RadRails IDE speeds Web app development
Open-source IDE incorporates Ruby on Rails command-line functions, automates testing
A framework for developing Web applications, Ruby on Rails uses the object-oriented Ruby language and a model-view-controller pattern, which keeps the various chunks of functionality in the application separate while allowing them to work together as an integrated whole. Many developers find this a more congenial way to build Web applications than PHP, which lumps all the functionality together in a single file. An additional attraction of Rails is its integrated AJAX support.
RadRails, a free open source project, is an IDE for Ruby on Rails framework. The project’s goal is “to provide Rails developers with everything they need to develop, manage, test and deploy their applications,” according to the RadRails Web site.
Released late in July 2006, RadRails 0.7 goes a long way toward achieving those project goals. Rails applications include a plethora of folders and files: a freshly generated, empty Rails project has 12 subdirectories. Controllers written in Ruby pair with views written in RHTML (HTML with embedded Ruby server code). And a single key combination in RadRails makes flipping from controller to view and back nearly effortless.
Conventional Rails coding forces the developer to switch from the editor to a console to a Web browser, and from editing one file to editing another file. RadRails effectively moves most of this activity into one convenient tabbed IDE.
Of course, RadRails is hardly the only way to develop Rails apps. Some of its competition is commercial: TextMate on Mac OS X is an editor that supports 50 programming languages and ships with Ruby on Rails highlighting and macros; it’s popular among Mac Rails developers.
Another commercial competitor, Komodo, is an IDE for dynamic languages that runs on Linux, Mac OS X, Solaris, and Windows. Komodo is one of the few IDEs that can debug a Ruby on Rails application, but I’ve found its debugging to be so slow that I rarely use it. SlickEdit is a capable and responsive multi-platform, multi-language code editor that includes good Ruby support.
RadRails has its share of free competition, too. Ruby ships with SciTE, a free editor that supports many programming languages, and FreeRIDE, a free cross-platform Ruby IDE written in Ruby. FreeRIDE will eventually have refactoring functionality. And of course, just about every development platform has free versions of vi and emacs.
Getting on track
RadRails is an Eclipse RCP plug-in. The standalone version, which includes the parts it needs of Eclipse, is a 45MB download. The Eclipse 3.2 SDK is a 120MB download, so you’re better off downloading the standalone RadRails unless you need the other perspectives in the Eclipse SDK. I tested the standalone Windows version of RadRails 0.7 on Windows XP SP2 with Java 1.5, Ruby 1.8.4, and Rails 1.1.4.