Years ago I was amused by Heroku giving the possibility to do development inside a web IDE. That product was called Heroku Garden but it was discontinued and Heroku focused only on easing the deployment of web apps.

Nowadays deployment is pretty much automated while development still happens on a local machine where you need to install all the relevant software like web servers, database servers, SDKs, etc. You have to do this only once per machine, but it is a very time consuming process and if for some reasons you don’t have your machine with you, you are not able to work on your projects, even though your code is probably already hosted on GitHub and accessible from everywhere.

Nitrous.IO tries to fix that and gives you the ability to do web development inside a browser from any computer connected to the Internet. In this blog post I will show how to set up a Nitrous.IO box to work on Ruby2 Rails4 Bootstrap Heroku Starter App.

1. Create a box

The first thing to do is to create a box on Nitrous.IO (note: this is a referral link. This one is a link without referral). You need at least 190 N2O to get 512MB of memory (the minimum amount of memory required to run our starter app). When you sign up at Nitrous.IO you get 150 N2O. To get extra N2O you can either pay or link your social accounts and invite colleagues to try the service.

2. Set up SSH, GitHub and Heroku

Now you have to follow these steps:

3. Set up databases

Create two free dev plan databases with Heroku Postgres, one for development and one for testing.

The Rails4 starter app we are going to use has a database.yml file configured to work on Nitrous.IO, TravisCI and a local machine (comments and pull requests are welcome).

Once you create these 2 databases, open the web IDE for your Nitrous.IO box and add the following lines to .bashrc file in your home (Tip: if you cannot see that file from the editor is probably because you have to enable the option to show hidden files):



4. Clone the starter app

Use the standard git commands to clone Ruby2 Rails4 Bootstrap Starter App inside your Nitrous.IO box shell:

cd workspace
git clone
cd ruby2-rails4-bootstrap-heroku

Test that specs pass:


Start the server and check that everything works from the Preview menu item (default port is 3000).

rails s

5. Deploy on Heroku

heroku create
git push heroku master


Being able to work on your projects without carrying your machine is a great freedom, but it comes at a price: the web ide is not that productive. Simple things like a global search and replace require you to master the command line. I certainly miss TextMate, git-flow or something like GitX. A viable compromise is to install Nitrous.IO for Mac if you work on a Mac, so that you can just install your favorite text editor and git GUI.

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