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Saturday, April 26, 2008

So long TextMate?... Hello NetBeans? Really? Yeah, really.

I'll admit it, I'm one of many folks that used to treat NetBeans as a whipping boy. Questioning why Sun would bother dumping money into the horse that so obviously lost the race to Eclipse and IntelliJ to win the hearts and minds of Java developers around the world.

Over the years NetBeans has flirted with me by introducing various features that sounded great on the surface and taken by itself usually was a pretty good feature. Like the new debugger and profiler that was introduced a couple years back. Or the first to implement JEE 5.0 tools, or Matisse - the Swing GUI toolkit. The list goes on and on.

But each and every time I'd download NetBeans and try it out no matter how good that one feature might've been it was surrounded by basic editing and development features that were laughable. There's no way anyone could use this tool on a daily basis and be productive.

Well over the past year and a half or so the NetBeans teams has been cranking away on support for ruby and rails development. Every once in awhile I'd take a look and see what kind of progress they'd made and always conclude that it wasn't there yet. Well, the other day I had need to hunt for a good javascript editor that would do code completion for me and so knowing NetBeans has support for javascript editing and code completion I decided to see how far the ruby and rails support in NetBeans has come as well.

I grabbed a nightly build of 6.1 and installed it. Right away I noticed that they made a special build for ruby where they've stripped it down to where it is focused on supporting ruby and rails apps. They added a theme that looks similar to textmate to make me feel more at home. Many keybindings are similar to Textmate (though not all but they are easily configurable). You can easily debug your rails apps with the graphical debugger. The generators work. Code completion works okay at times. API docs are easily visible inline during code completion. Navigating around the project is now easy where before that was the single biggest outage that kept me from even considering it. You can easily jump to type definitions. Simple refactoring is supported. Basically it's welcome to 2001 for anyone in the ruby world that came from Java. Regardless it's great to have some of these high leverage tools while working in the ruby world.

I haven't completely ditched TextMate. If I know I have to do some quick edits and know that I'm not going to have to do any heavy duty debugging or dev work and don't have the project open in NetBeans I'll still use it.

Anyway, great job team NetBeans! Thanks so much for the great dev tool.

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