JRuby Serial Interview 4: NetBeans

Posted by Nick Sieger Thu, 25 Jan 2007 04:23:00 GMT

This is part 4 in our ongoing conversation tracking the development of JRuby.

This episode we’re pleased to have Tor Norbye and Martin Krauskopf from Sun with us to discuss NetBeans.

If you’re a Rubyist, why should you care about NetBeans? Isn’t that one of those big honkin’ Java IDEs? Well, due to the hard work of Tor and Martin, NetBeans will soon be a world-class Ruby and Rails editor and development environment. All made possible by JRuby underneath the hood. Don’t believe me? Then read on...

So, what are you hoping to accomplish with NetBeans Ruby support? Any lofty goals? Is your target audience Ruby hackers, or Java programmers looking to try something new?

Tor Norbye: Anybody writing code using Ruby. That would include both experienced Ruby developers as well as newbies trying out the language.

The lofty goal is to provide First Class Support for Ruby such that where possible, the Ruby support is as good as the Java support. There are obviously areas where Ruby’s dynamic nature makes it hard to provide the same features as those available for Java, such as the various refactoring operations and quickfix features that rely on static typing. But that doesn’t mean we won’t try. I think a Rename refactoring operation that has some limitations is still better than just Search/Replace.

That’s the area I’m most excited about getting into. Until now I’ve been working on getting all the basic IDE infrastructure in place such that the vital parts are there and we can start building more smarts on top.

Martin Krauskopf: Simply the target is the full debugging support in NetBeans like it is in RDT. I contacted Chris (Williams), Markus (Barchfeld) and murphee (Werner Schuster) from RDT regarding cooperation on the backends. Realize that actually backends are currently their effort on which they’ve spent a lot of time. I’ve started with some mini-fixes and would like to continue on the cooperation more and more so they will also get something back. But the cooperation is very young so I’ll have more to say later, I think. So however there are still a lot of work on NetBeans frontend I want to get as much as possible also in the backends works.

Thomas Enebo: Martin just sent an interesting email to the RDT list on a debugging specification and a cross IDE debugger project on Rubyforge....Fun times.

NetBeans Ruby support (click through the image for a full-screen shot). There is test/unit output, and you can see completion of class names with an RDoc popup.

When will we see a public release of NetBeans Ruby support? What are some of the features we can expect to see? Will there be Rails support?

Tor Norbye: I wish I could answer when it’s going to be released, but that’s not in my hands. I started the work in closed source, as part of the Project Semplice work. And when code doesn’t start in open source in the first place, there’s a Sun process to be followed to release it, such as a legal review, etc. etc. It’s going through that process now - and has been for quite a while, so I’m hoping it will be released soon, very soon. Without promising anything obviously, think weeks.

As I said earlier, the goal for the feature list is to offer the same features that are available for Java: good editing, projects support, debugging, web application support, etc. Yes, there will be Rails support.

The current feature set, which is what you’d see if I got the green light to commit into NetBeans CVS today, is heavy on editing support. There is semantic highlighting, code completion, various other editing features such as pair-matching, smart indent, etc. There is also some basic projects support and Rails support. My coworker Martin Krauskopf is working on a debugger and that work is coming along nicely.

NetBeans Rails support (click through the image for a full-screen shot). RHTML editing, project tree and generator access are shown.

I’ve got this killer feature idea for a Ruby editor. How can I get it into NetBeans?

Tor Norbye: Well, it will all be open source, so the easiest way to do it would be to join the NetBeans open source project and enhance the Ruby editor directly. NetBeans itself obviously has lots of extensibility APIs, and the Ruby editor may offer its own to register additional quickfixes etc. At this point that has not been my focus.

Thanks to Tor and Martin for joining us! For up-to-date progress on Ruby support in NetBeans, follow along on Tor’s blog. And if you have further questions, please leave a comment. What would you like to see in NetBeans Ruby support?

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