2006-01-17

This article was written in 2006. Please see the notes and comments for more up-to-date information about available IDES. All that are listed here are still viable, but there is new information below.

Getting settled in with a good editor for RoR is hard.. especially if you’re new to the game. I use Windows pretty exclusively, but most of the editors I’ll talk about are cross platform. If you use Linux you might find this interesting.. if you use Mac you’re a lucky bastard and you have Textmate.

I’m writing this mainly as a guide for people just getting started with RoR, so don’t freak out if you don’t see every single editor listed here, becuse I’m only going to list about three. These are just some that I recommend you try if you’re first starting. All of these are free.


SciTE

Great editor.. nice highlighting. SciTE is extremely fast to load and run, but really lacks some of the speed features for actual editing a lot of other editors have. This is ok if you’re used to doing everything completely by hand, but not so great if you want plugins and more customization. There are a lot of things that are really hidden in this program so it’s good to play around with config files if you find it to be really good for what you do.

RadRails

Very good editor based on eclipse. It’s a big fat Java app so it’s slow to start, but it’s very nice to run. It’s specifically designed to be a Rails IDE and it defiintely is. You can run multiple servers easily, use it to generate pretty much everything you can do via commandline, but it gives you a nice GUI for it too. Syntax highlighting is beautiful and specifically done per-filetype (which can be good or bad I guess). Easy viewing via project trees and you can even work with your database info from within the application. I recommend this one for most people starting out in Ruby on Rails if you’re just starting and not used to any fancy plugins or macros from your other editors. Also recommended if you’re familiar with eclipse stuff (you’ll want to run it as a plugin probably).

jEdit

The programmer’s editor. I’ve been a jEdit fan for a long time, so I’m very biased towards it when it comes to picking out an editor for myself. If you’re going to use it for RoR stuff you’re going to want to have the ruby plugin and the project viewer plugin. These will give you easy workflow with your application. The ruby plugin helps highlighting and some simple syntax editing things that jEdit doesn’t do natively. I pretty much have jEdit setup like RadRails is looks-wise. Why would I choose jEdit over RadRails then? Because jEdit is pretty damn simple and does everything I want - not just RoR. RadRails is simple for RoR alone, but eclipse isn’t really all that simple of an editor to use for all your daily tasks. I’m not going to spend any time debating jEdit vs. Eclipse because this is just a quick-start guide for people looking for an editor.
jEdit has support for just about any language you can think and it’s a great all-around editor. I love plugins like SuperAbbrevs and XML to help make my coding easier. With these plugins you can get jEdit to behave very close to how TextMate does.

Alls well that ends well

I recommend you try at least jEdit and RadRails. They’ll both get you started and do all that you need and more. Both will grow with you and grow on you.

Edit
I’ve written a tutorial on how to get TextMate like functionality in jEdit. You’ll want to go through this is if you use jEdit for RoR.

Edit 2- 2008/04/08
This pages gets a lot of traffic. I hope the comments help. Please keep in mind this article was written quite awhile back - back in 2006 - and options like eclipse and netbeans weren’t as well put-together as they are today. My recommendations now are the following:

jEdit
Netbeans

I haven’t use radrails in awhile and I’m not familiar with what eclipse has to offer. Personally I’m still using jEdit and I’ve launched a few rails projects with it.. triviathis.com is my most recent. Again please remember I’m only putting down info about things I can run in a Windows environment.

56 Responses to “Best IDE/Editor for Ruby on Rails?”

  1. Béranger Says:

    I’m using editors written in Ruby and making use of FOX and Scintilla. (Also RadRails.)
    http://beranger.org/index.php?article=810

  2. Dmitry Om. Says:

    jEdit with Ruby Plugin. Does IntelliSense for free, and auto-shows the related documentation. Pretty good, but requires some adjustements because by default all those advantages are not activated. Worth to invest 1-2 hours to do it and be happy for a long long time.
    Works for ANY platform.
    PLUS!!! : you can add shortcuts aka (or even EXACTLY AS) super-pooper editor, used by Mac fanboys, incl. creator of Ruby on Rails. I.e. Alt-somekey - and the whole piece of frequently used code is copied and ready to be edited a bit, setting the cursor in the appropriate place.

    RadRails.org is not bad, too.

  3. Chris Says:

    I have been using radrails for a little while, and my impression is that although it is a good idea, it’s much to heavy, I regularly get programs like outofMemory >> Java heap. I have a fairly fast pc with 1 Gb Ram, so it should work better IMHO.
    I’ll surely give JEdit a try, as I would like to work a bit faster!
    I’m so envious of the Mac-boys and girls when I see how TextMate works. We NEED a port for Linux now - yesterday.

  4. magpie Says:

    Do check out SlickEdit (www.slickedit.com), IMHO the best general programmers editor/IDE, and possibly the most expensive. It now supports Ruby, including things like jumping to method declarations and finding references. I find it struggles with Ruby’s dynamism especially when giving the usual droplist of possible methods for an object (is there an IDE that does this well with Ruby ?). However SlickEdit has a wonderful ability to complete against words before and/or after the cursor, even words inside strings. Ctr-Shift- looks forward, and Ctrl-Shift-Space extends a selected match to include text following the match location. So it actually works regardless of language or correct syntax.

  5. George Says:

    magpie, there is quite a bit of difference between support for Ruby syntax and support for RoR. RadRails is a RoR IDE meaning that it has support for RoR specific functionality. Yes you do use Ruby as the language but there is a lot more than just that and if your IDE was not designed with RoR in mind when you will find yourself doing a lot of things in a terminal/shell. So SlickEdit is pretty much the same as using SciTE only SciTE is free.

    Chris, I find hard to believe that you have memory problems with RadRails on a 1gb computer. Not only that but there are certain design decision made by the Java devs that would make this almost impossible. You most likelly have either a very old version of Java or some software problem that is not really caused by RadRails. All that said RadRails is not really that heavy. Yes it does start kinda slow but this is normal for a Java applications and plus the initial load time of ~5 secs is hardly anything to complain about. Also if you really hate waiting you can always move the Java page files to a ram disk and save about 2-3 secs from the load time. I’ve been using RadRails for about an year now and though it has glitches at times it works great and saves me a lot of time. Keep in mind that if you are reading a book on RoR it would tell you how to do things in a shell and RadRails might already do some things for you. ( not a bad thing )

  6. dog Says:

    If you are running out of memory using eclipse (RadRails) try running eclipse with a command line such as:

    eclipse.exe -vmargs -Xms128M -Xmx700M -XX:MaxGCPauseMillis=2000

    that will help a lot. I use:

    eclipse.exe -vmargs -Xverify:none -Xms128M -Xmx700M -XX:MaxGCPauseMillis=2000

    Also, using jdk1.6 will make things extremely fast!

  7. DigitalHobbit » Blog Archive » Ruby Editors / IDEs Says:

    [...] lternative setups for using vim with Rails, some of which sound quite powerful. Resources Best IDE / Editor for Ruby on Rails (a similar comparison) Finding the best [...]

  8. Gary Haran Says:

    You should mention Gedit which comes with Snippets and Side Pane. It’s the closest I came to having Textmate features. I also created another plugin which can be downloaded from my blog:

    http://www.garyharan.com/index.php/2006/11/16/gemini-gedit-plugin-for-all-those-textmate-fans/

  9. dwayne Says:

    Vim and emacs make all others look stupid. Use your head, textmate is a wanabee. But hey pay more for less if it makes you guys feel better

  10. Kevin Galligan Says:

    As a java addict, I’ll give you a little help with using eclipse…

    eclipse.exe -vmargs -Xms160M -Xmx512M -XX:MaxPermSize=128M

    MaxPermSize is important if you have a lot of plugins on there. Essentially, its the part of the heap where your class definitions and other related stuff is kept. If too small, you’ll get OOM errors with cryptic messages. We had a few days of production hell at the previous job as a result of that little guy (not in eclipse. In weblogic)

  11. Alex Says:

    Get Komodo Edit. It’s perfect for Ruby on Rails. And its Free

  12. Neville Franks Says:

    I’ve just finished a significant upgrade to our IDE, ED for Windows to include Ruby language support. I’ve written a Blog post at: http://blog.surfulater.com/2007/02/21/write-ruby-code-faster-with-ed-for-windows/ which will give you a good overview of ED’s capabilities with a specific focus on Ruby.

    ED4W is a full featured Programmer’s Editor/IDE with support for 30+ languages. It includes all of the editing capabilities you would expect plus a built-in Source Database Engine that tracks every class, method, module, struct etc. in real time enabling you to instantly jump to any function etc. and making navigation of large complex code bases much easier.

    I’m particularly interested in feedback on the new Ruby capabilities in this release. I tested various Ruby editors and was surprised at how poor a job they’d done with even basic things like syntax highlighting.

    The ED Web site is at http://www.getsoft.com I suggest you start with the Blog post though.

    Neville Franks, Author of ED for Windows and Surfulater.

  13. seb Says:

    Hi,
    You may have a look at the editors I have been trying and compared : Idea, NetBeans and Eclispe RDT / RadRails,
    http://tnlessone.wordpress.com/2007/02/28/ruby-rails-ide-comparison-idea-netbeans-radrails/
    Regards,
    seb

  14. Leslie Kaye Says:

    I just launched an IDE for Windows - still beta but usable
    http://www.les-kaye.com/

  15. James Perih Says:

    Alex is right on the money — Komodo Edit for the Windows platform; TextMate, as great as it is on the Mac, does not come close to Komodo Edit.

    Komodo Edit is also available for the Mac and Linux, but I think they’ve done a better job on the Windows edition.

  16. you Says:

    what’s about this new IDE?

    http://rubyforge.org/forum/forum.php?forum_id=14142

  17. webdr Says:

    IMO the best IDEs are shareware, so i cant pay like a lot users that much for an IDE. But i can make some changes (like a trick) on activestate’S Komodo Edit to use it like Ruby IDE.
    Also Ruby Development Tool -> http://sourceforge.net/projects/rubyeclipse
    is not a bad choice.

  18. James Perih Says:

    Umm… yeah, I like Textmate a lot more now than KomodoEdit for the Mac.

  19. freeman Says:

    Try the new NetBeans for rails - from this site
    http://deadlock.nbextras.org/hudson/job/ruby/lastBuild/artifact/scripting/ruby/rubyide/dist/
    and you will stop all disscussions about the Greatest IDE :)

  20. Jonathan Says:

    I’m very new to RoR and I want to start off right so i’ve been doing a ton of research first. I just downloaded Aptana which I can’t believe it hasn’t even been mentioned thus far. I read that Aptana recently incorporated both ruby development tools (and hired their lead developer) as well as the RadRails IDE project mentioned above. And it’s free with what seems like tons of user community support as well. I liked Komodo but don’t feel like paying $300 for it so if anyone has any reasons not to use Aptana, please tell me because that is what I’m going with.

  21. Dennis D Says:

    I agree with Jonathan. How come Aptana wasn’t mentioned before. I’ve been using Aptana + Rails foor a couple of days now and I havn’t found anything missing yet…

    D

  22. Looking for efficient Rails environment at Where’s Lou Says:

    [...] w.eclipse.org/” target=”_blank”> Started first by looking online. Some things here and here lead me to believe it’s going to be jEdit with it [...]

  23. Herb Says:

    I was using Eclipse with Ruby/Rails plugins since starting development in January and I recently came by this page. oh Man! No completion, no doc, no helpful popups, nothing like I’ve seen in the Aptana.tv demos recently. I’ve been missing alot but now I see the light! Impressive.

  24. Anil Says:

    Hello, everyone. Would you guys mind participating in the first poll on this page, titled “Which Editor/IDE Do You Use For Ruby/Rails Development?”

    http://visualpatterns.com/polls.jsp

    Thanks in advance.

  25. Dave Says:

    In Windows, I’ve been using e-texteditor. It has a lot of the same features of Textmate, plus some of its own unique features. It’s in beta right now so you can use it for free, and new versions are constantly being released.

  26. Andrew Says:

    Of all the ones I’ve tried (text editors and IDE’s) the one I find the best is “e Text Editor”. Its kinde like textmate for windows

  27. Firas Says:

    Just a small clarification for those that were asking …
    RadRails is actually the Aptana IDE with a plugin for Ruby on Rails.

    http://www.aptana.com/download_rails_rdt.php

  28. polypus Says:

    i just did a little write up for the latest version of gedit (which has many improvements) for rails: http://crepuscular-homunculus.blogspot.com/2007/10/gedit-for-ruby-and-everything-else-on.html

  29. fox Says:

    have you guys every tried RDE?

  30. Zigzo Zlinks Says:

    I have tried all of the mentioned IDEs and so far i cant find anythng that beats RoRED ( http://plasmacode.com/ ).

  31. Jonathan Says:

    Well it seems this blog is still getting some attention. I have been trying to get started in ROR for a couple months now. I’m very new but very determined. i like having the best tools to ge started so that is what I’m after. First of all it seems there is the debate over amped up text-editor vs. full blown IDE. I think the text-editor will work just fine for me especially if it offers a significant time savings (loading, saving, etc…) but I just don’t know. I’ve pretty much loaded tehm all at one point. I like Aptana which is the Radrails project but it is a full blown IDE and also in Java so SLOW. And now they are charging at least for the “pro” version which I’m not sure you need for ROR but it leaves to question are they going to continue the “community” edition or force me to pay eventually. I don’t like stuff that starts off free and then charges for the “better version” after you are already using it. I really think the way to go is e-text editor (textmate for windows clone). I think this is the new kid on the block and it’s $34 but seems very good and it’s very fast (written in Ruby) and then there is Jedit which I think is pretty darn good but written in Java so somewhat slow. So what would you pick? Aptana, e-text editor, or Jedit ?? Thanks, Jonathan

  32. Jonathan Says:

    Well I went ahead and made up my own mind. I went with Aptana and Radrails. It just works so nice and it works great on Vista also (in administrator mode). Everything is really nice and works great. I am using it with my instant rails installation. I set the ruby vm up in the Aptana configuration and that worked great. I started my first project and set the workspace on that project to be the actual application folder inside my existing instant rails folder I already started. Now everything is right there. Initially I was getting an error trying to install rad rails in Aptana but their forum helped right away. All you have to do is uncheck some integration option on install and it installs error free. I still haven’t decided if I need the pro version or not but it starts out with a 30 day trial free. I’ll probably go ahead just for the support option since it’s only $100. See ya in the rails development arena soon! And thanks for everyone above comments on IDE’s / editors. Thanks ~ Jonathan

  33. Andrew Says:

    I vote for NetBeans 6.0 with the ruby on rails plugins. http://www.netbeans.org/features/ruby/index.html

    It’s Java, but it runs much faster than Eclipse and has the best rails support of any IDE I’ve tried.

  34. udav_pit Says:

    In my point of view an IntelliJ IDEA the best for Java/Grails/RoR

    http://www.jetbrains.com/idea/features/

    But you must pay for it.

  35. piersonthe.net » Blog Archive » links for 2008-01-19 Says:

    [...] Best IDE/Editor for Ruby on Rails? - jesse crouch’s log » Blog Archive (tags: rails ide editor) [...]

  36. alberto Says:

    what about TextMate? Its an excellent option

  37. ankraj Says:

    RadRails is the best.

  38. ersin Says:

    i use jEdit .. and like it.

  39. meatbeard Says:

    I use rails extensively for web application development and find that Netbeans has just kicked the ball out of the part with their ruby and rails IDE. It has everything a full featured commercial IDE should and at the right cost …free. Netbeans also provides a facility to craft jRuby applications which is nice. the set was quite easy and worked seamlessly right out of the box

  40. sikanrong Says:

    where the hell is TextMate?

  41. sharo Says:

    Notepad++
    Aptana IDE
    Netbeans 6

  42. jessecrouch Says:

    Also… I’ve heard a little (not much) about e-texteditor: http://www.e-texteditor.com/

    It’s supposed to be a textmate clone for windows. I’d still say jEdit clones pretty much all textmates functionality (or vice versa), but I’d like to hear some reviews on e-texteditor if anyone has one.

  43. cezar Says:

    GNU Emacs FTW ! I use it and it’s more than great also I think feature wise is my first choice. Check out this website if you wanna learn more:

    http://dima-exe.ru/rails-on-emacs

    Regards,
    Cezar

  44. Muhammad Says:

    For me Heroku is the easiest as we don’t need to install anything.

    Try

    http://heroku.com

  45. Getting Started with Ruby on Rails « OLM On Rails Says:

    [...] part of all this is getting settled into a familiar development environment.  There are some good discussions out there on what people use as RoR IDEs.  Since I don’t have a week to throw away learning [...]

  46. John Says:

    RadRails works, except when it doesn’t. It works just enough percentage of the time where you might think it’s okay, but then it just randomly crashes. Whoever is doing error checking and testing at Aptana deserves to be fired. I’ve never seen software released with just blatant errors, except maybe in an alpha version. I honestly wonder if they even test there releases. I highly recommend you do not use Aptana.

  47. David Says:

    I gotta second John, just above. I’ve been using RadRails for a few days now, and it’s great! … when it stays running. I’ll try some of the command line java-parameter fudging nonsense, but, based on comments here, I’m going to also give NetBeans a try. I may just put up with gvim and terminals…

  48. Fun with Ruby on Rails: The Installations | Just Another Tech Blog Says:

    [...] in the interests of vendor neutrality, there are many different IDE applications available. This article will give you a few options or your good friend Google might also [...]

  49. John (another one) Says:

    Leaving RadRails for similar reasons as stated above… TODAY, in fact. I’m tired of random crashes and corrupted .metadata dirs that leave the app unusable unless you forfeit your settings et al. Trying RubyMine, but will probably spring for a Mac-top of some sort. I love Textmate. I don’t love the bloat and shotgun IDE featureset of Aptana, RubyMine, etc.

    What is everyone using now? Thanks for the talk here by the way.

  50. Mohamed Aslam Says:

    @jessecrouch

    Yeah! I have e-text editor. It’s a textmate clone for windows which supports textmate code bundles. Other than that I also like multi platform support ActiveState Komodo edit. It’s a free and open source text editor supports almost all languages like e-texteditor.

    If you need a rapid RoR IDE I highly recommend the NetBeans IDE. It’s very fast and easy to handle and debug.

    Personally I don’t like the Aptana since it’s uses the Firefox 2.0 browser for it’s executions. I use the Ubuntu as my development environment. So, installing the Aptana is really a nightmare. I tried it with both Ubuntu and Windows. But I’m not satisfied. :(

  51. John (yet another one Says:

    There’s a Visual Studio plugin called Ruby in Steel

    http://www.sapphiresteel.com/

  52. Jerry Says:

    Aptana? I never got it to work after so many dates. forget it.

  53. Brad Says:

    I have worked extensively in 3rd Rail, Eclipse and NetBeans (6.5.1).

    I was an early adopter for 3rd Rail and stuck with them in order to support Borland’s attempts to bring to Rails what Delphi did to drag and drop programming and Turbo Pascal did for the masses back in its day.

    After Embarcadero bought them out, I noticed that 3rd Rail just fell off a cliff. I tried for many months unsuccessfully to get it to run on my Ubuntu Hardy/Intrepid/Jaunty 64 bit system. No luck. I was also a JBuilder user from the first JBuilder release with many projects in JBuilder (and for my 3rd Rail dev, many Rails projects waiting to be started).

    Again, JBuilder simply doesn’t run on my Linux 64 bit system. And it had many problems on a 32 bit system too.

    It’s all down to how Borland/Embarcadero implement Java wrappers in order to implement software licensing. They clobber the Java startup and the Java encironment and kill the ability to run various Java versions despite their claims to the contrary.

    And for commercial software, the support is very willing but ultimately they fall back on the “this is on an unsupported platform” get-out clause which, of course, you never get wtih OpenSource because the support is that much better than commercial software.

    So reluctantly I had to turn my back on both 3rdRail (and the hefty license fees that I paid as I bought the Enterprise versions) as well as JBuilder (even more extortionate license fees that are now worthless).

    I migrated to Eclipse. Not a problem running on 64 bits, straight “out the box” so to speak. Very reliable Java dev but nowhere near as nice or as RAD as JBuilder which IMHO knocks the spots of Eclipse on several fronts, from usability to features to shortcuts and code completion. Not to mention the profiling, debugging and optimisation. However, it does the job and it runs reliably.

    But for RoR, I tried the various Eclipse-based routes and they all suck in my opinion.

    So I then tried Netbeans for RoR. 6.5.1. First of all, the claim that JRuby is supported. Well… yes and no. Yes you can select it but no, it doesn’t do anything meaningful. You will be hacking around endlessly trying to track down obscure error messages. For example the gems system picks up the native installation not the JRuby, then there is the nightmare of paths and Netbeans will try to put gems into different places and then fail to recognise them or find them. The installation quickly becomes schizophrenic and that’s even before you hit the problems of “native calls are not supported” and other more JRuby-ish genuine problems.

    Okay, so try to use the native interpretor. This works a lot better but don’t expect to be able to meaningfully debug your application. Don’t also expect to be able to benefit from any application-generating features of any substance beyond simple generator-based calls. For example, 3rd Rail has proper application generation that allows you to quickly pull together scaffolding around an established database, set up DB relationship info and rapidly get to a workable application ala the Rails way and the beauty of Rails. Then in 3rd Rail you have very powerful debugging that truly understands Ruby and Rails, powerful code completion, etc.

    In Netbeans, it’s very clearly a case of an ill fitting shoe being forced onto the Rails foot. There system will allow you to write Rails code, for sure. But it’s really just a glorified text editor and the debugging is not worth having. It’s all but useless.

    If Netbeans is ever to come close to where 3rd Rail was when it first launched, I would say it’s got at least 2 major releases to go. But there are no signs that it is ever going down the same, powerful, application generating route as 3rd Rail. It’s very much a Java environment for Java programming with other languages tacked on and usable only at a very basic level.

    It’s a pity that Embarcadero has screwed up so badly with 3rd Rail. Had Borland been able to continue as a going concern and had continued the stewardship of 3rd Rail, it would have been the only player in town for Rails development. Sadly, Borland diversified too much and couldn’t survive its commercial blunders despite a very loyal core developer community.

    So now I am hunting around for something, anything, that will give me a proper Rails IDE.

  54. conspirisi Says:

    Is using something like Heroku actually viable to develop a rails app? I haven’t tried it myself only because I think it might be slow, running in the cloud like it does?

  55. brian Says:

    On a Mac, Xcode is actually fairly decent. I’ve been very unimpressed with all the rails IDEs I’ve tried, and I’m far from enthusiastic about Xcode for Objective-C, which is what it was presumably designed for. However Xcode is actually a lot better for Rails than it is for Objective-C, and so far it’s my favorite. It does basic ruby syntax hi-lighting and that’s about it, but it’s quick, clean, and easy. jEdit leaves all kinds of temp files scattered in my project….it’s worse than SVN at polluting my project with junk files. Of course I’m pretty new to this and I’ve yet to buy textmate. Also sapphiresteel.com looks really tempting but it’s a bit pricey and Windoze only, which is just bleh.

  56. Nico Says:

    Im using Netbeans since 2 years now or so for Rails in it works very well. I found it the most usable ide for Rails so far. Especially the debugger works great, for stepping through the code and watching variable values etc… Also its perfomance is rather good compared to some other ids I tried.

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