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Development toolmaker Genuitec has introduced a new tool, CodeTogether, which allows developers to collaborate without the limitations of screen sharing when building code.
As software development has become more distributed, with development teams spread all over different parts of the world, more organizations need to have team members collaborate directly on complex pieces of code.
CodeTogether is unique in that it is designed around quick collaboration and offers many of the benefits of a cloud IDE but without the overhead, said Tim Webb, vice president of operations at Genuitec, based in Flower Mound, Texas.
For example, with CodeTogether, a developer can share a link from their VS Code lightweight code editor and their colleague can jump in and start coding alongside them with no setup, and without disrupting their own development environment.
"This tool addresses the shortcomings that Genuitec found in traditional collaborative developer solutions, such as screen sharing," said Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT in Hayward, Calif. "A central issue with such tools is to ensure that collaborations are seamless and don't hinder developers."
Indeed, CodeTogether is unlike screen-sharing tools, which are more focused around full-time collaboration, which for many teams is just too much, Webb said.
"You want the equivalent of a quick Google Hangout or Slack call to dive into a problem for a few minutes to an hour and then get back to your work," he said.
CodeTogether may face a commercial challenge, as it competes directly with Microsoft's Visual Studio Live Share code collaboration tool, which is installed by default in Visual Studio 2019. Although Live Share is a good tool for pair programming in a team where every developer has Live Share, it is not so useful on teams with heterogeneous tool stacks, Webb contended.
Speaking developers' language
In addition to causing developers to "over share" and being harder to set up, screen-sharing tools don't allow developers to talk via code and are disruptive to the coding process, said Todd Williams, vice president of technology at Genuitec. Moreover, Genuitec uses CodeTogether across its development teams, including running it live on the company's integration builds, and uses this experience to further develop CodeTogether itself.
Tim WebbVice president of operations, Genuitec
"Code speaks for itself, so collaborating by sketching out quick object skeletons or approaches to tackle a problem via CodeTogether flows smoothly," Webb said. In contrast, other full-fledged code sharing tools can feel too intrusive, and taking control of remote screens is unwieldy, he added.
And CodeTogether changes how developers code. For instance, before a developer checks in a commit for formal review, they can get early feedback by allowing a coding partner to have a look at what they are doing. Or when laying out a new feature in an agile team, a developer can sketch out the code together with a partner.
"You can let your peer connect in to check your direction while you are off at lunch," Webb said. "We believe the organic quick-hit sessions are what make CodeTogether so compelling and easy to use."
In addition, Genuitec has built a basic Slack integration into the tool and is working on building out a more comprehensive capability that provides the developer with an audit of the work done on the collaborative session in message threads where their development team already works.
This lets developers capture comments and impacted files during collaborative sessions to allow a lead developer to get a sense of what is going on without being intrusive.
"We believe that for teams, they are looking for solutions that drop in with how they are already working but provide distinct value in helping with collaboration in real-time," Webb said.
Genuitec introduced CodeTogether as an early access release that supports both the Visual Studio Code editor and the Eclipse IDE. It will support additional IDEs, including the JetBrains suite of tools, when the product becomes generally available.
With VS Code and Eclipse support, Genuitec can reach a large market that spans web and enterprise development.