The Rest of My Development Environment

As a professional software developer the vast majority of my experience has been working on C#.NET WinForm applications. I started using .NET shortly before the 1.0 framework was released. I can’t remember if I ever did .NET development under Windows 2000; I generally use Windows XP. If you’re wondering why I don’t use Vista I have to assume that you’ve never tried Vista yourself. It’s not good. I’m waiting for Windows 7 and hoping for the best.

The tools that I use for C#.NET are pretty standard:

C# Development

The one thing that is sorta strange about how I do my C#.NET work is that I do everything on a Mac Pro with XP running in VMWare Fusion. I’ve had a similar setup at home for a couple of years but I’ve only had this setup at work since January.

There are definitely a few quirks that I had to get used to, working in Windows running in a VM on OS X. But the benefits of this setup far outweigh any inconvenience. The ability to take snapshots of the entire VM is awesome! If a program screws with my registry and Windows starts acting funky I just roll back to the last snapshot!

The other huge benefit to working in VMWare is memory. Unless you’re using 64-bit Windows (which can be problematic for many reasons) you are limited to 2 GB of memory. Windows sucks at managing virtual memory so I always try to keep my open applications below that 2 GB limit. Since my Mac has 12 GB of memory, if I need to do something else, I can just boot up a second VM.

Most of the software that I’ve written for OS X has been personal projects. Nothing fancy, just various tools to scratch some itch. Since getting my iPhone I’ve been doing more work in Objective-C and Cocoa.

Because I’ve done so much work with managed and interpreted languages, it feels a little weird to work in unmanaged C/ObjC. But it is kinda cool too. Objective-C is a fairly simple language and Cocoa is a very nice framework. There are some things that I don’t like about Obj-C (not having namespaces and gimpy string manipulation come immediately to mind) but I really appreciate being able to actually use Cocoa controls for UI work. It is almost unthinkable to do GUI development for Windows without buying a set of third-party controls.

My must-have software for writing Mac/iPhone applications:

Cocoa Development

And finally, a few additional pieces of software that are invaluable to me. These are helpful regardless of what type of software I am writing.

Web Development Environment

During 2008 I spent most of my time doing web development. There was some Java, PHP and Python, but most of my time was spent working in Ruby on Rails. Rails is a lot of fun and (I know this sounds cheesy, but…) it helped me to enjoy doing web development again.

When I’m working in Java I always prefer to use JetBrains’ excellent IntelliJ IDEA. However, this past year I didn’t have a license for IntelliJ. I tried every free IDE I could find and wound up choosing Eclipse. I’ve used Eclipse periodically over the last several years. I don’t really like it but I dislike it less than the other free alternatives.

My work was completely server-side and didn’t involve developing a database component. Most of my development was done on OS X but I was deploying to Ubuntu so I did work there also. I used maven to build, test and deploy. I’m not a unit-test fanatic but, in this case unit testing was invaluable.

Java Development

My setup for both PHP and Python is the same. When I’m working on Mac I use either TextMate or vim. I haven’t done a great deal of Python work but over the past several years I’ve tried to find a PHP IDE that I like… I’m still looking.

PHP Development

I started out doing my Ruby work using TextMate and I didn’t have any major complaints. There are some nice plugins and various tricks that are handy. But personally, I prefer an IDE. I’ve heard some people say that IDEs make us lazy. Ok, I’m lazy. But I’m also far more productive when I have a good IDE. When JetBrains started issung beta releases of RubyMine, TextMate was history!

RubyMine’s GUI for easily stepping through code in the debugger is great. The inline code analysis is nice for quickly catching typos and the code completion can be useful too. But for me, the best part about having RubyMine is the navigation and documentation.

When I’m working with other developers (or even with frameworks that I didn’t write), I don’t always know exactly what a method does. Being able to instantly bring up documentation is awesome! If I need more information, I hate wasting time trying to hunt down a method buried in code that I am not familiar with. With one key-stroke RubyMine takes me to the code I’m looking for.

Rails Development

I am definitely a fan of JetBrains’ production. IntelliJ is awesome, RubyMine is awesome, and VisualStudio is just broken without ReSharper. There is certainly a learning curve to these tools but once you’ve memorized the key strokes, the code you need is always right in front of you. And the best part part is that the key bindings are the same across each of JetBrain’s products!

One last application that deserves to be mentioned is Navicat. Navicat is by far the best application that I’ve found for working with MySQL or PostgreSQL. Unfortunately, that’s not saying much. I have spent a lot of time using SQL Server and Microsoft’s related tools and, as far as I can tell, there is nothing for MySQL that is even in the same league.

Don’t misunderstand me. Navicat is a great tool. Allowing me to save connections to different servers with many different login credentials is a lifesaver, especially the ability to tunnel the connections over ssh. Being able to do basic server management via a GUI is nice too. But when I need to design a database, I always turn back to SQL Server Management Studio.