Quickly getting started with Rails 3.2

This post explains how I quickly get an application started for Rails 3.2.x.The post is part of a series covering quickly prototyping projects.

When I start a new rails project, I want to quickly get going with a login system, admin and other user roles, a nice default app template / style, and a JS framework I can build on. After looking at several options I ended up going with Rails Composer. It has a number of packages that work out of the box. It is very configurable, it is very easy to get up and running. Railsapps used to have a lot of free tutorials coving using rails-composer, now they sell detailed tutorials to support their work. You can still generally just read the read me for a project and go through the basic options to get everything working. I generally follow the Rails App for Devise with CanCan and Twitter Bootstrap example for my basic app base and further configure it myself from there.

Why use Rails composer?

Starting a brand new app takes time and a lot of the initial configuration is very much the same. The composer options I choose are well understood common Rails gems I would often choose for my initial setup in the first place. I understand all the pieces that I setup with Rails composer so I don’t feel like I am giving up any understanding by starting with the generated app. I would recommend making sure you ‘could’ setup any of the pieces Rails composer configures for you, and understanding them before using them in a generated project. If I am programming in my personal time I often have a problem I want to solve or a specific idea I want to test, getting to the point I can work on the primary focus with little lost has a big value to me.

If I choose Rails over Sinatra for a web project, in part I am assuming I will have higher front end needs for the project. Which likely means I will have accounts, logins, roles / rights, and want a more polished look and feel. Out of the box Rails requires you to setup a lot just to meet those basic needs. With Rails composer, I am basically good to go.

  • A solid starting design, Rails composer will give me Twitter Bootstrap configured and ready to go out of the gate
  • I am setup to perform most of my basic JS needs via Jquery which is ready to go from the beginning
  • Accounts, roles, and rights are covered by : Devise, Cancan, and Rolify. Quickly covering my basic account management needs.
  • The composer setups up a great way to share application specific configuration that isn’t checked into the code repo via Figaro. Which also supposed publishing the environment to Heroku my preferred production deployment for personal projects.
  • Having a nice familiar base app as a starting point helps me more quickly get to building application specific pieces of code and get my idea out there. Using a normal configuration with gems I am familiar with.
  • Stand on the shoulders of giants, I don’t want to spend my time building yet another authentication system, building in features like forgot password, email confirmation, etc.

Nothing to development with Rails composer

The example below is creating a new application called nothingcalendar2, which is a new version of a app I created awhile ago called nothing calendar to try out some JS ideas. Now I want to convert it to a modern rails application and add some new features.

rvm use ruby-1.9.3

#this will ask you some configuration options
rails new nothingcalendar2 -m https://raw.github.com/RailsApps/rails-composer/master/composer.rb

cd nothingcalendar2
bunlde install --local
bundle exec rake db:create
bundle exec rake db:migrate

#set the data to match your accounts / info
open config/application.yml

#this will use the data set in the last step to create accounts in the dev DB
bundle exec rake db:seed

# You have a app
rails s
open http://localhost:3000/

# check the tests
bundle exec rake

#create a new repo
git remote add origin [email protected]:danmayer/nothingcalendar2.git
git push -u origin master

From development to production

Great we have a app how do we get it out there for the world to see? For personal projects I mostly deploy initially to Heroku and only move to a larger more real production environment if the project really demands it. Getting a basic app to Heroku is easy. Obviously in the instructions below you need to name your app something else.

heroku apps:create nothingcalendar2

#edit Gemfile
#add the group option to sqlite3 as you don't want it to install on heroku
#set group to development and test
#you could use postgres locally since that is what you are using on heroku in production. That is the recommended setup but for a toy project many people don't have postgres locally
gem 'sqlite3', :group => [:development, :test]
#add postgres to Gemfile only for production group
gem 'pg', :group => [:production]
bundle install

git push heroku master
heroku run rake db:migrate
#push the settings in your config/application.yml to heroku
bundle exec rake figaro:heroku
#seed the database with admin account
heroku run rake db:seed

#you should be live
open http://nothingcalendar2.herokuapp.com/

Rails from nothing to production

Following the steps above it how I start most of my rails apps these days. Getting me up and running very quickly so that I can focus on the goals at hand and not worry about some of the initial details of having a basic infrastructure to build on. I have used this on a couple projects now and I am pretty happy with the process. I will likely continue to use this to quickly test out ideas, although for many simple progress I prefer the even lighter weight Sinatra setup, but that is for another post.

I think this is a great way to get going. Not everyone agrees with me for the opposing view checkout, Why we don’t use a Rails template by thunderboltlabs.

Like the idea but not Rails-Composer, Alternatives

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Welcome to Dan Mayer's development blog. I primary write about Ruby development, distributed teams, and dev/PM process. The archives go back to my first CS classes during college when I was first learning programming. I contribute to a few OSS projects and often work on my own projects, You can find my code on github.

Twitter @danmayer

Github @danmayer