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The iPad is my preferred computing device when I'm on the go, be it commuting or traveling. Sometimes I've got a Bluetooth keyboard with me, and sometimes I don't. So this may be crazy, but I would like to use my iPad for full-fledged web development and programming, and want I to know what my options are.

Cloud9 seems to be nearly perfect for this in concept except for a fatal flaw: the web interface does not fully work with iPad browsers Safari or Chrome. You cannot, for example, double click to open files.

What other options do I have? Ideally I would like to have command line access to my editor of choice (Vim), and be able to use web debugging tools like the developer tools in Chrome.

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migrated from superuser.com May 30 '13 at 17:25

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iSSH is stable / reliable for logging into your dev server and editing your site. iSSH + a ZAGG keyboard is even better than using my MacBook Pro w/ 16gb for intensely focusing on node.js dev via vim on Ubuntu. –  james_womack Feb 1 at 9:37
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10 Answers 10

If you're just looking for a straight text editor, Textastic has a lot of nice features.

For full-fledged web development, check out Diet Coda. It has built-in SSH terminal, SFTP, a great text editor, etc.

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I use diet coda on the run and for emergencies. You can't work locally, so when you hit save you're making live changes.. be careful :) Also, you can pair diet coda with coda 2 on your mac to see changes every time you hit the save command on coda 2 (super handy not having to hit refresh every time) –  Ryan Hollingsworth Jun 5 '13 at 15:24
    
iSSH is nice for those who like to use vim on their Rackspace or AWS instance. –  james_womack Feb 1 at 9:35
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I was all ready to call you mad, but this is looking considerably more workable than I'd have thought.

There is an iOS port of Vim, and if that doesn't work well then you can always use one of many terminal emulators to shell into a remote host and run Vim there. I might recommend the latter ahead of the former, actually; it's not clear how you're expected to get files onto the device for editing and then put them back into their testing environment, whereas running Vim directly on the testing host obviates the concern entirely. Multitasking is a concern here, in that if the emulator doesn't get any CPU time then your connection will time out, but judicious use of GNU Screen, and perhaps an emulator such as Prompt which can maintain connections for a while even when backgrounded, should relieve that problem pretty handily.

As for debugging tools, the ones built into Safari only work when your device is tethered to a computer running the desktop version, but Firebug Lite is said to work in iOS Safari and presumably would work just as well in iOS Chrome, and its bookmarklet can be added to the browser's bookmarks bar for easy access. (It doesn't seem to be working right now in any of the three browsers in which I've tried it, including Safari on my iPhone, but I suspect that's a transient issue related to the apparently quite recent release of a new version with major changes.)

Being similarly equipped with an iPad and Bluetooth keyboard, I'd considered trying the same thing you're looking to do, but wrote it off as unworkable. Thanks for giving me the impetus to investigate further and discover that it can very likely be done pretty well after all.

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Mark O'Connor has written a compelling series of articles (starting with this one) about doing web development using an iPad as a thin client to a Linux remote server.

You basically just need an SSH client app for the iPad (there are several: Mark mentions iSSH), and you have access to VIM or whatever other tools you can run on the server.

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I use two apps for coding on my iPad, though I only use them in emergency situations.

The first is iSSH. It lets you log on via SSH to servers. It also does X forwarding, so I can log in to my workstation in the office if need be.

The second is Koder, which is basically a mini IDE for an iPad. It supports FTP, (S)FTP, Dropbox, WebDAV, and local development. Also, it has Firebug built in to it :)

I'm not sure I'd like to use it 100% of the time (Zend Studio on Xubuntu works very well for me) but it is workable.

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Hi @Jonathan. Just curious what's the "it" that you're referring to in the final line. Let us know! Thx. –  SamtheBrand Sep 18 '13 at 15:23
    
sorry this took so long, but the 'it' I was referring to was my ipad! –  Jonathan Feb 8 at 19:08
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Doing development on an iPad is definitely possible, but how well it works for you will depend a lot on your workflow. In particular, you may run into trouble when it comes to debugging, especially if you need a good JavaScript debugger.

Debugging

As an experiment I recently tried some editing of a (mostly JavaScript) webapp I've been working on using my iPad. The editing went relatively smoothly (I used Textastic), but debugging the JavaScript was a pain. As far as I'm aware, the only thing that comes close to a proper debugging tool on iOS is Firebug Lite, which has some substantial limitations. Because it's not integrated into the browser, it can't catch a lot of problems. No syntax error catching (you're left hunting for that missing bracket on your own), and no reporting of HTTP issues if an external script isn't loading properly.

The interface is also pretty rough to use on a touch device — small tap targets, and it resizes strangely if you try to zoom. As someone who relies a fair bit on Safari and Chrome's developer tools when doing JavaScript development, I found it fairly frustrating when I ran into any sort of bug.

That said, if your development is more server-side, or you otherwise don't depend on those sorts of debugging tools, the iPad could very well make a good development environment for you.

Editor Options

If you just want to use Vim, then an SSH client like Prompt or iSSH would work well, combined with a remote server somewhere (which you'll need anywhere for viewing files). If you want an option that doesn't require network access, there is an iOS port of Vim, but it's worth noting that the files are only accessible through iTunes (i.e. you can't upload them to an SFTP server or view them locally with Safari).

If you want a more native experience, Diet Coda is worth a look, as it integrates a lot of useful tools — SFTP, a full SSH client, code editor and browser. It's definitely on the pricier side of iOS apps, but I've read good things about it.

Textastic is another good editor, with some nice extensions to the software keyboard (useful for making changes in a pinch if you don't have a Bluetooth one with you). I'm not a big fan of its file access model however. There's not much concept of syncing — rather you download files from a source (SFTP, Dropbox or WebDAV), edit them locally, then re-upload. An option to edit directly into Dropbox or SFTP would be nice, but that's a bit of a personal preference.

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You could use the OnLive Desktop product.

Excerpt from their website:

"Based upon OnLive's instant-action cloud gaming technology, OnLive Desktop delivers a seamless Microsoft® Windows® desktop experience with cloud-accelerated Web browsing with full Adobe® Flash. Instant-response multi-touch gestures enable complete and convenient viewing and editing of even the most complex documents, with high-speed transfer from cloud storage or Web mail attachments.

Rich media, such as video, animation, slide transitions and even PC games—never before practical via remote desktop delivery—run fluidly and dynamically with instant-action interactivity. OnLive Desktop makes remote feel local."

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Seriously, the best iOS SSH app is Prompt. There you can remotely use Vim, and Firebug lite for debugging, as suggested by @Aaron Miller.

Actually, Prompt is included within Diet Coda (same developer).

Take a look at the following screenshots:

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You can use Koding, that is responsive and works perfectly in your browser. You won't need to install anything on your iPad. You'll have access to all the power of a server in your browser. Worth checking out.

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What does Koding do - please do not just give a link –  Mark Nov 19 '13 at 19:07
    
Coding is great... But just like all other similar to it cloud9, codio, codeanywhere, nitrous, code envy .... And probably more, they all suffer from a major problem in iOS... The arrow keys do not work! In CODIO I was able to navigate when editor is in vi mode... But since there's no esc key in most Bluetooth keyboards, I was not able to get out of it... Just frustrating since I was hopping to do some coding from the new iPad Air! –  CrazyPenguin Dec 28 '13 at 17:53
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There is a brand new app called "Dringend". It's just like xcode - you can programm and build/test Apps on Mac & iOS -> https://itunes.apple.com/de/app/dringend-development-environment/id822329054?mt=8

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to access tour Linux/Unix web server remotely, try xCute - a new and exiting tool to access remotely a server from either iPad or iPhone

http://xcuteapp.com

from their web site:

As a software engineer I often access computers remotely, I use VPN, SSH, Telnet or whatever remote software allows me to "get in there" and "interact". Virtual terminals are useful tools when used from a laptop or desktop but I find that from mobile devices something different, simpler and quicker is necessary. Very regularly I just simple want to perform a few tasks and read their results.

I wrote this application to be able to access remote hosts and perform tasks with the simplicity of just the touch of a button. I can now do so with an iPhone while travelling, or in the comfort of the sofa at home with an iPad.

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