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Are you interested in building a web applications? Did you ever wonder who web applications are built and deployed onto the loud? Are you piqued by the growing popularity of web services, and want to dabble in them too?
If your answer to any of the above questions, you have already done your own research into the subject. You may have dabbled a little in C# or Java, and realized that there is a lot to learn and understand in order to become proficient in any of them. You may have realized that the all-popular web services that you’re interested in are too complicated to be integrated in a web application. As for deploying web applications, you may have found out that there is a lot to set up for it to get going.
This program is the perfect stepping stone into the world of web application building, focused on one of the best web application frameworks to start out with: Ruby on Rails. The framework is designed for rapid prototyping, and this takes you through the basics and concepts, and gives you the necessary knowledge and skills to pull off your own web application.
What is Ruby?
Ruby is one of the older programming languages, created two decades ago. It is among the top ten most popular programming languages by most measures, though it is usually ranked towards the end of the list. Most of its popularity these days also stems from the popularity of the Rails framework. Ruby, like C language or Java, is an all-purpose programming language, but is most popularly used for web programming.
What is Rails?
Rails is basically a software library that extends Ruby, created by David Heinemeier Hansson. It is called ‘Ruby on Rails’, ‘RoR’, or just ‘Rails’ in many cases. It is a software code addition to the Ruby programming language. In technical terms, it is a package library or ‘RubyGem’ installed with the command-line interface of the operating system.
Rails is used as a website development framework, and it is sets conventions for easier maintenance and collaboration, codified as the Rails application programming interface (API). The Rails API essentially provides directives to control the code. It is documented on the internet and described in a lot of places. Learning Ruby on Rails from scratch involves learning how to use the API and the Rails conventions.
In a larger senses, Rails less of an API and more of a software library. It is a central project involving a huge community producing software libraries and codes that simplifies site-building. Members of this Rails community share many of the core values, support each other and often use the same set of tools.
Why opt for Ruby?
Ruby is popular in the programming world for its uncluttered, to-the-point syntax that does not require a lot of repetition or punctuation, like Java or PHP. It is more streamlined than Java, requiring less code for the basic structures, like data fields. It is a modern language where it is easier to use meta-programming and other high-level abstractions. Meta-programming in particular eases the development of a domain specific language, customizing Ruby for certain uses. Rails and several other RubyGems use this DSL capability.
RubyGems is the key advantage of Ruby. It is the package manager that eases the development and sharing of software libraries or gems that can extend the capabilities of Ruby. It is a simple system for gem installation. Anyone can create and upload their gems on the RubyGems website. The gem is then available to be downloaded and installed by any user. You will also find the latest version of Rails from the RubyGems website, along with all necessary gems to develop complex websites.
Of programs, Ruby is not perfect. It does have its disadvantages. For one, it is slower to process than Java or C++. However, for a programmer, a language’s processing speed is not always as important as the benefits in productivity and performance that they gain. Also, Ruby is not as well-suited for complex software engineering that requires efficiently executing simultaneous activity. Another common complaint is that Ruby programs have too many complex operations conducted through simple directives.
Studying Ruby before Rails
Should you study Ruby, the programming language, before you learn Rails, the framework? Well, the short answer to this question is NO. But it is a good idea to just introduce yourself to Ruby and its syntax so that you are not too overwhelmed by the first experience of Ruby on Rails from scratch. You should be able to recognize current and incorrect formatting when typing Ruby on your text editor.
As you develop proficiency on Rails, though, you will have to pick up Ruby too. You need to develop your Ruby skills as you practice and utilize Rails. Because Rails is a DSL, it has its own directives that is separate from the Ruby core.
A key challenge for you would be to learn the structure names that you see in the code examples, and introducing yourself briefly to Ruby should be helpful in this process. You need to be able to understand whether you are looking at a hash or array, or a block syntax or iterator. As you get more practice, you will be able to identify more complex and less-common formulations, like a lambda function. You do not have to write or even know when to use a lambda function, though. Most developers start learning Rails before they master Ruby.
While this program takes you through Ruby on Rails from scratch, it is important to supplement your knowledge and training in whatever ways you can. If you see some concepts or things about Ruby that you are not clear about, reach out and find out what it is. Go through more textbooks and short programs to get more proficient with the framework. If you love programming languages, take a deep dive into Ruby itself. But do not delay your study of Rails while you learn more about Ruby. You will retain a lot more knowledge on Ruby if you learn it along with Rails.
Why opt for Rails?
Rails has earned its popularity because of its precise and pervasive conventions. Web applications have complex requirements including basic functions, like generation of HTML, accessing a database and processing form submissions. Without a framework, programmers have to take on the implementation of all the infrastructure.
Rails is popular because it was developed to follow one certain way of implement most of the infrastructure that a web application needs. Hansson and the core developer team considers this the best way of implementation, and many of the implementation elements seem arbitrary. Some have even criticized the core developers of being autocratic in their approach to making improvements to Rails. However, there is no denying that the Rails API is a great approach to implementing a web application framework’s requirements.
Developers who learn this ‘Rails way’ can produce web applications that other rails developers can work on and understand more quickly. This makes development faster and collaboration quicker. And there is a lot of support for Rails too, with a huge pool of open-source libraries available for enhancing Rails.
Rails also matches well with agile software development practices, especially with its focus on ‘convention over configuration’ and software testing.
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