Google did not build a new IDE (integrated development environment) when it created IDX. Instead, it is using Visual Studio Code — Open Source as the basis of its project. This surely allowed the team to focus on the integration with Codey, Google’s PaLM 2–based foundation model for programming tasks. Thanks to Codey, IDX supports smart code completion, a ChatGPT/Bard-like chatbot that can help developers with general coding questions as well as those related specifically to the code you are working on (including the ability to explain it) and the ability to add contextual code actions like “add comments.”
“We spend a lot of time writing code, and recent advances in AI have created big opportunities to make that time more productive,” the IDX team explains in today’s announcement. “With Project IDX, we’re exploring how Google’s innovations in AI — including the Codey and PaLM 2 models powering Studio Bot in Android Studio, Duet in Google Cloud and more — can help you not only write code faster, but also write higher-quality code.”
As a cloud-based IDE, it’s no surprise that Project IDX integrates with Google’s own Firebase Hosting (and Google Cloud Functions) and allows developers to bring in existing code from the GitHub repository. Every workspace has access to a Linux-based VM (virtual machine) and, soon, embedded Android and iOS simulators right in the browser.
I had a chance to test out Project IDX for a couple of days before today’s launch. The IDX chatbot works as expected but didn’t feel all that tightly coupled with the source code. It can’t directly manipulate the code, for example (which, to be fair, is also true for most of Google’s competitors), and it doesn’t seem to be aware of which code you have selected in the editor. It’s still very early days, though, and Google notes that the team is “just at the beginning of this journey” and plans to add new capabilities over time.
While GitHub’s Copilot, Amazon’s CodeWhisperer and others offer similar AI coding features, Google’s focus on full-stack development puts a slightly different twist on this theme. With Codespaces and AWS Cloud9, GitHub and Amazon also offer cloud-based development environments. In addition, Google offers its Cloud Code IDE plugins, which it could use to bring Codey to virtually every popular IDE as well. Project IDX makes for a nice sandbox for Google to show off some of its AI capabilities for coders, but it remains to be seen if it will turn into a full-blown IDE that developers will want to use for their projects.