Sun Provides Early Access to NetBeans Ruby Pack

Java developers are getting early access to the NetBeans Ruby Pack, a new plug-in for the NetBeans IDE (integrated development environment) that provides added support for both Ruby and Sun Microsystems' JRuby.

The plug-in provides new editing features that, Sun says, go "beyond basic editing, syntax highlighting, navigation outline, project support and unit test execution." The plug-in adds code completion for modules, classes, methods, and escape codes within literal strings and regular expressions. Developers will also find extended features, such as integrated documentation pop-ups for Ruby API calls, semantic analysis with highlighting of parameters, and unused local variables, as well as occurrence highlighting.

"Developing these plug-ins for NetBeans is yet another demonstration of our commitment to support dynamic languages," stated Jeet Kaul, Sun's VP for developer products and programs. " extends its reach into a new community of users, while exposing the existing Java development community to the power of the Ruby language. Building this synergy is what makes open-source a powerful strategy for aligning and moving the technology industry forward."

Ruby is one of the dynamic, object-oriented scripting languages (such as JavaScript, PHP, Python, and Perl) that have been gaining popularity among Web developers. JRuby is a 100-percent pure Java implementation of Ruby for the Java Virtual Machine.

Charles Nutter and Thomas Enebo, the chief maintainers of JRuby, who joined Sun last year, announced the early-access release at the recent TheServerSide Java Symposium in Las Vegas, March 21-23.

Ruby was originally developed in 1993. Its recent rise in popularity has been attributed to the development of Ruby on Rails in 2005. Rails is an open-source Web development framework written in Ruby. It's a full-stack framework for developing database-backed Web apps following the Model-View-Control architecture.

Nutter and Enebo initiated the JRuby project in 2002 in Germany, and they are its chief maintainers. They joined Sun in September to work full-time on the project, with a particular focus on developer tools. Ruby expert Ola Bini, a systems architect and developer based in Stockholm, also joined Sun's JRuby team as a core developer.

The JRuby project is part of Sun's overall strategy to make the Java Virtual Machine a better platform for languages other than Java. Sun's hiring of Nutter and Enebo was seen at the time as something of a delayed reaction to Microsoft's earlier hiring of another dynamic language guru, Jim Hugunin, creator of IronPython, who joined Microsoft in August of 2004. IronPython is an implementation of Python for the .NET framework.

Sun is planning a May release of the 1.0 version of JRuby. Version 0.9.8 of JRuby, released in March, is now available for download at

The NetBeans Ruby Pack is available for download by NetBeans users at the NetBeans AutoUpdate Center:

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].