This post started with a point. It didn’t end with one. So, I’m going to start it again and just get to the point. What makes a good Ruby Cocoa development environment. I’ll get into my rambling thoughts below, but quickly; straight up XCode/Interface Builder, HotCocoa, Interface Builder and command line building, some combination of all three or something else.

If you were going to do it, how, or what would you do?

I’ve been playing with the above three options as I’ve trying to figure this out myself. I’ve done a few straight HotCocoa applications (SilverLining, Rife and Postie) and, while they worked out well, I found the need to do all the layout by hand tedious and boring. I really like Interface Builder for ease of UI creation.

Taking that, I tried the XCode/Interface Builder solution and went to the bundled MacRuby XCode templates. When programming Objective-C I really enjoy XCode, it makes things easy when doing purely native Mac applications. That said, XCode irks me when doing Ruby development. Maybe it’s muscle memory, not sure, but I like using TextMate to do my Ruby work.

The approach I’ve been using in my latest fiddlings (Touchstone) started with the XCode templates but I broke out, stole some of the rake tasks from HotCocoa, and switched to TextMate and the command line.

The biggest issue I’ve run into is the Interface Builder integration kinda sucks. It does work, but you have to reload the class files manually all the time. A bit frustrating.

On the flip side, I can organize my code however I want. The tendency for Objective-C programs to have all their code in the root directory drives me up the wall. Sure, XCode hides this, you can change it, but, by default, everything ends up in the root folder. Maddening.

With Touchstone, I’ve put all the application code, similar to Rails, under App/Controllers, App/Models, App/Helpers and App/Views. The same structure is copied into the .app file when it’s generated. Everything feels much cleaning. The .xib and .xcdatamodel files get compiled and moved as needed.

I know I could have used the XCode build stuff but having to launch XCode and getting the debugging output in an XCode window didn’t feel right for me. I wanted something a bit more contained.

Coming back to the original question, I think what I want to see, is something similar to Touchstone but with the convenience of HotCocoa. The HotCocoa mappings make a lot of things feel more Rubyish, feel more natural. Those bindings, combined with Interface Builder, I think, would make a kick-ass Cocoa programming environment.

Again, how would you do it?