CodeGear Touches 3rdRail With New IDE

CodeGear announced yesterday the general availability of its first development tool for Ruby-on-Rails (RoR). The company's new 3rdRail integrated development environment (IDE) comes with several features specifically designed to make it easier and faster for both new and experienced Rails developers to build database-driven Web applications.

3rdRail is designed to be an intuitive IDE with an in-depth grasp of the semantics and conventions of RoR. The company describes it as a "fast, focused and uncluttered tool," and is highlighting several features in this release, including:

  • Rapid code navigation, for efficient traversal of application structures.
  • CodeGear Commanders, which provide a quick interface to an RoR command line for running code generators and performing other tasks.
  • Intelligent code completion, which allows developers to write programs more accurately and with fewer keystrokes, because they no longer need to remember fine points such as object types, methods and method signatures.
  • Refactoring technology specifically for RoR that allows developers to improve and simplify application design.
  • Complete RoR runtime environment, bundled with the IDE, including databases, Ruby, Rails, the Gem manager and a number of special Gems and tools. Also included is a developer license for InterBase, CodeGear's database for embedded and enterprise applications.
  • Productivity wizards, which extend developers' ability to use the built-in RoR generators from the CodeGear Commanders. The wizards combine multiple related steps into one operation.
  • Web development tools, including the Mozilla browser, JavaScript debugging, Document Object Model inspection, request monitoring, among others.
  • Eclipse plug-in compatibility. 3rdRail is built on a lightweight, open Eclipse-based core foundation, which provides out-of-the-box compatibility with a wide selection of open source and commercial tools and plug-ins available for the Eclipse platform.

CodeGear got involved in creating its IDE after fielding customer interest in RoR.

"We're a strong believer in the Rails framework, and the Ruby-on-Rails combination," said Michael Swindell, CodeGear's VP of products and strategy. "We've been tracking its growth for some time, and it certainly has a lot of momentum in the Web development and scripting community. Last year we started getting questions from our enterprise customers looking at it as an alternative platform for Web development. They were recognizing that the platform was very interesting, but it wasn't there yet from a tooling perspective. At that point, we jumped in with both feet."

CodeGear's 3rdRail project team actually spent months becoming knowledgeable RoR developers to understand the "under the hood" problems developers face, said project leader Joe McGlynn.

"We developed a lot of knowledge about the Ruby language and the Rails framework," McGlynn said, "and that allowed us to surface some really intelligent features that simply wouldn't be possible in a text-based tool. This tool understands the language and the framework at a deep level."

The Ruby language was developed in 1993 by Yukihiro Matsumoto, but its rise in popularity has been attributed to its synthesis with David Heinemeier Hansson's Rails open-source Web application framework, which he created in 2005. Rails was written in Ruby as a full-stack framework for developing database-backed Web apps; it follows the Model-View-Control architecture.

3rdRail received two star endorsements in the form of positive comments from Hansson and Matsumoto. With this release, CodeGear has "gone beyond macros and generators and dealt with Rails code on a logical rather than merely textual level," Hansson said.

Matsumoto declared that he is "more than pleased" with the new IDE. He had more praise too.

"As Borland tools helped me a lot when I just began to do programming, it is a great honor to see that a CodeGear tool supports the language that I designed," Matsumoto added. CodeGear is the tooling arm of Borland Software, the original creator of such popular tools as JBuilder.

"We came into this as strangers to the community," says Swindell. "To get that kind of endorsement and to be embraced by the community has meant a lot to the whole team." Swindell says the 3rdRail beta program attracted more than 800 participants.

CodeGear's announcement of the new IDE was delivered on the opening day of the RailsConf Europe trade show, which is currently underway in Berlin.

3rdRail is available now on three platforms: Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows and Linux. More information is available on the CodeGear Web site.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].

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