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Setting up a good development environment is one of the little things that can make a big difference in the long run.

Recently, I’ve switched from Mac OS to Windows and therefore needed to explore different setups. Moreover it’s always good to make an overview from time to time.

So let’s start with the Mac.

Mac OS

I’ve worked with this environment for a few years and let’s be clear, the combo Mac OS + TextMate + Terminal is my personal favourite.

But when you don’t have a Mac, there are other cool alternatives. Let’s see what can be done with other OSes: windows 7 or Ubuntu 9.10.


Two paths one can take:

  • full IDE: one application fits all
  • lightweight combo: small specialized applications combined together

The full IDE way with Aptana RadRails.

RadRails is based on Eclipse and does integrate well with Ruby on Rails.

  • automatic installation of ruby through wizard
  • automatic download of classic gems (rails, sqlite3-ruby, etc…)
  • shortcut to get access to the command-line
  • file transfer through SFTP
  • cloud integration through joyent (not tested though)
  • and more…

Overall, for a Ruby on Rails IDE in 2009, it all feels well made and supported.

For beginners, it’s easy. The deployment feature won’t however suite every host or need.

If you like RadRails, you might have a look at NetBeans as well.

The lightweight combo

  • Notepad++ in place of TextMate
  • DOS in place of Terminal

Nothing special to say, it just works. Though, you’ll have to install ruby and rails by yourself.

Both of these solutions, full IDE or lightweight, work well but the lack of a descent shell can become tedious when you have to deploy.


Finally, there’s Ubuntu, the most interesting part. It’s the closest solution to what can be found on Mac OS using Gedit + shell.

You can run Ubuntu within Windows with Virtual Box or you can install it on your hard drive for better performance.

With this setup you have a good environment for developing AND deploying really fast.

To get the best of both OSes, you can set up a shared folder for your repository. This way you can work on your code on Ubuntu, and work on your design on Windows getting the best of both OSes.

And you?

Development environment is really important to take care off. The few minutes you’ll gain by doing tasks faster will always have a huge impact in the long run. But it’s also a matter of personal taste, one should be confortable with the environment and tools he works with and there are many combinations that aren’t explored in this post.

So what’s your development environment?


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