Getting spec mate to work reliably with TextMateEdit

Created , updated

I’ve been using the excellent spec_mate tool from within the RSpec TextMate bundle to run RSpec specifications from within the editor. The trouble was that it didn’t work reliably – half the time it would fail to run at all – so I attributed the intermittent problems to bugs in spec_mate.

It turns out that the intermittent nature of the fault was caused by differences in the PATH environment variable. If I launched TextMate from the GUI then spec_mate would fail with errors like this:

/Users/wincent/Library/Application Support/TextMate/Bundles/RSpec.tmbundle/Support/lib/spec_mate.rb:1:in `require': No such file to load -- rubygems (LoadError) from /Users/wincent/Library/Application Support/TextMate/Bundles/RSpec.tmbundle/Support/lib/spec_mate.rb:1 from /tmp/temp_textmate.VXOsUF:3:in `require' from /tmp/temp_textmate.VXOsUF:3

But if I launched from within the terminal using mate then everything worked fine. It took a long time for me to wake up and realize that the intermittent failures were caused by the different launch techniques; my launch patterns are totally random and sometimes mixed: I launch from both the command line and the GUI, and when TextMate is already running I’ll open files for editing from within the GUI and from the command line, depending on where I am at the time.

It turns out that when you launch using mate then you get a nice PATH environment, inherited from the shell (usually defined in ~/.bash_profile). But when you launch from the GUI you get a totally empty environment and this causes spec_mate to fail because it can’t find RubyGems. Not a big deal because you can still run your specs as normal Ruby scripts using Command-R, but using spec_mate is much nicer because you can run individual specs much more easily.

When the suspicion that this was the cause entered my mind I tried to confirm it by launching TextMate with mate and running a shell script that contained only the export command, showing me the environment. Then I relaunched from the GUI and tried the same: surprise, surprise, the environment was still replete with settings. It seems that when you choose "Run Script" from the "Shell Script" bundle TextMate employs a full shell that sources your ~/.bash_profile and so picks up your PATH and all other environment settings.

Using a one-line Ruby command, puts ENV, and hitting Control+Shift+E (short for "Execute Line as Ruby") I was able to immediately establish that the environment was totally empty when TextMate was launched from the GUI. I should have done it the Ruby way right from the beginning, of course.

The fix

Having identified the cause, implementing the solution was very easy.

First, check the environment settings for GUI apps (read at login):

default read ~/.MacOSX/environment

Add an appropriate PATH setting:

defaults write ~/.MacOSX/environment PATH "/usr/local/bin:/bin:/sbin:/usr/bin:/usr/sbin"

Finally, confirm the changes are as you want them:

default read ~/.MacOSX/environment

Changes take effect on the next login.