Noel Rappin Writes Here

Rubies in My Coffee

Posted on March 21, 2007


Now two of the big Java IDE’s are promoting Ruby language tools as a big thing. IntelliJ has a plugin in early beta, and NetBeans is also making a big deal of their new early beta support. Eclipse has had a Ruby/Rails plugin for about a year or so.

This is weird, weird, weird, that suddenly all the Java tools would feel the need to grow into somewhat ill-fitting Ruby IDE’s (Eclipse has always styled itself as more of a meta-IDE, so that’s a little less strange). But do we really need all these Windows Ruby IDE’s to be attached to big, memory hogging, Java tools. (And in IntelliJ’s case, I say that with love…)

I’ve played with all three now – I’ve used Eclipse for Windows-side Ruby editing for a while, and for the last few days I’ve been going back and forth between IntelliJ and NetBeans checking them out on an existing Rails project. None of the three are going to make me ditch TextMate yet (although I’d say the big tools all have somewhat more developed project support that TextMate).

IntelliJ’s plugin really strikes me as Not Ready Yet. For one thing, there’s no syntax checking on .rhtml files, which is a big problem. Also, there’s a cool Rails project view, that associates the .rhtml files with the appropriate controller method, but there didn’t seem to be an obvious way to get to partial .rhtml files. Another minor frustration is that the Ruby syntax layout is not customizable yet, the way the Java one is. It’s even hard to keep a separate setup so that Ruby files only have a two character indent. (And there’s a good sociology of programmers paper, on why Ruby is canonically a two character indent, not four).

This seems like a good place to point out that I still haven’t spent all that much time with any of the new tools, so it’s entirely possible I just missed something. For instance, even though the IntelliJ docs say there are Live Templates for Ruby, my installation didn’t seem to have them.

There’s some nice stuff in the IntelliJ tool – all the ctrl-N navigation works on Ruby classes and methods. It’s very easy to run arbitrary Rake tasks from the UI (although they seem to run kind of slowly) I don’t think syntax completion is there yet, but it does syntax check .rb files on the fly I’d like to see this one a few revs down the line.

The NetBeans tool is in their beta for version 6 (you have to download the tool, then grab Ruby support via the update center). I was kind of amazed to be liking this because I fled NetBeans in a huff around version 3 and haven’t had any success in trying it since. The syntax coloring and layout seems to be a bit stronger. It appears to be using JRuby not just for internal parsing, but also as the default external engine for running, say, WEBrick. Which makes everything feel a little slow. There is some syntax-completion – I found it a little hit-and-miss in terms of getting useful alternatives. The project view is nice – it flattens out all the /app subdirectories, but I couldn’t see an obvious way to run arbitrary rake tasks or the test suite. Although there is a keyboard shortcut to run an individual file, and if you try it in a view page, it attempts to open that action in a browser. My app has a slightly nonstandard route configuration, though, so it didn’t quite work for me.

I also had some stability problems, mostly with trying to run the server from NetBeans, it either hung or took a really long time to load. Development on this seems to be progressing rapidly – they are releasing new versions much more quickly than IntelliJ, so all these things could be fixed by Thursday.

Right now, NetBeans would be my pick of the three if I couldn’t use TextMate. I’m as surprised as anybody by that conclusion, but it felt pretty good as I was using it. Adding easy test hooks would help. All three tools are still under development (RDT for Eclipse just released a new version, and RadRails just passed to a new owner with new development promised). So, watch this space, I guess.

Update: Looks like NetBeans has a bug in reformatting code – it kind of messed up some of my source files. Nothing permanent, just kept indenting and not noting the end to outdent so the file kept creeping to the right.



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