3rdRail Targets Enterprise Ruby Developers

CodeGear releases 3rdRail, its new Ruby on Rails dev tool.

The ecosystem of Ruby-related tooling for .NET shops grew in September, with vendors releasing a new IDE and a free plug-in that helps Ruby apps communicate with ones built on .NET.

CodeGear, the Scotts Valley, Calif.-based tools division of Borland Software Corp., released its first set of dev tools for the increasingly popular Ruby on Rails (RoR) Web development framework on Sept. 18. Dubbed 3rdRail, the IDE is aimed at both new and experienced Rails developers building database-driven Web apps.

'Fast, Focused, Uncluttered'
3rdRail is designed to be an intuitive IDE with an in-depth grasp of the semantics and conventions of RoR. CodeGear describes 3rdRail 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; refactoring technology specifically for RoR; productivity wizards; and the complete RoR runtime environment.

The package, available as a free trial download, or for a special introductory price of $299, also includes a developer license for InterBase, CodeGear's database for embedded and enterprise applications.

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," says 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."

Getting Under the Hood
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.

CodeGear's 3rdRail project team actually spent months becoming knowledgeable RoR developers to understand the "under the hood" problems developers face, says the company's Director of Product Management Joe McGlynn.

"We developed a lot of knowledge about the Ruby language and the Rails framework," McGlynn says, "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."

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 says. Matsumoto says he's "more than pleased" with the new IDE.

3rdRail is available for Windows, Mac OS and Linux.

Ruby Connector Goes Free
September also saw the release of U.K.-based SapphireSteel Software's Ruby Connector, a free drag-and-drop tool that allows .NET-based apps to communicate with Ruby programs.

SapphireSteel makes Ruby in Steel (RiS), a Visual Studio plug-in for developing Ruby applications. The company originally planned to give the connector tool exclusively to RiS customers, co-founder and Technology Director Huw Collingbourne wrote in an e-mail to RDN.

"While we will also release the Ruby Connector as a fully integrated part of a forthcoming version of Ruby in Steel, the free version which we have just released does not require Ruby In Steel at all," he says. "Developers can install the control and (with a bit of help from a small Ruby library which we also supply) they will be able to create mixed-language applications in which all the visual design is done in the usual way in VS, allowing C# or VB programs to pass messages to Ruby programs and have Ruby send back answers."

SapphireSteel has produced an extensive PDF manual and seven sample Visual Studio projects for the connector, which is available here.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance author and journalist based in Silicon Valley. His latest book is The Everything Guide to Social Media. Follow John on Twitter, read his blog on, check out his author page on Amazon, or e-mail him at

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