Breaking My Habits For Editing Programs

I’m a Unix guy, by upbringing. My first formative experiences in software development were on an early, Linux 1.x version of Debian. I’d used Windows, but always came back to Linux. When OS X got good enough around 10.2, I switched to something that didn’t require so much tinkering, so I could make more useful stuff.

Software development on Unix has skewed towards focusing on tools, languages, and text editors for quite some time. IDEs and browsers on Unix are a messy, foreign thing (just like everything else in Unix). Thus, I’ve long favored the terminal-and-editor style of development.

I’ve decided that now is the time for me to try something different. I like text editors and directly manipulating text, but I can see why some people feel naked without an IDE. The ability to pop-up a level and make a more broad-stroked transformation to a program is appealing. Having code navigation and semantic awareness baked in has lots of potential.

I’ve probably said grumbly things about RubyMine in the past, but I think now is the time to give it a go. Worst thing that could happen is that I don’t like it and I go back to the infinite tinkering of Emacs or the 85% perfect experience of TextMate.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

I originally wrote that a few months ago, at the apex of my editor neurosis.

I did give RubyMine a try, and I like some parts of it. It’s code navigation is pretty nice, it does an admirable job of integrating with the unique ecosystem of tools that a Ruby developer uses to manage their environment, and it does an excellent job of grokking TDD with test/unit and RSpec. RubyMine is a step in the right direction. I suspect that if I had muscle memory for IntelliJ, it would be the way to go.

But, I have muscle memory for TextMate and Emacs, and I have an affinity for being close to my tools. RubyMine felt one step disconnected from both my muscle memory and my tools. That’s quite an accomplishment; most IDEs feel several steps removed the tools and seem to discourage developing finger-memory in favor of menu-memory. I’ll give RubyMine another try in a year, probably, see how it’s coming along. But in the mean time, it’s great to see that there is a vendor out there tackling the challenge that is tools for Ruby.