The RStudio IDE: first impressions are positive

Integrated development environments (IDEs) are software development tools, providing an interface that enables you to write, debug, run and view the output of your code.

Whether you need an IDE or find them useful depends very much on your own preferences and style of working. In my own case for example, I’ve tried both Eclipse and NetBeans, but I find them bloated and rather “overkill”. On the other hand, my LaTeX productivity shot up when I started to use Kile.

Most of my coding involves either Ruby or R, written using Emacs. For Ruby (including Rails), I use a bundled set of plugins named my_emacs_for_rails, which includes the Emacs Code Browser (ECB). For R, I occasionally use Emacs Speaks Statistics (ESS), but I’m just as likely to run code from a terminal or use the R console.

RStudio, released yesterday, is a new open-source IDE for R. It’s getting a lot of attention at R-bloggers and it’s easy to see why: this is open-source software development done right.
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Turn Emacs into an IDE

Update: I should have said Rails IDE – but I’m sure similar plugins are available for other languages

I fired up NetBeans at work today, tried to open a Rails project and – inexplicably, it crashed. All is well at home, so I’m blaming work machine setup issues as-yet unknown (but I suspect, involving the letters “ATI”).

It got me thinking that, as much as I like NetBeans, it is still just a memory-eating, CPU-hogging, bloated Java-based GUI. For some time I’ve wanted to convert my favourite editor, Emacs, to something more like an IDE.


It's Emacs, but not as we know it

The WyeWorks Blog to the rescue. Install emacs-23 and a couple of Ruby gems, clone their github repository of Emacs plugins, copy to your ~/.emacs.d/ and voilĂ  – marvel at your new, shiny editing environment. I also replaced my ~/.emacs with their init.el file.

The key plugins include ECB, textmate.el, Rinari and yasnippet, plus a bunch of modes for syntax highlighting. If you’ve only tried cursory Emacs customisation in the past the results are a little alarming at first, but you’ll be back to coding (and saying “Ooh! Aah!”) in no time at all.