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What are the ’Killer’ Features For A Ruby On Rails IDE?

Time To Have Your Say...
by Huw Collingbourne
Tuesday 10 April 2007.

Yes, folks, we really, really want to know. We’ve already got IntelliSense, fast debugging, a huge range of editing features (see HERE for a quick guide to some of these), built-in Rails tools, Ruby navigation tools (GoTo, Keyword..end matching, Navigation Bars, The Ruby Explorer etc.) and we’ve already announced the development of ‘visual’ Rails tools (more details on these soon).

But what other features do you need? Are there any things which other Ruby IDEs offer that we don’t? And (better still) what are the features which no other IDE has, but which would make your Ruby (and Rails) development happiness complete?

Leave us some comments here to let us know what you would like to see in future editions of Ruby In Steel. Be sure to check on the Feature List first (to make sure we don’t already have the features you are after) and also the Road Map (to check if those features are already under development).

OK, suggest away...!

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  • What are the ’Killer’ Features For A Ruby On Rails IDE?
    9 May 2007, by Cliff

    So...yeah...a little late to the party, I know, but I was a die-hard radrails user until recently, and it’s slow progress finally made me search for something..better and so far I love what I’m seeing. So here is what I’d like to see added (in no particular order)

    1) A more full featured rake window. for an example of what I mean, check out radrails (like I said...die-hard user) but it’s nice to have the dropdown reference with descriptions. the current type-in dialog box has me running back to a web-browser to look up the ’exact’ syntax every time.

    2) SVN support. Yes, I know it’s coming with 1.5 and there are problems with it, but since the problem appears to only be with initial setup, I’d say it’s worth the inconvenience. I think most users would agree.

    3) comment tasks. I’ve gotten *so* used to this in my VS c# projects that I type comments out of habit. Also makes multi-developer projects easier since tasks move around with SVN checkouts. :) Another thing radrails also does well, but they left out .rhtml support and don’t seem interested in fixing it.

    4) Launch the web server in a console tab instead of a separate command window. this may not be a big issue if the tail feature suggested by other users gets implemented, but it’s still nice to see what’s happening in a console in a moveable tab instead of having it hide behind the IDE all the time.

    that’s what I’ve got.

    • What are the ’Killer’ Features For A Ruby On Rails IDE?
      10 May 2007, by Huw

      Thanks for the feedback.

      1) Better Rake (and Generate windows) are coming in RiS Developer 1.1

      2) SVN - we want to get this right which is why we are holding off. To put it in perspective, although we’ve had a few requests for SVN, this feature is not as widely demanded as we had initially expected. Anyway, it will be added later.

      3) ToDos etc. will also be added. No date at the moment.

      4) In RiS Developer, WEBrick and Mongrel (i.e. Ruby servers) do run in the docked Ruby Console. LightTPD, however, currently has to be launched in a separate ’command window’. Ultimately, we intend that all external processes should launch inside docked windows. For technical reasons, this is not something we can do immediately, but we will do it over time.

      One final point, you mentioned rhtml support. While we do have this at the moment, we’ll be adding significant new features in the next few months. In fact, you’ll see some major improvements to all aspects of Rails development in version 1.2.

      best wishes

      Huw

      • What are the ’Killer’ Features For A Ruby On Rails IDE?
        10 May 2007, by Cliff

        Thank you so much for your quick response. Developer feedback alone is worth the purchase price, consider me sold!

        With that in mind, I suspect many users are using VisualSVN for subversion support, but because it relies on TortoiseSVN, I’ve found it is very sensitive to even minor tortoise updates (renaming appears broken currently) so I look forward to seeing integrated SVN support. Again, thanks for the quick reply and know that it achieved another customer today. :)

        • What are the ’Killer’ Features For A Ruby On Rails IDE?
          17 May 2007

          AnkhSVN is a good SVN plugin for VS: http://ankhsvn.tigris.org/

          I have used it since for relatively large projects and it has yet to break... (Apart from of course leaving the svn repos in an inconsistent state when killed - but then subversion suffers that problem in general)

  • What are the ’Killer’ Features For A Ruby On Rails IDE?
    20 April 2007, by Andrew

    Format Document support for rjs, rhtml, etc files would be super. I always seem to putz up my spacing, and it works great in .rb files :D

    • What are the ’Killer’ Features For A Ruby On Rails IDE?
      20 April 2007, by Huw

      On the ToDo List... :-)

      all the best

      Huw

  • What are the ’Killer’ Features For A Ruby On Rails IDE?
    16 April 2007

    I just want the current features to work. The cylon debugger keeps bring down VS.

    • What are the ’Killer’ Features For A Ruby On Rails IDE?
      17 April 2007, by Huw

      We need more information than that. ;-) This is the first report of any such problem so I’d be grateful if you could contact us with detailed information so that we can help you out. We’ll need operating system, version number of Ruby In Steel (is this the Developer or the Trial), the server (WEBrick, LightTPD, Mongrel) and a precise description of the sequence of events leading up to the problem. You are also welcome to join the forum where you will find we respond very rapidly to support requests.

      best wishes

      Huw

  • What are the ’Killer’ Features For A Ruby On Rails IDE?
    10 April 2007, by diego

    I would definitely like to see some visual tools. the ability to see at the layout and being able to change it wysiwyg style.

    I am going to throw some ideas, I have no clue if they are already implemented. These are mostly Rails based requests.

    svn support.

    Create class from existing tables. (mysql view, right click on table and pick generate/Model, expand to see fields)

    Drag and drop from database view into view (dragging user.login field into a view would insert something like <%= @user.login %>)

    Ability to debug the client-side of things. (javascript console, css etc. firebug style)

    Tail

    a Model Resources panel. A view somewhat similar to an Outline. Listing all of your Models and the Methods/Property declared within the project for easy drag and drop into a view/controller.

    a View Resources Panel. When Working in a specific view having the ability to see the instance variables declared in the controller’s action and/filters again for easy drag and drop into the view. (no more switching between tabs to see what has been declared and what wasn’t).

    While in debug mode. Highlight all the methods and filters that were executed. With an option to view the actual order those calls were executed.

    Ability to preview/debug in different browsers.

    auto-test like functionality.

    I have more ideas if you want more, but these seemed enough work.

    • What are the ’Killer’ Features For A Ruby On Rails IDE?
      10 April 2007, by Huw

      Some good ideas there. I can tell you that "Visual" is a word we are using a great deal around here at the moment. We’ve already given a few clues about what this will means for Ruby In Steel both in the Road Map and on the Blog but you’ll have to wait a little while before we fill out the details ;-)

      Subversion support is planned too. This isn’t yet on the RoadMap so no dates are attached to this. What I can tell you, though, is that it is under development.

      I’ll give some thought to your other ideas. We will be working on a numbver of Rails and database-specific features from version 1.2 onwards. We shall be constantly making improvements to the tools and user interface in Ruby In Steel so I’ll add your ideas onto our ’discussion list’. Please keep ’em coming! :-)

    • What are the ’Killer’ Features For A Ruby On Rails IDE?
      10 April 2007

      In general: Killer IDE features would be advanced IntelliSense that can compare with current state of the art for typed languages, debugger support again comparable to .Net/Java IDE’s and specific support specific frameworks like Rails, including a interactive GUI editor comparable to ASP.NET form editors etc. On paper you alread have IntelliSense, debugger support and rails support but not to the degree that I am referring to

      P.S: And yes subversion support would be very nice also!

      • What are the ’Killer’ Features For A Ruby On Rails IDE?
        10 April 2007, by Huw

        I’d be very grateful if you could let us know where our IntelliSense fails to deliver as we are determined to make this as good and accurate as possible. Obviously, in cases where there is literally no type information in the code, Ruby can never provide the same degree of IntelliSense as C# (unless you use our type assertions, that is), but it is our clear ambition to provide full IntelliSense whenever that is, in principle, possible. So we would greatly value any examples of failures to do so in order that we may correct them. ;-)

        best wishes

        Huw

    • What are the ’Killer’ Features For A Ruby On Rails IDE?
      10 April 2007

      I’ve done quite a bit of work on svn. However, it has one really, really stupid thing. If you want to put an existing project under source control you can, but you then can’t check it out without deleting the existing files! That’s bad enough, but you also have to delete the project/solution file -which you’ve got open!! Once you’ve done this, though, everything works ok. But that’s such a horrible thing to have to work around, that I’m going to wait until it’s fixed in svn 1.5 before releasing our client. I think 1.5 is due later this year.

      Debug: do you mean a trace of which filters were called? Or a display of the call stack at a break point showing the filters active at that point? If it’s the latter, then that is already there. But if it’s the former, I’m not really clear how it would be ’highlighed’?

      Dermot

  • What are the ’Killer’ Features For A Ruby On Rails IDE?
    10 April 2007

    The obvious:

    - Support for OS’s other than Windows (specifically....Linux)
    - Not requiring the purchase of another IDE just to buy your IDE.

    • What are the ’Killer’ Features For A Ruby On Rails IDE?
      10 April 2007, by Huw

      This is something that definitely won’t be happening ;-)

      Thre are lots of cross-platform IDEs and we wish them well. However, we are 100% committed to Visual Studio.

      best wishes

      Huw

  • What are the ’Killer’ Features For A Ruby On Rails IDE?
    10 April 2007, by Fjan

    - It would be really nice if intellisense could suggest the methods that are dynamically generated by Active Record. I frequently forget the name of a field of an AR object and I find myself going into the database viewer to look up the fieldname and back again. (I realize this would not be easy because it would require you to connect to the database with all the authentication hassels, but well... you asked for it)

    - Another gripe I have (this is more a Visual Studio thing than Ruby in Steel) is that there is no easy way to view the log files, there is no "tail" command such as in Unix. There are several windows shareware utilities to remedy this but none of them does ANSI coloring right and it would be nicer to have it in a VS window.

    - I don’t like the way some characters in Ruby are overloaded to mean multiple things in different contexts. This is a Ruby problem but an intelligent text editor could fix this. For example ’>=’ could be shown as a proper "greater than" character, similar for ’!=’, ’>=’, ’=>’, etc. This would lower the cognitive load on the programmer and is helpful for dysletics like me who can never remember whether it’s ’tilde=’ or ’=tilde’ in a regexp.

    • What are the ’Killer’ Features For A Ruby On Rails IDE?
      10 April 2007

      Rails is difficult to do because a) Rails is a pig to parse for IntelliSense: very, very dynamic! and b) Rails relies on ’context’ - i.e. where the files are in relation to each other and what they are called. Still, I think AR is doable, so I’ll have a go at that.

      Tail - that’s a nice idea. I’ll have a think about it. I can’t see any technical reason why it cant be done.

      Character glyphs: that’s tricky. The real problem is that Ruby is essentially ASCII + a few not very good hacks for Japanese characters. It isn’t Unicode by any stretch - that’s supposedly coming in Ruby 2, from what I remember. It might be doable via a custom Encoding class, but I can’t think of an easy way to preserve the spacing. A real ’>=’ glyph would only take up one space while in the underlying file, it would take up two positions. It would be very difficult to maintain a map for say, error reporting.

      Dermot

      • Unicode in Ruby & Steel
        11 April 2007, by Fjan

        The real problem is that Ruby is essentially ASCII + a few not very good hacks for Japanese characters. It isn’t Unicode by any stretch - that’s supposedly coming in Ruby 2

        I’m not sure what you mean by this, both Ruby and Steel seem to work fine with UTF-8 encoded .rb files. The only trick needed to make it work is to select File -> Advanced Save Options -> Unicode (UTF-8 without signature). If you select UTF-8 with signature you get a syntax error and it took me quite a while to figure this out, so you should probably mention that in your manual. Ruby’s libraries are not yet Unicode aware so, for example, some string operations will produce weird results. That’s what is being fixed in version 2 but Rails 1.2 provides a ’char’ wrapper library for dealing with UniCode strings already.

        Since the new glyphs are 2 bytes as well you would be able to keep the files exactely the same size, it would seem just a simple replace on load and save. But anyway, it’s just a "nice to have" not a "need to have".

      • UniCode in Steel
        11 April 2007

        Just one more thing about using UTF-8 with Ruby in Steel that you may want to mention in the documentation: Because you have to save without UTF-8 signatures to avoid tripping up Ruby, you have to make sure that you enable the option "Auto-detect UTF-8 encoding without signature" under Tools -> Options -> Text Editor -> General

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