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PyCharm and RubyMine Review


JetBrains, a company known for its flagship, Jolt award-winning IntelliJ IDEA, has taken key aspects of that product and infused it into custom development environments optimized for Python and Ruby developers. With its initial release, PyCharm enables Python programmers the ability to skate through Python code with ease. And RubyMine, now in its more mature third release, brings Ruby 1.9 and Rails 3 compatibility to its already established feature set. Let's take a look at both of these IDEs in further detail.

PyCharm 1.0

While not yet having the longevity of RubyMine, PyCharm has the advantage of taking the latest technical innovations evolved over the lifespans of IntelliJ and RubyMine, and folding these into PyCharm as "best of" features. Code assistance, analysis, navigation and refactoring all work identically to and as quick as that of IntelliJ and RubyMine. Additionally, PyCharm has been optimized not only for Python projects, but for Django web development and Google App Engine as well. Thus, any Python developers currently working on such web properties who are also flummoxed by the limitations of a simple text editor and the DVCS command line dances will appreciate PyCharm's seamless integration of not only SVN and Git, but also Mercurial, Perforce, and CVS.

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Figure 1: Coding a Python script in the PyCharm Python and Django IDE.

PyCharm's integrated graphical debugger makes the location of trouble areas much easier. And since the debugger supports both Django consoles and REPL, it covers the gamut of today's Python-based applications.

Django support in PyCharm is superb, including not only full support for code completion of Django template variables, parameters, tags and filters, but also code insight for Django fields and models. PyCharm also knows how to handle Django settings.py and urls.py configuration files. Combined with PyCharm's build-in HTML/CSS and JavaScript editor, developing Django apps couldn't be easier. In fact, since using PyCharm for my Django projects, I rarely leave the IDE once it's been launched. Check out this video to see just how easy it is to create and debug Django web apps using PyCharm.

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Figure 2: PyCharm allows users to modify a range of flexible options.

The same degree of assistance and simplicity is true when creating Google App Engine (GAE) applications, since PyCharm has the ability to deploy GAE apps to the cloud. Google Query Language (GQL) code completion further accelerates GAE app development. If you're a GAE developer, PyCharm could easily become your GAE IDE of choice.

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Figure 3: PyCharm supports distributed version control systems like Git and Mercurial.

For a 1.0 release, PyCharm certainly has plenty to offer Python coders. And with prices ranging from $99 and $199 for Personal and Corporate licenses, to Free for educators, students, and open source projects, PyCharm is a very affordable and easily justifiable investment.

RubyMine 3.0

Ruby (and especially Rails) developers have made TextMate on the Mac the preeminent visual editor. There's no denying that TextMate is an excellent product, but given that it runs exclusively on the Mac platform makes it a tool that excludes itself from markets that are Windows or Linux-based. This is where a product like RubyMine can gain a foothold in the increasingly popular commercial Ruby tools market. Once the momentum builds, developers will find that they can be as productive and, in cases involving visual modeling, refactoring, and class traversals, even more efficient than the established incumbents.

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Figure 4: RubyMine 3.0 offers extensive code formatting options.

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Figure 5: RubyMine 3.0 knows how to work with the latest Ruby Gems and Bundler.

Like the PyCharm IDE, RubyMine 3.0 has the rich code editing features courtesy of IntelliJ, plus Ruby-specific feature support (Gems, Rake, Rails, Ruby debugging, RSpec and Cucumber testing, etc.). Those developers who already use previous releases of RubyMine may be interested to know that RubyMine 3.0 fully supports Ruby on Rails 3.0 (including Bundler and RVM), the sweet RCov code coverage tool, improved code editing for Ruby, Leaner CSS (LESS), rdoc and other source files, a Firefox plug-in that allows Javascript debugging within the RubyMine IDE, CSS and HTML code snippets and Mercurial support. Other minor tweaks in the user interface (especially for the Mac version) have further beautified the app, making it look more like a native Mac application versus a generic Java-based program.

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Figure 6: Visualizing a Rails data model is easy with RubyMine.

And even though RubyMine is a more mature, feature-rich product compared to PyCharm, a RubyMine 3.0 personal license is actually thirty dollars less expensive than PyCharm. Considering all the features bundled into the IDE, this is a remarkable value. Whether priced to aggressively compete with tools like TextMate or banking on the broader, more rapidly growing market of Rails developers, JetBrains has priced this IDE to move.

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Figure 7: RubyMine allows developers to quickly traverse Rails code.

Almost Perfect

While JetBrains has assembled two extremely competent IDE's, there is one briefly annoying drawback I encountered with both PyCharm and RubyMine. Both are Java-based applications and take a bit longer to start up than native binaries. For those developers used to Emacs and Vim or GUI editors like Notepad++ or TextMate, this start-up delay can seem intolerably long (though not nearly as long as waiting for Eclipse to load up along with its related Python or Ruby plug-ins). The trick is to open it once and leave it open throughout the programming day. Once loaded, however, responsiveness is surprisingly snappy. Mostly it's the convenience of having everything organized just right for the discerning Python or Ruby developer. It took me a few days to get used to the layout and orient myself around the keyboard accelerators, but once muscle-memory sunk in, navigating around both IDE's proved to be fast and intuitive. If JetBrains could figure out a way to get me to the editor as soon as possible so I can start writing code, and then spin up the other facilities in the background (or give me the ability to tweak the start-up priorities), that would go a long way toward relieving the wait.

Conclusion

Dedicated Pythonistas or Rubyists who are not interested in a generic IDE that has their favorite language bolted on via an add-on or plug-in will appreciate the finely tuned precision that PyCharm and RubyMine have to offer. I especially appreciated the forethought about developer comfort level put into each product (especially in the more mature RubyMine), making me more productive compared to IDE's like Eclipse that feel sluggish when working with third-party feature enhancements. Rails developers who have reached the limits of what TextMate or Vim have to offer and are looking to bring a bigger boost to their productivity should definitely give RubyMine a go. JetBrains offers 30-day free trials of both PyCharm and RubyMine. I suggest test driving either (or both if you're comfortable working in both languages) to see if you spend less time navigating around the interface and more time writing code, and getting things done faster with less hassles. The price is right for both products, and the efficiency gains pay for the license costs almost immediately. Both PyCharm and RubyMine receive my enthusiastic recommendation.


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