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Ruby on Rails tutorial : learn web development with Rails (3rd ed.)
Hartl M., Addison-Wesley Professional, Old Tappan, NJ, 2015. 744 pp.  Type: Book (978-0-134077-70-3)
Date Reviewed: Nov 20 2015

David Heinemeier Hansson released Ruby on Rails in 2004. Known as Rails, it is a model-view-controller (MVC) framework for developing web applications using standards such as JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) and Extensible Markup Language (XML) for data transfer; Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), cascading style sheets (CSS), and JavaScript for user interface; and software design principles such as convention over configuration, don’t repeat yourself (DRY), and the active record pattern. It comes with an integrated web application development environment that includes scaffold generators for automatically generating a great deal of functionality for a website, a web server called WEBrick, and a build system called Rake. At the time of this writing, it is estimated that more than half a million websites are based on Ruby on Rails, which includes many high-profile companies, making it one of the most popular web development frameworks.

This tutorial introduces “web development by building three example applications of increasing sophistication.” It starts, in chapter 1, with a minimal “Hello World” application that takes the reader through the entire web application development life cycle, from preparing the development environment to deploying the completed application. In the process, readers learn how to version control their software using popular version control systems such as Git and Bitbucket, and how to deploy their application in production on the web using a platform such as Heroku.

Chapter 2 develops a slightly more complex, but still a toy, web application using Rails’ scaffolding approach that can automatically generate much of the functionality needed for this application. While it may be tempting to stick to this approach for expediency, the complexity of the generated code makes it difficult to understand and can easily overwhelm someone new to Rails. The book demonstrates the scaffolding approach in chapter 2, but starting in chapter 3, all code for its final application is developed piecemeal so readers can gain a more complete and deeper understanding of the Rails framework.

In chapters 3 through 12, the author creates a large website, writing all its code from scratch using several software development best practices such as mockups, test-driven development (TDD), and integration tests. Chapter 3 starts with creating static pages for the website with a little dynamic content. Chapter 4 introduces the reader to a more in-depth treatment of the Ruby language underlying Rails, and picks up the development of the website in chapters 5 through 10, completing its layout, the user data model, and a full registration and authentication system. Finally, chapters 11 and 12 add microblogging and social features to the website.

Upon completion of this book, readers will have a fairly sophisticated background in web application development using Ruby, Rails, JSON, XML, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Even though it is not required, readers can benefit from having some programming background, especially in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and SQL. Overall, the book is a great resource for those who wish to launch their career as a web developer. The book is available for free reading online (https://www.railstutorial.org/). As you go through this online resource, you are prompted to sign up and obtain a free solutions manual for the end-of-chapter exercises.

Rails can be one of the hardest technologies to adopt for beginners because of its configuration complexity. Hartl, however, avoids this pitfall by making all his code examples run in a standardized cloud-based environment that is easily accessible via a simple web browser. This environment “comes preconfigured with most of the software needed for professional-grade Rails development,” so readers will not need to deploy any software on their machines and can quickly become productive developers of web applications using this framework.

More reviews about this item: Amazon, Goodreads

Reviewer:  Raghvinder Sangwan Review #: CR143969 (1602-0093)
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