ServiceNow reveals VS Code alternative to its own web-based code editor

Developers who write apps for ServiceNow can now use VS Code instead of its own Studio web-based IDE.

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Workflow automation outfit ServiceNow has launched a new extension for Microsoft Visual Studio Code (VS Code), furthering its tie-up with Microsoft, whose Azure cloud is a preferred provider for ServiceNow's SaaS platform.

ServiceNow, which recently hired former SAP CEO Bill McDermott as its new chief, is pitching itself as a platform company via its Now Platform, which offers automated workflow apps for IT services, employees, and customers, as well as allowing developers to build their own workflows. 

But to build those custom workflow apps ServiceNow previously only offered its own web-based integrated development environment (IDE) called Studio.

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Studio gave developers a simple way to build apps for the Now Platform but also had limitations compared with more popular editing environments such as Visual Studio, VS Code, and JetBrains' IntelliJ Idea.

Now developers can start building Now Platform apps within VS Code, which addresses some key developer complaints about its own Studio code editor and brings a number of advantages, according to Marcus Torres, ServiceNow's vice president of product management.  

"We really want developers to work in the tools they know and love and that they can be productive in. VS Code is an amazing IDE that's gained a lot of adoption. Within the Now Platform, our language of extensibility is JavaScript, so it works really with VS Code, which is why we brought this extension to market," Torres told ZDNet. 

The VSCode extension will allow developers to work on multiple projects concurrently, including packages, custom apps, stored apps and plug-ins. Developers can also work offline and then sync back rather than having to be connected to their instance all the time. 

"It's really about allowing our developers to innovate and develop on multiple extensions of our applications on the Now Platform. One of the most common use-cases is you could create a digital workflow alongside one of our SaaS offerings," Torres said. 

"We have a robust portfolio of applications that work on top of our PaaS and so we want to make sure people can work on multiple of those at a given time."

ServiceNow's VS Code extension will also give developers features they'd expect from an IDE, including VS Code's IntelliSense code-completion feature, JavaScript and HTML syntax validation, and code completion for ServiceNow's Glide APIs. 

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According to Torres, ServiceNow has "hundreds of thousands of developers" in its developer program and it's growing by triple-digits each year, so its VS Code offering could be welcomed by a lot of developers who would prefer to work with a more capable editor. 

The other benefit is that it will support basic and OAuth authentication and allow for two-way synchronization of files between Visual Studio Code and instances, and a unified diff tool for viewing differences. 

The ServiceNow VS Code extension is available on Microsoft's Visual Studio Marketplace.

Torres said ServiceNow is looking at bringing an extension too IntelliJ and Eclipse but added that the company wanted to "go out of the gates with VS Code" and boost its partnership with Microsoft.