Over the last few years Rails has helped Ruby’s popularity explode. One of the biggest reasons for this is the time that Rails can save you. By working within a well defined framework a lot of development decisions are simplified and it is easier to be more organized. Throw in some great tools like ORM, Unit Testing, Mocking, and more and you have a powerhouse of developer efficiency and quality.
I am a .Net developer by trade and a PHP developer sometimes by choice. I enjoy both environments for different reasons. I am going to talk about each of these components in a bit of detail and explain why I think they are important and then at the end of the article I will provide a list of each of these components for various languages (.Net, Java, PHP, Python, and Ruby). I have decided to only list free or open source tools because they are easy for someone to try out and we all like to save a few bucks.
The Integrated Development Environment (IDE)
To me this is the prime essential. Sure you can program in Notepad and compile with the command line but it will likely take longer and it will require more discipline to stay organized. With a good IDE you have easy project management (all you files grouped together with tabbed browsing), syntax highlighting, compilation (if applicable), and auto complete.
IDE are continuously getting more and more sophisticated and plugins allow for lots more functionality like svn and git management in the IDE.
For me my favorite IDE is Visual Studio. There are some other great programs out there like NetBeans and Eclipse but for whatever reason I have become partial to Visual Studio.
Unit Testing And Mocking
These two items go hand in hand. No application is complete without proper testing. There are plenty of people on both sides of the fence when it comes to testing. I know, I was a skeptic for a along time. It just felt weird to spend time writing code to test the real code I was going to write. Finally I just decided to give it a try and it has changed the way I program. When you are focusing on how to test your code you just write cleaner code and it’s nice to have a quick way to know if the change you just made broke anything.
Object Relational Mapper
If you have ever used an ORM you know that it can save you a huge amount of time. One of the concerns I had before jumping to an ORM was performance. I wanted to know if using an ORM would make my application slower but I was asking the wrong question. I should have been asking whether or not the small performance hit was worth the huge time savings. The answer to that is a definite YES! Rarely in an application will the ORM be the source of poor performance and if it is it can be refactored to improve or you can use straight SQL if need be.
It all comes down to not worrying about performance issues before you have any. Yes it is important to keep performance in mind but using an ORM shouldn’t be anything to worry about.
MVC has become very popular thanks in part to Rails and it’s revolution in the way we do Web Development. The key component to it’s popularity is that it separates the different concerns of your application into seperate pieces. This separation allows easier testing, better design, and makes your application more maintainable overall.
Web-designer since 2000 year. Founder and CEO of NetrinoMedia company.
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