CoffeeScript, Visual Studio and Sublime Text 2

CoffeeScript, Visual Studio and Sublime Text 2

Rene Rubalcava | June 6, 2012

I had previously written about simplifying your dev environment. Most of the day to day work that I do, I can manage with vim just fine. But I also use Visual Studio quite a bit for ASP/MVC3 and (don't laugh) Silverlight. So when I do web dev in Visual Studio, I like to set up my environment in a way that makes me effective and productive. I never really thought about this process until I started doing some pair-programming and had to share this convoluted information with another human being. I'm going to do this step-by-step, so there's no confusion (please don't get confused).

1: MVC 3

Of course you'll need Visual Studio 2010. In my case, I work mainly with ASP.NET MVC 3 when using Visual Studio, so be sure to install that here.

2: Mindscape Workbench

You can get Mindscape Workbench here. It's a great plugin for Visual Studio that allows you to create CoffeeScript files as well as Less/Sass files. We'll also need to install CoffeeScript and Sass/Compass for this to work. You can read more about the plugin from Scott Hanselman here. One drawback it has is that there is no intellisense for CoffeeScript files. This is the next step.

3: Sublime Text 2

This is not a required step, you could just as easily use vim or some other text editor, but I wanted to set things up in a somewhat easier to use environment for someone that doesn't care about vim power. Download it here. Leave it alone for now, we'll come back to this later.

4: Git

Now the fun begins, install Git for Windows from here. From here on out, I recommend using the Git Bash shell for simplicity sake. Now the tricky part is working with these command line tools behind a proxy. If you're lucky, you don't work behind a proxy, if you're not, these command line tools will not automatically be aware if your internet settings, so you need to manually set them up. You can use the following command or git as discussed in this Stackoverflow question.

git config --global http.proxy http://proxy_host:port

5: Ruby

This is a simple one, install Ruby from here. The Ruby installer comes with gem. Once again, per instructions here and here, we may need to set up gem behind a proxy. Run this command before using gem.

set HTTP_PROXY=http://proxy_host:port

This should set HTTP_PROXY for this current bash session, so you'll do it each time you reopen bash before running gem. I tried setting up a permanent environment variable for this, but it interfered with my internet connection. You may have better luck. I could have sworn there was a config file you could create that gem could read for proxy info, but can't remember it.

6: Node.js

Simple enough these days, use the windows installer for Node.js and you should be all set. Before the windows installer, this process sucked, I would say run Linux in a Virtual Box and spare the stress. Thanks Node devs for making this a clean process for Windows guys. The installer comes with npm, so if you need to work behind a proxy, read this and do the following.

npm config set proxy http://proxy_host:port npm config set registry ""

7: CoffeeScript

Now you can install CoffeeScript, finally!

npm install -g coffee-script

Now you the Mindbench plugin for Visual Studio can compile your Less/Sass files.

8: Sass/Compass

Install Compass per these instructions.

gem install compass

9: CoffeeScript bundle for Sublime Text 2

Get the CoffeeScript bundle here. Sublime Text 2 can use Textmate bundles, so this works great. On Windows 7, you are looking for $HOME/AppData/Roaming/SublimeText 2/packages/, where $HOME is your user documents and settings folders. Turn on the ability to show hidden files and folders if you don't see the AppData folder. Run the following command.

git clone git:// CoffeeScript

Add the ability to build the CoffeeScript files per this link. Open the CoffeeScript/Commands folder and look for a file named CoffeeScript.sublime-build. Make sure it looks like this. I did not need to have the "path" option for it to work for me.

{ "cmd": ["coffee.cmd","-c","$file"], "file_regex": "^(...\*?):([0-9]\*):?([0-9]\*)", "selector": "" }

Now when you edit a *.coffee file in Sublime Text 2, you can use ctrl+b to build and save the file at the same time.

10: Take it for a spin

At this point, start up Visual Studio, start a new MVC 3 Web project. Add a new item, and you should have the option to add CoffeeScript files. Right click the CoffeeScript file -> Open With, choose "Sublime Text 2", if not an option, browse to the sublime.exe in Program Files\Sublime Text 2. Set it as the default and now all *.coffee files will open in Sublime Text 2 when double-clicked in Visual Studio. Again, press ctrl+b in Sublime Text 2 to build and save the *.coffee files and you should be good to go.


Ok, I know this whole process seemed a little long, but I find it to be worthwhile in my dev workflow. The trickiest part for me was getting everything working behind a proxy. After I had to do this on a couple of machines and asked to explain it, I thought I should document this somehow. Many of the search results out there are also written specific to OS X and Linux users, so there are little bits here and there that took some translating to Windows, not much, but slight nuances like installing the CoffeeScript bundle. I hope everything works for you. If you run into to trouble, I'll see if I can help, but some Google-fu worked when I got stuck.

I did not cover each tool in much detail, like how to use git or the benefits of npm and gem. I would encourage you to read on these subjects further if you are interested. I would like to state that Node.js and Ruby are more than development languages (Ok, Node is a library, give me a break), but they open up a whole world of tools that you can use in your day to day development, like testing, building of your web applications.

I hope someone finds this information useful. It took me hours to figure out when I first started it some time ago, so hopefully I saved you some time.