Monday, June 12, 2006

Ruby IDE

'What IDE should I use' is a very popular nuby question. Unfortunately, there isn't a vastly superior option; therefore, the answer depends largely on your personal preferences.

The current popular options for ruby development are TextMate and RadRails. TextMate is a very popular editor that provides keyword highlighting and integrated test execution. TextMate is very extensible and allows for a high level of customization. TextMate appears to be the popular choice for Mac OS X users. Unfortunately, it is only available for Mac OS X. Also, it's not specific to ruby and it is only an editor.

RadRails also provides keyword highlighting and adds a few capabilities such as the ability to start and stop webrick, generators, and other various short-cuts. RadRails is built on the Eclipse RCP. RadRails is considered an IDE because of the additional features. Some of my co-workers find the auto-completion helpful; however, the majority of features didn't really help me; therefore, I consider it basically just another editor. Of course, often you get what you pay for.

Another option is to use IntelliJ combined with the Simple Syntax Highlighting plug-in. IntelliJ has great Subversion integration, local history, and great JavaScript support. IntelliJ can be heavy at times, but with a few tweaks I found to be my favorite windows ruby development environment.

There are other editors in the ruby space:
  • ActiveState: Komodo
  • Arachno
  • RIDE - ME
  • FreeRIDE
I haven't included links to these because I see no reason to refer any traffic. Upon review, none of the above provide any additional features (of any value) when compared to the popular options. Frankly, I see no competitive advantage to any of these IDEs. In a PostIntelliJ world, why are the only current options nothing more than glorified editors?

I would love to see JetBrains move into the ruby space, but I'm not holding my breath. Can you imagine developing a large C# or Java application without a great IDE? Ruby is simple enough that it is possible to develop a large application simply using TextMate; however, an IDE that added refactoring support would certainly improve productivity.


  1. Anonymous12:05 AM

    Have you actually used TextMate? In my opinion, it's a lot more than _just_ a text editor. While I agree that it falls slightly short of what one might consider a full-blown IDE, the plugins available for it (especially the Rails plugin) provide everything I've ever actually _liked_ about IDEs.

  2. Anonymous8:29 AM

    I use TextMate for ruby development on a daily basis. I love TextMate, but it is the self proclaimed 'missing _editor_ for Mac OS X.'

    That said, I probably need to use the plugins a bit more. Do you recommend any other than the Rails one?

  3. Thanks for a great post. I was toying around with the idea of using Komodo's IDE for Ruby but was a little more than disappointed with the cost. Being new to Ruby and to the Mac environment in general, I was a little lost.

    Thanks for giving a C#, VisualStudio immigrant some much-needed guidance.


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