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Ruby on Rails Exposed

Do you remember doing long division by hand back in the good old school days? Then somebody showed you a calculator. Faster, easier and always right.

This developer has been building web projects using a plethora of technologies since just after the birth of the internet and feels like he's just been handed a calculator.

The calculator takes the form of Ruby on Rails (RoR).

Ruby is a programming language and Rails is a framework of tools, techniques and components that compliment it.

Why the hype?

Having built web applications from the ground up over the years, the differences RoR bring to the fore include:

Using Ruby, the applications you build are completed faster, use less code and are easier to maintain. Applications can be built in a fraction of the time using a fraction of the amount of code other languages like PHP or PERL would require.

The second benefit is the simplicity of the Rails framework. All of the functionality is built directly into the Rails framework. This eliminates the need for clunky configuration files. Simply tell Rails where your database is located, and the framework will do the rest.

Ruby on Rails is known for its ability to build Web applications quickly and with ease. For first-time users of Java, it could take about five to ten days to build a moderately useful Web application that will communicate with a database using accepted Java Web best-practices such as separating business logic, from display logic. With no prior training on Ruby on Rails, it takes about one day to accomplish the same goal using the Ruby programming language. In several more days, it is possible to build a relatively complete Web application with Ruby on Rails.

Impact on the bottom line

It's simple; building web applications using RoR is fast and efficient it therefore cuts the cost of development. A rough estimate is half that of a Java and/or PHP project. The build time is only one element of the cost of a software project, the other element is the ongoing maintenance. Because Rails' applications insist on standardised configuration a developer can move from one application to another with the knowledge that everything is in the same place and the framework is ready for use.

Industry acceptance

Rails acceptance is already being witnessed in large companies such as IBM, Microsoft, Apple, and Sun Microsystems. Sun Microsystems supports a project called JRuby that enables Ruby applications to run in a Java Virtual Machine. Efforts like JRuby will make it easier for companies to transition and adapt to Ruby on Rails since it will become a part of a familiar structure. Apple Computer has supported Ruby on Rails since the release of its' flagship operating system, OS X 10.5 (Leopard). Even Microsoft has included Ruby programming language support in its newest rich-Internet framework, Silverlight.

Don't reinvent the wheel

So, you want to allow users to upload excel files into a database, or you want to make sure users authenticate before posting a comment. You could write code but that wouldn't be smart. What is smart is using code that's already written, tried and tested and does what it says on the box. You need a Gem, a Ruby Gem. Ruby gems are modules of code that have been packaged so anybody wishing to use the functionality they provide can simply download and install the gem and start using the code either through use of a single command or a single click.


There are a bundle of web technologies available, some have been around for years, some fairly new. Each has their strengths and weaknesses. In the humble opinion of this developer who's been programming web systems since 1996, Ruby on Rails is the nearest thing to sliced bread he has seen. It's fast, efficient, neat and tidy. Very little code required to get the job done. Very little code means maintenance is a walk in the park. If you're looking to start a new web project you'd be crazy not to consider RoR as the way forward.

About The Author

Peter Mac has been building web solutions since the mid 90's and has extensive experience with PHP, PERL, ASP, Java, .Net and to date has two sizeable RoR projects under his belt. Email him at petermac at threerock dot com to find out more.

Learn More About Ruby http://articles.sitepoint.com/article/learn-ruby-on-rails

The Official Ruby on Rails Website

Ruby on Rails Wiki