For readers that haven’t seen it yet, PythonAnywhere is our new product, currently (like Dirigible) in a very early-access beta. It’s a cloud-based Python development environment, with in-browser consoles and editors. You can read more about it on the product’s page, and sign up for the beta there – when you sign up, we’ll send you an email; reply saying that you heard about PythonAnywhere on the devblog and we’ll put you at the front of the queue for joining the beta.

The product page says a certain amount about what PythonAnywhere is, but it’s doesn’t explain why we’re writing it – so we’ll do that here.

Basically, PythonAnywhere has grown out of Dirigible. When we asked Dirigible’s beta testers what they were using it for, a surprising number said that it was for general Python development online. They weren’t using the spreadsheet grid at all! So we took a look at our codebase, and realised that we could re-use it and produce something specialised for that specific task. A quick search made it clear that it would also be easy to provide a browser-based console – so we decide to add that too.

However, PythonAnywhere does differ a little from Dirigible. For example, when you’re writing Python code, you generally need a filesystem to load data from and store your calculations’ results – this could also be useful for a spreadsheet, but it’s not essential. Similarly, getting data into and out of a Python development environment is different to importing it into/exporting it from a spreadsheet – so we added Dropbox integration to PythonAnywhere.

That said, while some features are more important for a spreadsheet and some more important for an online IDE, most of the stuff we’ve added to PythonAnywhere looks like it would work well in Dirigible – so perhaps in the future we’ll back-port them, or try rebuilding Dirigible on top of PythonAnywhere. Time will tell.

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