Friday 11 July 2008

Rails IDEs

I use Ruby-on-Rails to develop my own sites. It also makes up the majority of the projects that I am involved in at work. I will happily sing its praises and there’s no other language I’d prefer to be writing code in at the moment.

Our other Web applications are written in Java, so our IDE of choice is Eclipse. It’s a fantasticly fully featured open source IDE that is also a development platform if you care to use it as such.

Until the end of 2007 we were using and watching the progress of a couple of Ruby and Rails plugins for Eclipse called Ruby Developent Tools and RadRails. These Ruby development some of the same tools that graced the Java developement environment in Eclipse.

Sadly though, another larger Eclipse plugin vendor called Aptana made the developers of each of the existing tools an offer they couldn’t refuse. RadRails and RDT were absorbed into the monolithic Aptana plugin.

Aptana is downloadable as either a standalone application or as an Eclipse plugin. It has various versions that include Jaxer (an AJAX server), tools for developing against the Apple iPhone and Adobe’s AIR platform.

I have nothing against large applications as long as they are well written – although I would state a preference for the small is beautiful philosophy.

Unfortunately, since installation of Aptana, our Eclipse based development machines run like dogs and crash all the time. Evenutally after having to kill the eclipse process time after time, some corruption creeps into one of the plugin files and Eclipse will no longer start up. We then start the process of removing, downloading and reinstalling 79MB of Aptana plugin that can only be installed using the automatic update site.

The ruby/rails plugins are the best that we’ve found, allowing us to visually debug rails applications, run tests and browse our applications intelligently, but at the moment they’re wasting so much of our time that we’re seriously considering going back to a plain text editor.

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