anyone with a browser and an internet connection is the foundation for a future where we can truly edit anything from anywhere.”

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Comments (6)

6 responses to “Visual Studio Code Comes to the Web”

  1. lvthunder

    I installed a program named Home Assistant to get some security cameras at my cabin to be HomeKit compatible and to edit it's config files it runs VS Code in the browser. The difference between that and this is the version in Home Assistant edits files on the server whereas this one edits files on your PC. I think it's great.

  2. bluvg

    "a long-time dream to... run... in a web browser"


    Post-Netscape.

    • smartin

      Ya, when I read that, I remember reading back in the '90s when Bill Gates saw Mozilla for the first time he got really worried (panicked is probably the right word). He realized because he has the imagination, that with a general-purpose client which can display the results of an application running on a remote server there would be no need for an operating system on the local system at all. The local OS could be a browser.


      Many years later Google realized that potential with ChromeOS. That was the very thing that Gate's had imagined when he saw that first browser. In the '90s his immediate reaction was to turn the entire company into an internet business. They started working on IE and made it the highest priority in the company. Unfortunately, they had several missteps from there. Windows phone, Exchange, and others. They kept thinking of products instead of platforms. Understandable for a 20+-year-old company in an industry measured in weeks and months.


      Finally, with Azure, they struck lightning again. Today they are one of the handful of Trillion Dollar companies. Where Azure lacks in numbers, it makes up for in revenues. And that's what makes things like VSCode for the web possible.


      All because Tim Bernards-Lee wanted a way to share documents on a network.

  3. Jack

    Settings, extensions and GitHub login sync from browser to desktop version. This is one more step closer to reducing setup time on new computers. I'm excited.

  4. ubelhorj

    Too bad the Salesforce extensions don't work. Salesforce (being a cloud service) updates regularly, but asking IT to allow updating my local development environment is treated like an act of war. Need to submit separate requests that end up assigned to different people to update VSCode, the CLI, and extensions. If I could use the web version and cut all this out, that would be amazing.

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