The current Arduino desktop editor is now over 10 years old, and is based in turn on the even older Processing development environment. So while there are a lot of good things you can say about the Arduino IDE, it isn’t by any stretch of the imagination a modern development environment. It also hasn’t really kept pace with what developers expect from their tooling, and although the company has made a lot of progress in the last three years since the initial release of Arduino Create web tools, the two development environments have shared an uncomfortable co-existence since then.
Which is why today’s announcement of an alpha preview of the new Arduino Pro IDE by Massimo Banzi, the co-founder of Arduino, and Luca Cipriani, the company’s CIO, at Maker Faire Rome is more important than it might appear.
The frontend of the new Arduino development environment is based on the Theia platform, which is open sourced and designed from the ground up to be an extensible multi-language environment. Whereas the Arduino-specific heavy lifting behind the scenes is provided using the Arduino CLI tools that the company introduced last year.
While this is still only an alpha release of the new environment there’s a lot of new features, including auto completion and Git integration. However, the new architecture means that heavily demanded features, like synchronisation of your sketches between the desktop environment and Arduino Create, or a modern debugger, which aren’t yet in today’s initial release, should be coming soon.
In the wake of the launch of the new family of Arduino Nano boards earlier in the year, the release of an updated development environment could be seen as another step down a path by Arduino towards support for manufacturers.
The new Nano boards have a castellated form factor intended to be surface mounted as modules, suggesting the company wanted to support smaller manufacturers who might have prototyped using classic or MKR boards, and want to take their product to full scale production. The new development environment should help encourage professional developers, who are used to a more feature rich environment, to use Arduino. Which is good for all of us, whether we’re makers or professionals.