Fast-track Apps Development

PCQ Bureau
New Update

Developing a Web application based on database has never been this easy. Ruby

on Rails is a solution that speeds up the development process by providing a

skeletal code framework for application development. It is an Open Source

project written in Ruby, while Ruby itself is a pure object oriented programming

language. Rails provides a framework for developing web-based database driven

application. An application developed with Ruby on Rails is based on

Model-View-Controller (MVC) architecture. Faster application development is

possible as Rails follows two principles, viz, 'Don't Repeat Yourself' (DRY) and

'Convention over Configuration' (CoC). In this article, we will explore how Ruby

on Rails can be used for faster Web-app development and seeing these principles

in action.


Direct Hit!

Applies To:


USP: Create DB-based apps with

Primary Link:

Google Keywords: Ruby on Rails

On PCQ Professonal CD:system/cdrom/developers

Setup and configuration

We have carried the Ruby installer on this month's PCQ Professional CD. It

comes with the RubyGems package manager. You can install the Rails framework

either by installing it from within Ruby by calling a remote installation

command or by installing the InstantRails package. To install Rails, we used

RubyGems package manager. From the command prompt, we entered the following


gem install rails --remote


During installation, RubyGems downloads all the libraries that Rails depends

upon and for each dependency it prompts before downloading. So press 'Y' (Yes)

for each of the dependencies. The other method is to extract the InstantRails

package and use the InstantRails.exe to start up with the development.


Field name

Id  Int

Primary key






Field name




Primary key



Foreign Key to Categories







App development

We will build an application based on MySQL database. The application will

be for books management in a library, whereby each book will be placed under a

specific category. So lets create a database 'pcqrubydemo' and under that create

two tables-Categories and Books.


As Rails is an application development framework, it creates the basic

structure needed for the application. Another convention that Rails follows is

that the name of the application and that of database should be same, so the

application name will be 'pcqrubydemo'. For Rails to create the structure we

will first make a directory called Rails Root Directory. From the command

prompt, we will navigate to this directory and give following command:

Rails pcqrubydemo

Here, a subdirectory 'pcqrubydemo' is created, which contains the complete

directory tree of folders and files for the application. Before moving on to the

application development, let's just look at the subdirectories that were created

for the application. As Rails is based on Model-View-Controller paradigm, it

uses the same to organize the source code.


* app/controllers: Controllers handles Web request from a user. All

controller classes are placed in this subdirectory.

* app/views: It holds HTML/JSP pages which are used for data input and
information display to user.

* app/models: This holds classes that model and wrap the data for
application's database.

Once you've created your

database, you need to run the Scaffold command in Ruby on Rails to generate

a framework for each table


Now, as our database and empty application are ready, we will start building

a framework for the application based on the database. For this we need to edit

the database configuration settings of the application. First, we need to change

the database name, username, password and host in the file 'database.yml'

located in the config directory under the main application directory, ie, 'pcqrubydemo'.

After setting up the database configuration, we can instruct Rails to build up

the framework based on the database tables. As Rails is based on Convention over

Configuration principle, i.e., by establishing a standard naming convention the

framework will develop the relevant code. This means the classes and methods

will be generated by the framework based on the table and column names. These

generated code structures are called 'scaffolding', and the term suggests, it

provides the outer support to the application. So to generate the scaffolding

for the Categories table, we will use the following command:

ruby script\generate scaffold category category

When you install Rails

through remote install call, the dependencies are automatically downloaded

This will instruct Rails to construct the scaffolding for the application, ie,

the code structure related to the Categories table. The convention that Rails

follows is of singular model class name mapping to plural database table names.

In our case, it is category mapping to Categories table and book mapping to

Books table. As per the MVC architecture, the code generated will contain the

model, view and controllers files. Rails names the model file as category.rb and

places that under app/models folder. Same way, the controllers file,

category_controller.rb, is generated and placed under app/controllers

subdirectory of the application root folder. The HTML pages for showing insert

and delete of the database entries are also created under app/views folder.

Similarly, we will also create the scaffolding of the application based on books

table by following command:

ruby script\generate scaffold book book


This will generate the model and controller classes for the books table and

also generate the views regarding the table. Now, we have the application ready

to work on.

The listing of different

categories and the page showing the category selection for the new book

creation page

Testing the application

To see how Rails has developed the application, we first need to start the

built-in webserver WEBrick. To start it, we use following command from the

application's root directory 'pcqrubydemo':

ruby script/server


In the browser window, browse to http://localhost:3000/category. This will

open a page from where we can view, create, edit and insert a category into the

database. Similarly, if you suffix the same URL with book, it will set the page

to display the books list. Both pages show links to create, read, update and

delete entries from both the database tables. Rails has created the relevant

code structure for these functions and eliminated the work a developer puts in

to code for those functions. For entering a new book, we do not have option to

choose the category for that book. Now to put the category selection option, we

just need to modify model definition for category and book. In category.rb, we

will define the relationship that exists between Categories and Books table.

class Category < ActiveRecord::Base

has_many :books


As just one category can be assigned to a book, we need to modify the class

Book. We will add following code that will ensure this.

class Book < ActiveRecord::Base

belongs_to :category


To give the selection option to the user, we'll modify some Rails generated

view code related to Book class. Since Rails is based on 'Don't Repeat Yourself'

principle, we have a partial form created by Rails that corresponds to both New

and Edit methods. We just need to modify the partial form and the changes get

reflected on New and Edit views of the Book class. The following code snippet

will show the category selection option on the New book creation page:


<%= select("book", "category_id", Category.find(:all).collect {|c| })

To view the category selection option, first restart the WEBrick server. When

we browse to new Book page we view the Category Selection option there. Now to

make the pages more appealing, we can modify the HTML tags and put the retrieved

data into a table format.


As you can see, Ruby on Rails can be very helpful for creating Web

applications that are database driven, and the best thing is that it requires

little coding only.