Compare Rails IDEs for Windows

Jordan said it, and I couldn’t agree more: one of the real weaknesses of Rails development in Windows is the lack of a killer IDE. I never realized how good I had it when I was developing C++ with Visual Studio and Workspace Whiz, but after a few months of developing in Rails, where I’ve gone through about an IDE per month, I have sussed out my baseline requirements for a usable IDE. Most of these things are not what I’d consider “fancy” features, but if they aren’t in my IDE I get very annoyed very quickly:

  1. IDE keeps a project workspace that can be updated to include new files with somewhere between “little” and “no” effort
  2. When I press “CTRL-F” on a word, that word has automatically populated the find dialog box
  3. There exists the means to define a key combination for invoking a “find in files” dialog box,
  4. And that find in files dialog can search for regular expressions
  5. I can open any file in the project in a couple keystrokes without using my mouse
  6. Syntax highlighting exists for HTML, CSS, JS and Ruby
  7. The IDE does not fight with me about tabbing
  8. The IDE doesn’t crash
  9. The IDE doesn’t pause and stop me from what I’m doing. Ever.
  10. Intellisense (Not essential, but highly desirable)
  11. Built-in debugging (Not essential, but highly desirable)

I guess they aren’t trivial requirements, but it doesn’t seem to me like I’m asking for a ton here.

So far, I have over the last six months spent some time using (in chronological order): EasyEclipse, Ultraedit, PSPad, NetBeans, and Ruby in Steel.

I don’t have the time to do a wordy comparison of the bunch of them at present, but the following spreadsheet details my experience with them in regard to my 11 essential (and almost-essential) attributes:

As you can see, some IDEs got evaluated more than others, because some of them got on my nerves almost instantly (UltraEdit, Netbeans), and some stayed in good favor for long enough to evaluate them thoroughly (PSPad, Ruby in Steel). My biggest beef with Ruby in Steel had been that I could not figure out a way to get a file opened with a single keystroke. But after exhaustive Googling, I learned today about the magic of CTRL-ALT-A, which brings up a command window where I can type “open [filename]” to immediately open any file in the project. Eureka! At $50, Ruby in Steel is currently my decisive winner in the contest for least-annoying Rails IDE.


After some cajoling, I persuaded Josh Jensen, creator of Workspace Whiz, to create a version of his world-class Visual Studio plugin that is compatible with Ruby in Steel. What does it mean? It means that you can get instantaneous one-key lookup of any file or tag (=method or class name in Javascript or Rails) in your entire project. That is, you can hit CTRL-D, type “message” and, as you are typing in “message”, Workspace Whiz will be interactively telling you every Rails or Javascript function/method in your entire project that begin with the word “message”, similar to Google Desktop searching, if any of you use that. Or you can just press CTRL-space on any method and have Workspace Whiz jump to the method (again, Javascript or Rails). CTRL-left arrow will then return you to where you started.

Pretty damn cool stuff. Curious if RadRails has anything like it?

The only question is when Josh will release this version to the public. If you post a comment that you want it below, I can find a way to make it happen.

3 Replies to “Compare Rails IDEs for Windows”

  1. Yeah, but how is its tabbing? 🙂

    Actually, it’s true that I’ve recently heard a lot of hype around Aptana/RadRails. It was the most highly used Rails IDE in a survey I saw on another site (though it was a platform-agnostic survey, which gives RadRails a 3:1 advantage over Ruby in Steel in potential users). I wish that I could find something lacking in RiS that would tempt me to try another IDE, but I think I’m done slutting around until RiS gets on my bad side. I’d certainly be curious to see an unbiased itemized comparison of RadRails to the other IDEs, similar to the above.

  2. Also, one of our developers (Jordan) recently found an add-on to Visual Studio/Ruby in Steel that gives it full jQuery intellisense, which is a big win for us Prototype detractors.

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