Modular, extensible, open source.

Eclipse Theia 1.0 is an open source alternative to VS Code

Sarah Schlothauer
eclipse theia
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The 1.0 version of Eclipse Theia has arrived. Eclipse Theia combines some of the best features of IDEs into one open source extensible platform. To celebrate this milestone, explore some of its stand-out features and see what sets it apart from VS Code.

The Eclipse Foundation, one of the leading global voices advancing open source software, released Eclipse Theia version 1.0. Intended to be a completely open source alternative to Microsoft’s Visual Studio Code, Eclipse Theia supports multiple languages and combines some of the best features of IDEs into one extensible platform.

If the name rings any bells, the Theia project previously began elsewhere. It was initially created by Ericsson and TypeFox (founders of Gitpod and Xtext) in 2016 and moved to The Eclipse Foundation in May of 2018.

To celebrate this milestone, explore some of its stand-out features and see what sets it apart from VS Code.

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Cloud & Desktop IDE

eclipse theia

Eclipse Theia screenshot. Source.

Theia is designed to run on both the cloud and on desktop, so if you are unsure which you will need, you can use it in both contexts. You can even develop one IDE and run it in browsers and/or desktop versions.

From The Eclipse Foundation’s press release:

To support both situations with a single source, Theia runs in two separate processes. Those processes are called frontend and backend respectively, and they communicate through JSON-RPC messages over WebSockets or REST APIs over HTTP. In the case of Electron, the backend, as well as the frontend, run locally, while in a remote context the backend would run on a remote host.

Rich with features

  • Multi-language support: Thanks to the Language Server Protocol, Eclipse Theia supports Java, JavaScript, Python, and many more programming languages. LSP includes over 60 language servers.
  • Flexible, draggable dock layouts: Eclipse Theia’s shell is based on PhosphorJS, which is a set of widgets, layouts, events, and data structures offering highly flexible layouts.
  • Modular: Add your own extensions easily and customize your IDE to exactly how you like it. If what you need isn’t created already, learn how to author your own extension and create a Theia app. (Find out more about the necessary prerequisites on GitHub.)
  • Open source marketplace: The new marketplace introduced in the 1.0 release is truly open source. Even non-VS Code applications can use the extensions within.

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Vendor-neutral for all

Will Theia eclipse (pardon the pun) VS Code? The fact that it is open source scores some big brownie points. Of course, if you want to contribute towards this project, you can help it improve by submitting bug reports, submitting pull requests, and solving issues.

Eclipse Theia takes many design principles from VS Code, but also stands out as its own project. From the Theia website, the main differences between it and VS Code are its modularity, its desktop and cloud capabilities, and its vendor-neutrality.

Early adopters and contributors of this project include Google Cloud, RedHat, IBM, arm, and Arduino.

Luca Cipriani, CTO of Arduino says:

As one of the world’s largest open source ecosystems for hardware and software, we fully support extending vendor-neutral governance to every aspect of software development. Eclipse Theia is another important step in that direction. Our community has been eagerly advocating for functionality for some time.

View the source code on GitHub. Or, give it a taste and try it out in Gitpod.

Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer

All Posts by Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer is the editor for She received her Bachelor's degree from Monmouth University, West Long Branch, New Jersey. She currently lives in Frankfurt, Germany with her husband and cat where she enjoys reading, writing, and medieval reenactment. She is also the editor for Conditio Humana, an online magazine about ethics, AI, and technology.

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