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Who Needs IronRuby?

Your chance to let us know...
by Huw Collingbourne
Wednesday 4 November 2009.

Over the past couple of years, a project called IronRuby has been underway at Microsoft aimed at creating an implementation of Ruby that runs under .NET.

To help support early adopters of IronRuby we released a free (alpha) Visual Studio IDE with basic IronRuby support including project management, code colouring and formatting and a simple ‘form designer’. That was way back in February 2008. It seems that the IronRuby project is now getting closer to a final (1.0) release.

A thread on the IronRuby forum recently opened up a discussion of the problems of convincing .NET developers to try out IronRuby. The thread-starter commented that during sessions aimed at introducing IronRuby to .NET developers, this is the typical response:

- No Visual Studio integration: 50% of the audience are willing to leave.
- No compilation: more 25% have just lost interest.
- Intensive command line work: more 15% are shutting down.

Now, even using our simple alpha IDE, IronRuby can be integrated with Visual Studio but the plain fact of the matter is that many IronRuby developers prefer to use a text editor and the command prompt. I get the strong impression that the demand for VS integration among .NET developers has come as a surprise to many of them.

This provides us with a dilemma. We are the only people who have a Visual Studio IDE for IronRuby. In its current form it is a pretty simple IDE but it already has the foundations upon which we could, in principle, build the full range of VS tools - debugging, IntelliSense and the rest, as we have done for our standard Ruby IDE, Ruby In Steel. But, at present, we do not know if doing so would be a good use of our time. Over the past couple of years, we have had very few requests for extended IronRuby support. Will that change when version 1.0 of IronRuby is released? Or will IronRuby find itself in that difficult position of being too-Microsofty for Ruby developers and not Microsofty enough for .NET developers?

At the present moment, we have made no firm decisions on the future of our fledging IronRuby IDE. Which is why I am throwing open the discussion here. If you have any strong feelings on the matter, please let us know. How many .NET developers will use IronRuby? And, of those, how many require (and will be prepared to pay for) a professional quality IronRuby IDE in Visual Studio?

Over to you ;-)

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  • Who Needs IronRuby?
    16 December 2009, by Johan Danforth

    Jimmy Schementi from the IronRuby team just blogged about them starting to work on VS-integration post IronRuby 1.0 release, so... there you got it. Read it here ->


    • Who Needs IronRuby?
      16 December 2009, by Huw Collingbourne

      Thanks for the information. I will watch that project with interest. :-) Suffice to say, irrespective of whether or not we decide to continue development on our IronRuby coding and visual design tools (which, given the fact that the IronRuby team plan to do their own IDE, seems highly debatable), this does not affect our continued support for standard Ruby which has always been and will continue to be our principal focus in Ruby In Steel.

      best wishes


  • Who Needs IronRuby?
    4 November 2009

    I think VS integration is a must.

    Yes I would buy a plug-in to provide this support with great IntelliSense. I know IntelliSense is tough to do with dynamic languages, but it is possible (look at the new Javascript support in VS 2010).

    • Who Needs IronRuby?
      4 November 2009, by Huw Collingbourne

      We are familiar with the problems of IntelliSense for dynamic languages as we already have an analytical (on the fly) Ruby IntelliSense engine in Ruby In Steel. Unfortunately, creating an IDE for IronRuby is not just a case of doing a few ’tweaks’ for our standard Ruby IDE. It would be a major undertaking which is why we are so cautious about committing ourselves to such a project.

      best wishes


  • Who Needs IronRuby?
    4 November 2009, by Kevin Radcliffe

    VS Support is a definite must for broad adoption.

    Obviously, with your IDE, you have a great deal of experience already in terms of what is necessary for the integration.

    Jimmy Schementi (@jschementi) is in charge of the Connect bug here:

    See his comments here:

    I don’t work for MS, and this might be naive, but I wonder if MS would be willing to contract w/ SapphireSteel to work on this? I’d imagine it would be worth money to them, and again you already have experience working on this.

    Have you talked directly w/ Jimmy to see if such a collaboration might be possible?

    • Who Needs IronRuby?
      4 November 2009, by Huw Collingbourne

      No we haven’t spoken to Jimmy about this. We had a talk with John Lam a couple of years ago but members of the IronRuby team have not been in touch with us since that date.

      Currently we are committed to the development of Amethyst (our Adobe Flash Platform IDE for Visual Studio) and we are also planning future developments of our standard Ruby IDE, Ruby In Steel. Our real problem is that, given the lack of interest we’ve had in our Visual Studio IDE for IronRuby over the past couple of years, we are no longer certain that it would be a good investment of our time to take the IronRuby IDE forward as we had originally intended.

      I am not sure why the IronRuby community has decided, so late in the day, that VS integration is vital. That was our view two years ago but, at that time, our view was not widely shared. This explains why we decided to move in other directions - and while we could put more effort into developing a professional-quality IronRuby IDE, we are uncertain if that effort would (from our perspective) be justified.

      • Who Needs IronRuby?
        4 November 2009, by Kevin Radcliffe

        I think that your uncertainty is well justified based on the history. I’d probably be at least a little frustrated in your position based on the community seeming to change gears so suddenly.

        Perhaps we are just now seeing the resistance you envisioned 2 years ago when you developed the alpha. It could also be that the community is still growing, and we are now discovering more of the possible pain points (I am late to this party myself ;) )

        It’s not necessarily that VS integration is needed for IronRuby, but more that the appeal for usage of IronRuby will be much broader with it. (Of course, those were probably your own thoughts 2 years ago ;) )

        Again, I might be naive in this, and I don’t claim to understand your particular business model, but I’d imagine that if you COULD get contracted to assist MS with direct VS integration, you could make a big impact given your experience, and make some good money in the process.

        As one particular path (certainly not the only one), it sure would be nice to see it play out this way, with a big win for MS and SapphireSteel. ^_^

      • Who Needs IronRuby?
        4 November 2009, by Nathan

        I think your hesitation is more than justified, but I’m not sure "so late in the day" is fair - IronRuby is still too young for mass adoption no matter what tools are available. It may be that what you are experiencing is not the original IronRuby community switching gears, but a new larger community big enough to express different, broader needs. The difference between two years ago and now is vast in terms of market timing.

        I think you’re approach is correct though- keep your finger on the pulse and see what makes financial sense. You certainly don’t owe anyone a VS integration with IronRuby :) And who knows if this burst of demand is a social computing solar storm, as quick to dissipate as it was to erupt? Also, you know MS isn’t going to build a Ruby IDE or a Flash IDE for VS, but there is no particular reason to expect that they won’t suck the wind from your sails with a VS integration for IronRuby the moment yours is complete. Caution is definitely warranted.

        If VS integration really is absolutely necessary for adoption, Microsoft will provide it, and if they don’t and demand continues to grow, you can finish yours off and earn your money.

        Until then such an integration isn’t necessary for anyone serious in getting value out of the technology from doing so, and in my opinion it might do people some good to step our of visual studio from time to time and breath some different air.

        That said, I’d add my name to the list of people definitely interested in such a product, and I might even buy it if it was slick and the integration was smooth enough :)

        • Who Needs IronRuby?
          4 November 2009, by Huw Collingbourne

          As you say, MS might do its own IronRuby IDE. In fact, early in 2008, a little while after we had released our IronRuby alpha IDE, MS advertised for a developer to work on "Visual Studio integration". I don’t know what became of that but, as you may imagine, this didn’t increase our enthusiasm for putting too much effort into the further development of our IronRuby IDE.

          I think people often underestimate the amount of work needed to do this kind of IDE. It is pretty easy to do simple ’code colouring’ and I am aware of a few VS integration projects that have done code colouring in a few days and then assumed that all the rest will be just as simple. Believe me, it isn’t. Which is why there are so few third party Visual Studio IDEs with all the bells and whistles (visual design, drill-down debugging, IntelliSense, refactoring etc.)

          We already have our Ruby IDE, Ruby In Steel, and will be releasing new versions of this. IronRuby would, in principle, form a natural fit with Ruby In Steel. We will, at any rate, probably continue to offer basic IronRuby support in that IDE (editing, CTRL+F5 et al). The decision we still have to make it whether we will offer full IDE support - that is, giving IronRuby a comparable feature-set to C#. And, if we decide to do so, when would be the right time? Those questions are the ones that are currently unanswered.

          • Who Needs IronRuby?
            5 November 2009, by Blocky

            If you are business smart, you will not spend any more time on it. There is probability that Microsoft will do it. Whether they do it in 1 or 3 years it does not matter, but when they do it, all your work is sunk. They will offer what they do free of charge and nobody will be buying what you sell.

            From my experience in selling developer tools in Microsoft backyard and being burned couple of times, you should always as a rule stay away from investing into something that Microsoft might develop in 1-3 year time frame...

  • Who Needs IronRuby?
    4 November 2009, by Mike Woodhouse

    I think it’s going to be a long road.

    The largest body of VS users, I suspect, are enterprise developers and they aren’t going to start using IronRuby in a hurry: corporate IT departments aren’t exactly legendary for their snappiness (they’re stuck on C# 2.0 here, for example). Thereafter, the most likely way into the environment for IR is, I’m guessing, through small scripting solutions that leverage the .Net framework. Not something that’s likely to need Visual Studio immediately.

    Over time, if IR really turns out to be a good solution for some class of larger problem then the perceived need for VS will grow. I suppose IronRuby on Rails, if it offered some real benefits, might be a catalyst.

    • Who Needs IronRuby?
      4 November 2009, by Ivan Porto Carrero

      For the sake of supporting IronRuby and getting people on that platform I’d say it ranks pretty close to extremely necessary

      • Who Needs IronRuby?
        4 November 2009, by Ryan Riley

        +1 As someone trying to get it moving in the .NET community, I think it’s going to be essential. .NET developers are just too used to VS that lack of a VS interface will likely kill adoption from anyone other than ALT.NET types or closet Ruby lovers.

  • Who Needs IronRuby?
    4 November 2009, by Dan

    IronRuby or Amethyst? Put your limited resources to Amethyst! BTW, when is the next Amethyst build going to be released?

    • Who Needs IronRuby?
      4 November 2009, by Huw Collingbourne

      Thanks for the interest in Amethyst! :-) Next beta is due in a few weeks (end of November/start of December).

      • Who Needs IronRuby?
        4 November 2009

        Amethyst? What is that?

        Whatever happened to Sapphire the language?

        I would be interested in an update of the alpha version to the IronRuby IDE. Possibly something like the Express versions of C# and VB.NET. While the 2010 version of Visual Studio is going to be very cost prohibitive, I believe that an Express or Standalone version for IronRuby would get more people interested.

  • Who Needs IronRuby?
    4 November 2009, by N_F_S

    What are the many advantages between IronRuby and ordinary Ruby on Windows?

    The use of .net framework?

  • Who Needs IronRuby?
    4 November 2009, by D_Guidi

    vs integration +++++

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