Michael Lehenbauer
Michael Lehenbauer Core Developer April 09, 2013

Announcing Firepad - Our Open Source Collaborative Text Editor

Today we’re really excited to announce Firepad, a Firebase-powered open source collaborative text editor.

Firepad provides true collaborative editing, complete with intelligent OT-based merging and conflict resolution. It’s full-featured and has support for both rich text and code editing. Some of its features include cursor position synchronization, undo / redo, text highlighting, user attribution, presence detection, and version checkpointing.

Firepad is powered by Firebase, so it’s built entirely with client-side code. You can add it to any application simply by adding the JavaScript code to your project. You don’t need to configure servers or write any server-side code. For example, the Firepad website itself is composed entirely of static content and is served from GitHub Pages.

Since it’s powered by Firebase, Firepad provides all of the features you would normally expect from a Firebase app: low latency updates, offline mode support, first-class security controls, automatic scaling, and easy data accessibility. Firepad stores the full revision history of your document in a Firebase database, so it’s easy to integrate Firepad documents into larger apps. Your data is available in all of the normal ways: through client libraries, the REST API, and your App Dashboard.

We’ve put particular effort into providing an easy-to-use JavaScript API for Firepad so that you can integrate it into your apps. Firepad is based on the powerful CodeMirror editor, so you’ll have access to all of its APIs as well.

We Heard You Loud and Clear

After our launch last year we saw a slew of activity around Firebase and real-time text editing. It quickly became apparent that this was the primary use-case for many of our developers. After seeing at least a dozen separate implementations, we thought it was time to lend a hand.

Building a correctly-implemented, full-featured collaborative text editor is a difficult task, even with the help of Firebase. Since our team already had some expertise in this area (It helped that I previously led the editor team for Visual Studio at Microsoft), we decided that the best approach would be to build our own complete version as an open source project. This way our developers could start their projects from a solid foundation without needing to take the time to build their own.

What’s the Big Deal?

High-quality collaborative document editing has so far been the domain of only a select few (generally large) companies. With Firepad, we aim to change that. Our goal is to enable any developer to build a high quality collaborative experience, whether her company is as big as Google or not.

We’re already off to a good start. Socrates.io, Atlassian, and Action.io have put Firebase into production, and many more apps are in the works. If you want collaborative editing in your app, now is a good time to give it a try. There’s no server software to write or infrastructure to set up; just drop in the JavaScript and go.

Credit Where Credit is Due

Firepad was not built from scratch. We depend on the CodeMirror editor to actually render the document. We chose CodeMirror as we believe it has the best API of any open source editor.

We also borrowed from the code and concepts of ot.js. Thank you Tim Baumann!

The Future

Our launch of Firepad today is just the beginning. We will continue to actively develop Firepad to ensure it remains the best way to add real-time collaboration to your text editing app.

We hope the community will help us on this mission. Firepad is on Github, and all of the code is MIT-licensed, so feel free to fork and play to your heart’s content. We’ve even included a test suite to help you catch any bugs. And, if you build something great, please send us a pull request!

One area where we expect to see significant interest is in extending our support for rich text. Our rich text operational transform code is designed to be easily extended, so if you want to add additional formatting options, just jump in and give it a try. We’ll soon be adding new features here as well, including bulleted lists, text alignment options, and more.

We look forward to seeing what you build! As always, we love feedback, so please get in touch with your thoughts, comments, and suggestions.

You can try Firepad live in your browser, read the documentation, and more at Firepad.io.


See coverage in Wired, TechCrunch, GigaOm, and TechCocktail.

Firepad now support the Ace editor! Read about getting started with Ace in the Firepad documentation.

Share this article

More Firebase Articles

Nov 12, 2015
Securing user data with Bolt
Nov 09, 2015
Introducing the Bolt Compiler
Nov 06, 2015
The Firebase CLI: now with database commands
Oct 29, 2015
Managing Development Environments with Firebase
Oct 15, 2015
Best practices for the iOS UIViewController and Firebase
Oct 13, 2015
Google Login and Firebase CLI 2.0.0
Oct 13, 2015
Divshot has Joined Firebase!
Oct 07, 2015
Client-side fan-out for data consistency
Oct 01, 2015
Email notifications with Firebase, Android Studio and App Engine
Sep 24, 2015
Introducing multi-location updates and more