Ruby on Rails Editors and IDEs: Ubuntu: jEdit, emacs, RadRails, Cream, SciTE

I spent many hours today trying to find a good editor on Ubuntu Linux for working with Ruby on Rails.

Emacs, gedit, and other editors were not working well for me. I was having problem with indentation and syntax highlighting with .rhtml files so I began investigating other editors for Ruby on Rails that would run on Ubuntu Dapper Drake.

Ruby on Rails, TextMate, and Ubuntu Linux?

TextMate is an editor that is recommended by the Ruby on Rails team. I went to the TextMate web site and found out that TextMate is only for Mac OS X. It looks like a nice editor, but I was a bit turned off by the attitude of the web site:

"Created by a closet UNIX geek who was lured to the Mac platform by its ease of use and elegance, TextMate has been referred to as the culmination of Emacs and OS X and has resulted in countless requests for both a Windows and Linux port, but TextMate remains exclusive for the Mac, and that is how we like it!"

Exclusive, huh? Not interested...

Emacs for Ruby on Rails

I've been using Emacs for a while and have gotten used to doing most things with keyboard shortcuts. If I could find a way to make every program move to the next line when I press C-n, and move to the previous line when I press C-p I would be happy. (edit: I found a way to do this in GNOME on GNU/Linux but it interfered with some of my other keyboard shortcuts so I turned it off.)

Emacs was not indenting the .rhtml files correctly. I discovered that there is a Ruby on Rails mode for Emacs, but I didn't want to spend my whole day figuring out how to configure it, so I did a little more research.

There is some more information about Ruby on Rails and Emacs here. I would like to try using Emacs for Ruby on Rails, but I didn't have time to configure it today.

Eclipse and RadRails on Ubuntu 6.06 Dapper Drake

My next stop was RadRails, which seems to be a version of Eclipse that has Ruby on Rails plugins. It can also be installed as an Eclipse plugin.

I tried installing RadRails as an Eclipse plugin. I got errors when importing a Rails project.

I then tried downloading the full RadRails package. I got the same errors when I tried to import a Rails project.

RadRails looks good, but it was too much to deal with. I'm going to try it again when I have more time, but I was looking for a quick solution.

jEdit, Ruby on Rails, Ubuntu

I used to use jEdit on Windows XP and liked it a lot. I managed to get jEdit running on Ubuntu after a little trial and error. I had also been through these steps when trying to get Eclipse and RadRails running.

I went through all the jEdit preferences and set them to my liking. I enabled some of the plugins, including the Ruby plugin for jEdit.

I also installed the jEdit emacs emulation package which gives jEdit some of the emacs keybindings.

So far, jEdit has been the best Ruby on Rails editor for me.

jEdit running on Ubuntu 6.06

Cream (vim) and Ruby on Rails

In my research I also came across Cream. Cream is apparently a collection of scripts that turn Gvim into an easy-to-use text editor. All of the features of vim are there, but in its default settings it is as easy to use a gedit or Windows Notepad. If you want more vim power, just set the preferences to "expert mode" and press ESC.

I only used Cream briefly with various Ruby on Rails files, but it seemed to handle syntax highlighting well. UPDATE: Also see the newer post about using Cream and vim with Ruby on Rails. This is an easy way to get some of the nice features of TextMate on Linux (like Rails code abbreviations).

UPDATE: Check out Alex Young's post on Vim for Textmate fans.

Cream running on Ubuntu Linux

SciTE, Ruby on Rails and Ubuntu

Another editor that I used is SciTE. I used SciTE on Windows and really liked it. It didn't seem to handle syntax highlighting for .rhtml files well. Does anyone know a fix for this? In any case, it doesn't have emacs keybindings that I know of, so I am sticking with jEdit for now.

Summary of Editors and IDEs for Ruby on Rails on Ubuntu Dapper

I had planned to spend the entire day learning more Ruby on Rails. I ended up spending most of today experimenting with different editors and IDEs. I hope this page can help people find a quick solution to working with Ruby on Rails on Ubuntu.

Further reading:

Please leave a comment if you have any tips to add.


Thanks for doing the

Thanks for doing the homework on this one. Good reviews.

I downloaded the latest RadRails for Linux and installed on Ubuntu 6.06 in 1 click (I already had ruby, rails, gems and mysql configured)

I was up and running in minutes with a new project. I think the only problem may be learning the Eclipse way of doing things. The IDE doesn't seem that intuitive to me, but I use Visual Studio for a living ;-)

I don't know how it will be for importing existing projects as I am new to Rails and don't have any to test with.

Your preference?

So, after all that, which do you prefer?
Which can you see yourself using on a longterm basis?

I find RadRails kind of slow and sluggish.
Gedit isn't doing it for me...

Webmaster Tips's picture

Ruby on Rails Editors

I'm using Cream and gVim at the moment. Still experimenting... I can imagine staying with Vim.

Good collection of IDEs

Nice collection of IDEs for Ruby/Rails development. I tested almost the same set of IDEs to find out which one works best with the Ruby language(not rails) and found Eclipse + Plugin to be the best bet. I tested out Vim too, but not GVim; will give it a try.

My reviews(Eclipse, Komodo, JEdit, SciTE):
IDEs For Ruby Language

Yet to cover emacs and vim.

Nice Editor for Ruby for Linux

I didn't see Gedit mentioned but the latest version comes with two plugins which when enabled offer some really nice features. Those two plugins are called Snippets and Side Pane. I created a third one that closes brackets and other characters like Textmate does so well. The plugin is free (GPL) and can be downloaded from my blog: Gemini Gedit Plugin. The other plugins come with Gnome itself. PS: the plugin works with Edgy and later.

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gedit for Ruby on Rails

Thanks for the tip. I didn't realize that gedit had those features, but I just checked and saw the snippets plugin and the sidepane plugin (gedit 2.14.4). I'm still on Dapper Drake, but am planning to upgrade soon. Looking forward to trying your plugin.

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Great site

I like your site. I've been using vim with the Ruby on Rails vim plugin. I haven't tried vim 7 yet. Hoping to reinstall everything soon and set up the computer with the latest software... maybe this weekend. I'm bookmarking your vim article.

Once you try Textmate you never go back

I sort of understand your statement about Textmate's arrogance, and I certainly wish it would be ported over to Linux or even Windows. That said however, I have to tell you (and maybe you already know this) Textmate is hands down the best text editor for Ruby on Rails. It's so good that I've decided to purchase Mac minis for my development group rather than invest in much cheaper Linux boxes because I truly believe productivity will suffer with anything less than Textmate for Rails development.

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Textmate, Mac, Ruby on Rails

I haven't used Textmate, but I'm happy with Vim and the Rails vim plugin. The attitude that often accompanies Mac and Textmate have kept me away from those products. Mac is better than Windows by far, but I prefer Linux over Mac if nothing else than for the philosophy and people involved with it.

I have been using RadRails on Windows

I have been using RadRails on Windows. For me, it is very nice.
Now I'm moving to Ubuntu 6.06, and I am so luck to know that RadRails has a linux version. I'm downloading it right now. I hope it won't take me long to make it work.


I've been looking around as well for good RoR editor on Ubuntu. I found Scribes ( which seems a step in the right direction. I haven't used it enough to really form an opinion yet, but I wish it had a sidebar for working with an entire RoR project. Tabs would be nice too as all the windows start to clutter things up. I'll give it more of a try though...

Webmaster Tips's picture

Scribes Text Editor

From what I've read Scribes doesn't support editing multiple documents (e.g., tabs). I've heard good things about it though. I'm going to try it eventually. At the moment I'm still using vim and gvim with good results.

TextMate *Can't* Be Ported...

The authors of TextMate need to come clean about why they won't port TextMate to other OSs, instead of making themselves sound like elitests. The *real* reason is that the program is written in OS X's native Cocoa API, which is currently unportable to any other operating system. The closest atttempt to allow for porting is GNUStep which, while it is cool, doesn't support near the number of Cocoa features necessary to port major Cocoa built applications. (To be fair to GNUStep, until more recently they were only interested in supporting the original OpenStep standard that NeXT published, rather than try to keep pace with the *major* changes and additions that Apple has been able to make to the NeXT API since Apple acquire NeXT.)

To be fair to TextMate, it *is* really good. I work at a small start-up company writing Ruby on Rails apps where I was the *only* one doing development on a Mac. Within 6 months, the whole development team dropped their Windows machines and now exclusively run on Macs. Now the *whole* office is planning on making the switch to Macs!

Anyway, I want to thank you for doing the research on a good Ubuntu Ruby on Rails solution. I run an Ubuntu machine (and 2 Macs) at home, and my genius 8 yr old step-son wants to learn Ruby. I wanted to find a good editor for him to use that would be both userfriendly and powerful.

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Mac Textmate / Linux Vim

I'm sure that Textmate is a nice editor, but the "exclusive" attitude keeps me disinterested. I'm happy with Vim. Check out Cream with the Rails Vim plugin (see halfway down that page). It has all the features of Vim, but is much easier to use.

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Update: it's now March 30, 2007 and I'm still using Vim and Gvim. I highly recommend Vim -- or Cream if you are just starting with Vim.

Webmaster Tips's picture

Vim / Gvim

If you are using Vim, you can switch to Gvim by typing :gui in normal mode. It works on Linux at least.

scribes and gEdit

You can get scribes and gEdit to work with rhtml files.
Follow a simple how-to at
should actually work on any gtk-sourceview based editor

64 bit editors

I was using Rad Rails at work for a project that I was doing, on a 32 bit Windows machine, and when I tried to install it on my 64 bit Linux machine at home, I got the "wrong ELF class: ELFCLASS32" erros. Apparently Rad Rails is NOT 64 bit compatible.

However, I did find another IDE that works with 64 bit, called Free Ride. It's a pure ruby ide, found at So far, so good, and I like it. Not quite perfect yet, but I'm using it.

gedit rocks

gedit has had some serious improvements of late. i did a little write up
on running the latest version which ships with Gutsy Gibbon for doing
rails work.

Don't Forget

Netbeans (starting with 6.0?) has a very nice Ruby package!

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