Lab test: Climb aboard Ruby on Rails
The InfoWorld Test Center sifts through nine Rails IDEs and editors to help you choose the tools to suit your development needs
NetBeans grew up as a Java IDE and is a Sun product, so it's no surprise that it has excellent support for JRuby. It also supports standard Ruby, however, and has a Ruby Platform Manager to let you choose the Ruby interpreter used for a project.
The NetBeans Ruby source code editor demonstrates all sorts of intelligence about code formatting and syntax. In addition, a right-click in the code editor brings up a context menu that lets you navigate from action to view to test to declaration, rename, refactor, reformat, run, test, set a breakpoint, debug, or find usages. Each common action has a keystroke equivalent displayed on the menu; use the menu enough and you'll learn them naturally. This is similar to the way TextMate bundles behave, although not as programmable.
Right-clicking in the project view brings up a context menu that lets you generate a new resource, create a new file, run or debug rake tasks, add plug-ins, or run tests. Any time you cause a command to run, it opens a new tab in the window at the bottom of the workspace for the output. If there is error output, references to lines of code are hyperlinked to make it easy to jump to the correct code, very much like 3rdRail.
The code editor supports a number of shortcuts, snippets, and code templates, including a subset of the TextMate snippets. The number of predefined Ruby and RHTML templates in NetBeans pales beside the number of Java templates, but you can define your own templates.
NetBeans uses the ruby-debug-ide gem for fast debugging. It came configured for the fast debugger in JRuby but not standard Ruby; I had a little trouble convincing it to switch to fast debugging for standard Ruby, but it did eventually catch on after a couple of restarts and an update.
NetBeans may well be the overall pick of this review group, at least based on the numbers. Whether it should be your own pick, however, depends on your personal preferences. For example, Eclipse fans may prefer RadRails or 3rdRail, and fans of "bundles" may prefer TextMate or E.
More information about NetBeans, including five videos, can be found here.
[Jump to the review of the Ruby on Rails IDE of your choice from the list below:
SapphireSteel Ruby in Steel Developer Edition 1.2 and Text Edition 1.1.5
Aptana RadRails 1.0
ActiveState Komodo IDE 4.3 and Edit 4.3
CodeGear 3rdRail 1.1
NetBeans IDE 6.1
MacroMates TextMate 1.5.7
JetBrains IntelliJ IDEA 7.0.3 with Ruby plug-in 1.0
E Text Editor 1.0.20 Beta
Intype 0.3.1 Alpha]