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.

emacs23_rails_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.