A Che-Theia plug-in is an extension of the development environment isolated from the IDE. Plug-ins can be packaged as files or containers to provide their own dependencies.

Extending Che-Theia using plug-ins can enable the following capabilities:

  • Language support: Extend the supported languages by relying on the Language Server Protocol.

  • Debuggers: Extend debugging capabilities with the Debug Adapter Protocol.

  • Development Tools: Integrate your favorite linters, and as testing and performance tools.

  • Menus, panels, and commands: Add your own items to the IDE components.

  • Themes: Build custom themes, extend the UI, or customize icon themes.

  • Snippets, formatters, and syntax highlighting: Enhance comfort of use with supported programming languages.

  • Keybindings: Add new keymaps and popular keybindings to make the environment feel natural.

Features and benefits of Che-Theia plug-ins

Features Description Benefits

Fast Loading

Plug-ins are loaded at runtime and are already compiled. IDE is loading the plug-in code.

Avoid any compilation time. Avoid post-installation steps.

Secure Loading

Plug-ins are loaded separately from the IDE. The IDE stays always in a usable state.

Plug-ins do not break the whole IDE if it has bugs. Handle network issue.

Tooling Dependencies

Dependencies for the plug-in are packaged with the plug-in in its own container.

No-installation for tools. Dependencies running into container.

Code isolation

Guarantee that plug-ins cannot block the main functions of the IDE like opening a file or typing

Plug-ins are running into separate threads. Avoid dependencies mismatch.

VS Code Extension Compatibility

Extend the capabilities of the IDE with existing VS Code Extensions.

Target multiple platform. Allow easy discovery of Visual Studio Code Extension with required installation.

Che-Theia plug-in concept in detail

Eclipse Che provides a default web IDE for workspaces: Che-Theia. It is based on Eclipse Theia. It is a slightly different version than the plain Eclipse Theia one because there are functionalities that have been added based on the nature of the Eclipse Che workspaces. This version of Eclipse Theia for Che is called Che-Theia.

You can extend the IDE provided with Eclipse Che by building a Che-Theia plug-in. Che-Theia plug-ins are compatible with any other Eclipse Theia-based IDE.

Client-side and server-side Che-Theia plug-ins

The Che-Theia editor plug-ins let you add languages, debuggers, and tools to your installation to support your development workflow. Plug-ins run when the editor completes loading. If a Che-Theia plug-in fails, the main Che-Theia editor continues to work.

Che-Theia plug-ins run either on the client side or on the server side. This is a scheme of the client and server-side plug-in concept:

client server side plug ins
Figure 1. Client and server-side Che-Theia plug-ins

The same Che-Theia plug-in API is exposed to plug-ins running on the client side (Web Worker) or the server side (Node.js).

Che-Theia plug-in APIs

For the purpose of providing tool isolation and easy extensibility in Eclipse Che, the Che-Theia IDE has a set of plug-in APIs. The APIs are compatible with Visual Studio Code extension APIs. In most cases, Che-Theia can run VS Code extensions as its own plug-ins.

When developing a plug-in that depends on or interacts with components of Che workspaces (containers, preferences, factories), use the Che APIs embedded in Che-Theia.

Che-Theia plug-in capabilities

Che-Theia plug-ins have the following capabilities:

Plug-in Description Repository

Che Extended Tasks

Handles the Che commands and provides the ability to start those into a specific container of the workspace.

Che Extended Terminal

Allows to provide terminal for any of the containers of the workspace.

Che Factory

Handles the Eclipse Che Factories

Che Container

Provides a container view that shows all the containers that are running in the workspace and allows to interact with them.

Containers plugins

Dashboard

Integrates the IDE with the Dashboard and facilitate the navigation.

Che APIs

Extends the IDE APIs to allow interacting with Che-specific components (workspaces, preferences).

VS Code extensions and Eclipse Theia plug-ins

A Che-Theia plug-in can be based on a VS Code extension or an Eclipse Theia plug-in.

A Visual Studio Code extension

To repackage a VS Code extension as a Che-Theia plug-in with its own set of dependencies, package the dependencies into a container. This ensures that Eclipse Che users do not need to install the dependencies when using the extension. See Using a Visual Studio Code extension in Che.

An Eclipse Theia plug-in

You can build a Che-Theia plug-in by implementing an Eclipse Theia plug-in and packaging it to Eclipse Che.

Che-Theia plug-in metadata

Che-Theia plug-in metadata is information about individual plug-ins for the plug-in registry.

The Che-Theia plug-in metadata is defined in a meta.yaml file for the specific plug-in.

Table 1. meta.yml

apiVersion

API version (should be v2).

category

Available : Language, Other.

description

Description (a phrase).

displayName

Display name.

firstPublicationDate

Date in the form "YYYY-MM-DD". Example: "2019-12-02".

icon

URL of a svg icon.

name

Name (no spaces allowed).

publisher

Name of the publisher.

repository

URL of the source repository.

title

Title (long).

type

Che Plugin, VS Code extension.

version

Version (example: 7.5.1).

spec

Specifications (see underneath).

Table 2. spec attributes

endpoints

plugin endpoints

containers

sidecar containers for plug-in. Che Plugin and VS Code extension supports only one container.

initContainers

sidecar init containers for plugin

workspaceEnv

environment variables for the workspace.

extensions

For a VisualStudio Code Extension, list of U4`image`

Table 3. spec.containers. Notice: spec.initContainers has absolutely the same container definition.

name

sidecar container name

image

container image

memoryLimit

Kubernetes/OpenShift-spec memory limit string (e.g. "512Mi")

memoryRequest

Kubernetes/OpenShift-spec memory request string (e.g. "512Mi")

cpuLimit

Kubernetes/OpenShift-spec CPU limit string (e.g. "2500m")

cpuRequest

Kubernetes/OpenShift-spec CPU request string (e.g. "125m")

env

list of environment variables to set in sidecar

command

string array definition of the root process command inside container.

args

string array arguments for the root process command inside container

volumes

volumes required by plugin

ports

ports exposed by plugin (on the container)

commands

development commands available to plugin container

mountSources

boolean flag to bound volume with source code /projects to the plugin container.

Table 4. spec.containers.env (and spec.initContainers.env) attributes. Notice: workspaceEnv has absolutely the same attributes

name

env variable name

value

env variable value

Table 5. spec.containers.volumes (and spec.initContainers.volumes) attributes

mountPath

path to the volume in the container

name

volume name

ephemeral

if true volume will be ephemeral, otherwise volume will be persisted

Table 6. spec.containers.ports (and spec.initContainers.ports) attributes

exposedPort

Exposed port.

Table 7. spec.containers.commands (and spec.initContainers.commands) attributes

name

command name

workingDir

command working directory

command

string array which define development command

Table 8. spec.endpoints attributes

name

Name (no spaces allowed).

public

true, false

targetPort

Target port.

attributes

Endpoint attributes.

Table 9. spec.endpoints.attributes attributes

protocol

Protocol, example: ws

type

ide, ide-dev

discoverable

true, false

secure

true, false. If true the endpoint is assumed to listen solely on 127.0.0.1 and is exposed using a JWT proxy.

cookiesAuthEnabled

true, false

Example meta.yaml for a Che-Theia plug-in: the Che machine-exec Service
apiVersion: v2
category: Other
description: Che Plugin with che-machine-exec service to provide creation terminal or tasks for {prod} workspace containers.
displayName: {prod-short} machine-exec Service
firstPublicationDate: "2019-12-02"
icon: https://www.eclipse.org/che/images/logo-eclipseche.svg
name: che-machine-exec-plugin
publisher: eclipse
repository: https://github.com/eclipse/che-machine-exec/
title: Che machine-exec Service Plugin
type: Che Plugin
version: 7.5.1
spec:
  endpoints:
   -  name: "che-machine-exec"
      public: true
      targetPort: 4444
      attributes:
        protocol: ws
        type: terminal
        discoverable: false
        secure: true
        cookiesAuthEnabled: true
  containers:
   - name: che-machine-exec
     image: "quay.io/eclipse/che-machine-exec:7.5.1"
     ports:
       - exposedPort: 4444
Example meta.yaml for a VisualStudio Code extension: the AsciiDoc support extension
apiVersion: v2
category: Language
description: This extension provides a live preview, syntax highlighting and snippets for the AsciiDoc format using Asciidoctor flavor.
displayName: AsciiDoc support
firstPublicationDate: "2019-12-02"
icon: https://www.eclipse.org/che/images/logo-eclipseche.svg
name: vscode-asciidoctor
publisher: joaompinto
repository: https://github.com/asciidoctor/asciidoctor-vscode
title: AsciiDoctor Plugin.
type: VS Code extension
version: 2.7.7
spec:
  extensions:
  - https://github.com/asciidoctor/asciidoctor-vscode/releases/download/v2.7.7/asciidoctor-vscode-2.7.7.vsix

Che-Theia plug-in lifecycle

When a user is starting a workspace, the following procedure is followed:

  1. Che master checks for plug-ins to start from the workspace definition.

  2. Plug-in metadata is retrieved, and the type of each plug-in is recognized.

  3. A broker is selected according to the plug-in type.

  4. The broker processes the installation and deployment of the plug-in (the installation process is different for each broker).

There are different types of plug-ins. A broker ensures all installation requirements are met for a plug-in to deploy correctly.
che theia plug in lifecycle
Figure 2. Che-Theia plug-in lifecycle

Before a Che workspace is launched, Che master starts containers for the workspace:

  1. The Che-Theia plug-in broker extracts the plug-in (from the .theia file) to get the sidecar containers that the plug-in needs.

  2. The broker sends the appropriate container informations to Che master.

  3. The broker copies the Che-Theia plug-in to a volume to have it available for the Che-Theia editor container.

  4. Che workspace master then starts all the containers of the workspace.

  5. Che-Theia is started in its own container and checks the correct folder to load the plug-ins.

Che-Theia plug-in lifecycle:

  1. When a user is opening a browser tab or window with Che-Theia, Che-Theia starts a new plug-in session (browser or remote TODO: 'what is remote in this context?'). Every Che-Theia plug-in is notified that a new session has been started (the start() function of the plug-in triggered).

  2. A Che-Theia plug-in session is running and interacting with the Che-Theia backend and frontend.

  3. When the user is closing the browser tab or there is a timeout, every plug-in is notified (the stop() function of the plug-in triggered).

Embedded and remote Che-Theia plug-ins

Developer workspaces in Eclipse Che provide all dependencies needed to work on a project. The application includes the dependencies needed by all the tools and plug-ins used.

There are two different ways a Che-Theia plug-in can run. This is based on the dependencies that are needed for the plug-in: embedded (or local) and remote.

Embedded (or local) plug-ins

The plug-in does not have specific dependencies - it only uses a Node.js runtime, and it runs in the same container as the IDE. The plug-in is injected into the IDE.

Examples:

  • Code linting

  • New set of commands

  • New UI components

To include a Che-Theia plug-in as embedded, define a URL to the plug-in binary (the .theia archive) in the meta.yaml file. In the case of a VS Code extension, provide the extension ID from the Visual Studio Code marketplace (see Using a Visual Studio Code extension in Che).

When starting a workspace, Che downloads and unpacks the plug-in binaries and includes them in the Che-Theia editor container. The Che-Theia editor initializes the plug-ins when it starts.

local che theia plug in
Figure 3. Local Che-Theia plug-in

Remote plug-ins

The plug-in relies on dependencies or it has a backend. It runs in its own sidecar container, and all dependencies are packaged in the container.

A remote Che-Theia plug-in consist of two parts:

  • Che-Theia plug-in or VS Code extension binaries. The definition in the meta.yaml file is the same as for embedded plug-ins.

  • Container image definition, for example, eclipse/che-theia-dev:nightly. From this image, Che creates a separate container inside a workspace.

Examples:

  • Java Language Server

  • Python Language Server

When starting a workspace, Che creates a container from the plug-in image, downloads and unpacks the plug-in binaries, and includes them in the created container. The Che-Theia editor connects to the remote plug-ins when it starts.

remote che theia plug in
Figure 4. Remote Che-Theia plug-in

Comparison matrix

When a Che-Theia plug-in (or a VS Code extension) does not need extra dependencies inside its container, it is an embedded plug-in. A container with extra dependencies that includes a plug-in is a remote plug-in.

Table 10. Che-Theia plug-in comparison matrix: embedded vs remote
  Configure RAM per plug-in Environment dependencies Create separated container

Remote

TRUE

Plug-in uses dependencies defined in the remote container.

TRUE

Embedded

FALSE (users can configure RAM for the whole editor container, but not per plug-in)

Plug-in uses dependencies from the editor container; if container does not include these dependencies, the plug-in fails or does not function as expected.

FALSE

Depending on your use case and the capabilities provided by your plug-in, select one of the described running modes.

Remote plug-in endpoint

This document applies only to Eclipse Che 7.3.1 and later.

Eclipse Che has a remote plug-in endpoint service to start VS Code Extensions and Che-Theia plug-ins in separate containers. Eclipse Che injects the remote plug-in endpoint binaries into each remote plug-in container. This service starts remote extensions and plug-ins defined in the plug-in meta.yaml file and connects them to the Che-Theia editor container.

The remote plug-in endpoint creates a plug-in API proxy between the remote plug-in container and the Che-Theia editor container. The remote plug-in endpoint is also an interceptor for some plug-in API parts, which it launches inside a remote sidecar container instead of an editor container. Examples: terminal API, debug API.

The remote plug-in endpoint executable command is stored in the environment variable of the remote plug-in container: PLUGIN_REMOTE_ENDPOINT_EXECUTABLE.

Eclipse Che provides two ways to start the remote plug-in endpoint with a sidecar image:

  • Defining a launch remote plug-in endpoint using a Dockerfile. To use this method, patch an original image and rebuild it.

  • Defining a launch remote plug-in endpoint in the plug-in meta.yaml file. Use this method to avoid patching an original image.

Defining a launch remote plug-in endpoint using Dockerfile

To start a remote plug-in endpoint, use the PLUGIN_REMOTE_ENDPOINT_EXECUTABLE environment variable in the Dockerfile.

Procedure
  • Start a remote plug-in endpoint using the CMD command in the Dockerfile:

    FROM fedora:30
    
    RUN dnf update -y && dnf install -y nodejs htop && node -v
    
    RUN mkdir /home/user
    
    ENV HOME=/home/user
    
    RUN mkdir /projects \
        && chmod -R g+rwX /projects \
        && chmod -R g+rwX "${HOME}"
    
    CMD ${PLUGIN_REMOTE_ENDPOINT_EXECUTABLE}
  • Start a remote plug-in endpoint using the ENTRYPOINT command in the Dockerfile:

    FROM fedora:30
    
    RUN dnf update -y && dnf install -y nodejs htop && node -v
    
    RUN mkdir /home/user
    
    ENV HOME=/home/user
    
    RUN mkdir /projects \
        && chmod -R g+rwX /projects \
        && chmod -R g+rwX "${HOME}"
    
    ENTRYPOINT ${PLUGIN_REMOTE_ENDPOINT_EXECUTABLE}

Using a wrapper script

Some images use a wrapper script to configure permissions. The script is defined it in the ENTRYPOINT command of the Dockerfile to configure permissions inside the container, and it script executes a main process defined in the CMD command of the Dockerfile.

Eclipse Che uses such images with a wrapper script to provide permission configurations on different infrastructures with advanced security, for example on OpenShift.

  • Example of a wrapper script:

    #!/bin/sh
    
    set -e
    
    export USER_ID=$(id -u)
    export GROUP_ID=$(id -g)
    
    if ! whoami >/dev/null 2>&1; then
        echo "${USER_NAME:-user}:x:${USER_ID}:0:${USER_NAME:-user} user:${HOME}:/bin/sh" >> /etc/passwd
    fi
    
    # Grant access to projects volume in case of non root user with sudo rights
    if [ "${USER_ID}" -ne 0 ] && command -v sudo >/dev/null 2>&1 && sudo -n true > /dev/null 2>&1; then
        sudo chown "${USER_ID}:${GROUP_ID}" /projects
    fi
    
    exec "$@"
  • Example of a Dockerfile with a wrapper script:

    FROM alpine:3.10.2
    
    ENV HOME=/home/theia
    
    RUN mkdir /projects ${HOME} && \
        # Change permissions to let any arbitrary user
        for f in "${HOME}" "/etc/passwd" "/projects"; do \
          echo "Changing permissions on ${f}" && chgrp -R 0 ${f} && \
          chmod -R g+rwX ${f}; \
        done
    
    ADD entrypoint.sh /entrypoint.sh
    
    ENTRYPOINT [ "/entrypoint.sh" ]
    CMD ${PLUGIN_REMOTE_ENDPOINT_EXECUTABLE}

    In this example, the container launches the /entrypoint.sh script defined in the ENTRYPOINT command of the Dockerfile. The script configures the permissions and executes the command using exec $@. CMD is the argument for ENTRYPOINT, and the exec $@ command calls ${PLUGIN_REMOTE_ENDPOINT_EXECUTABLE}. A remote plug-in endpoint then starts in the container after permission configuration.

Defining a launch remote plug-in endpoint in a meta.yaml file

Use this method to re-use images to start remote a plug-in endpoint without modifications.

Procedure

Modify the plug-in meta.yaml file properites command and args:

  • command - Eclipse Che uses to override Dockerfile#ENTRYPOINT.

  • args - Eclipse Che uses to override Dockerfile#CMD.

  • Example of a YAML file with the command and args properties modified:

    apiVersion: v2
    category: Language
    description: "Typescript language features"
    displayName: Typescript
    firstPublicationDate: "2019-10-28"
    icon: "https://www.eclipse.org/che/images/logo-eclipseche.svg"
    name: typescript
    publisher: che-incubator
    repository: "https://github.com/Microsoft/vscode"
    title: "Typescript language features"
    type: "VS Code extension"
    version: remote-bin-with-override-entrypoint
    spec:
      containers:
        - image: "example/fedora-for-ts-remote-plugin-without-endpoint:latest"
          memoryLimit: 512Mi
          name: vscode-typescript
          command:
            - sh
            - -c
          args:
            - ${PLUGIN_REMOTE_ENDPOINT_EXECUTABLE}
      extensions:
        - "https://github.com/che-incubator/ms-code.typescript/releases/download/v1.35.1/che-typescript-language-1.35.1.vsix"
  • Modify args instead of command to use an image with a wrapper script pattern and to keep a call of the entrypoint.sh script:

    apiVersion: v2
    category: Language
    description: "Typescript language features"
    displayName: Typescript
    firstPublicationDate: "2019-10-28"
    icon: "https://www.eclipse.org/che/images/logo-eclipseche.svg"
    name: typescript
    publisher: che-incubator
    repository: "https://github.com/Microsoft/vscode"
    title: "Typescript language features"
    type: "VS Code extension"
    version: remote-bin-with-override-entrypoint
    spec:
      containers:
        - image: "example/fedora-for-ts-remote-plugin-without-endpoint:latest"
          memoryLimit: 512Mi
          name: vscode-typescript
          args:
            - sh
            - -c
            - ${PLUGIN_REMOTE_ENDPOINT_EXECUTABLE}
      extensions:
        - "https://github.com/che-incubator/ms-code.typescript/releases/download/v1.35.1/che-typescript-language-1.35.1.vsix"

    Eclipse Che calls the entrypoint.sh wrapper script defined in the ENTRYPOINT command of the Dockerfile. The script executes [ ‘sh’, ‘-c”, ‘ ${PLUGIN_REMOTE_ENDPOINT_EXECUTABLE}’ ] using the exec “$@” command.

To execute a service when starting the container and also to start a remote plug-in endpoint, use meta.yaml with modified command and args properties. Start the service, detach the process, and start the remote plug-in endpoint, and they then work in parallel.

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