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Orion software development environment

Zodiac Developer

Article from ADMIN 52/2019
The open source Orion project is a browser-based tool integration platform for web development.

The Eclipse IDE is a workspace with a plug-in system for developing applications in Java, as well as other programming languages. Orion is a browser-based open tool integration platform for web development from the Eclipse Foundation.

The promise that Orion makes is simple: Once an admin has installed Orion on a company server, the developers then only need a fairly modern browser to proceed. The following sections show how to set up a useful Orion environment.


The installation routine will run on any Linux server. The prerequisite is a Java Runtime Environment version 1.6 or newer. If you just want to try Orion out, you can install the package locally – which is also the preferred option for laptop users without stable network access.

The Eclipse Orion ZIP package is available online [1]. The current version when this issue went to press was 19. The package weighs in at 69MB; unpacking inflates it to 73MB, which contradicts the information on the download page (30MB).

Simply unpack the ZIP archive in a suitable location (e.g., under /usr/local/lib). That's it. The top folder in the archive is eclipse. If it already exists, you should consider an alternative path. Although the eclipse folder contains only one subfolder, orion, which should not cause any problems during unpacking, it never makes sense to merge installations.

Besides the server package, the download page offers the misleadingly named "Client" components. One is a Node.js-based server version, which does not have the same functionally as the Java-based variant and only runs in single-user mode by default. This version makes it more suitable for installation on a client, which explains the name.

Also in the Client section are language tools that support multiple programming languages. You can embed these JavaScript components in your own web applications, but they then have nothing to do with the Orion server.

Trial Installation

If you want to do without an Orion installation completely for the first test, you will find a fully functional trial installation online [2] (Figure 1). Press the Try It Now button to announce your interest; you can then log in with the Sign In button at top right. You will not want to save any important or confidential data here.

Figure 1: The Orion demo server homepage.

The local Orion server is started by running the orion command, which you enter in the <Path_to_Installation>/eclipse/orion subdirectory. You can then manage the server at the command line by using the usual Open Services Gateway Initiative (OSGi) commands [3].

After starting up, the server listens on port 8080, which can be changed in the orion.ini file, if necessary, as can the location of the user data. By default, the data ends up in the serverworkspace subfolder under the orion directory. Security-conscious admins, however, will separate the directories for the software installation from those with user data, which also simplifies data backup.

First Steps

The initial screen is identical to that shown in Figure 1 after the custom installation. After registering and logging in for the first time, the programming environment comes up immediately. The icons on the far left represent Editor, Git, Shell, Sites, and Settings (top to bottom), which link to the different views; otherwise, the work area is empty at the beginning.

You can start on a green field or import an existing project. The easiest way to import is through the excellent Git integration, but Orion also offers alternative approaches. For example, it can unpack the contents of a ZIP file with the source code.

After importing, you see the projects and their files in the workspace on the left, with the currently selected file shown on the right with syntax highlighting.

The editor itself offers everything one expects from an IDE, including configuration options to set tab behavior, keyboard mappings, and so on. To reach the configuration, click the gear symbol on the far left.

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