|publisher||The Pragmatic Programmers|
|reviewer||James Edward Gray II|
|summary||A programming cookbook for all things Rails.|
Let me tell you how I discovered Rails Recipes. At the Rails shop I work for, we needed a favorites system for our latest application. When I inherited the task of implementing favorites, I had heard just enough to guess that the new polymorphic associations feature of Rails might be just what I needed. Sadly, I had never even seen an example of their usage. Before leaving work that day, I checked the table of contents to make sure a recipe for what I needed was in there and and bought a combo pack, so the PDF would be waiting for me in the morning. The next day I built the entire favorites system and integrated it into our application with only the book as my guide. Total time for implementation, from cracking the book to a complete solution: just over three hours.
Needless to say, the book had completely won me over by that point. I started sneaking in recipe reads whenever I had a free moment or two and had literally devoured the book in no time. I completely expected it to show me cute AJAX tricks and handle common issues like login code and it certainly does these things. It also covers popular plugins, including Acts as Taggable and Acts as Versioned, as it should. What I didn't expect was for the book to include so many excellent low-flash coding recommendations as well. There are terrific recipes for DRYing up your code in various circumstances, building your own output forms for views, how to use models in migrations even if the files are long gone, integration testing as a DSL, routing methods, code generation, and a whole lot more.
The book has some surprising depth to the Rails insights it provides, not because the recipes are long but more because the topics are well chosen. Even the small "Snack Recipes" generally dive right to the heart of a commonly encountered matter. You get typical solutions and often some tips on how to customize the relevant Rails behaviors. For example, the book covers how to add inflections Rails can use in its singular/plural text transformations and how to tie your own form building classes right into the standard Rails helper methods.
I'm a long time Ruby user and I consider myself fairly knowledgeable with regard to the language, but this book taught me new tricks. I've read the Pickaxe, but for some reason IRb sessions never sunk in for me until this book showed the perfect example of using the on an ActiveRecord model to create a Ruby syntax database shell. The book even taught me some great YAML tricks for use in fixtures and configuration files.
Now I realize I've been gushing a little, so let me to balance it with at least some words of caution. First, this book assumes you know Rails. You will not learn Rails here. This should not be the first Rails book you read, though it does make an ideal second read and daily reference. I should also note that the recipe sections seem pretty arbitrary to me. I expected to find the login discussion in the "Big-Picture Recipes" section and the console tips in "Database Recipes", but they are located elsewhere. This might be a minor challenge for those who try to thumb straight to a recipe, but I've found searching the PDF makes this a non-issue. (The paper version of the book does have nice tabs drawn on the edge of pages to lead you to recipe types though, unrelated to the sections.) Finally, I should note that I've gone hunting in the book for about four work projects now, and found all but one. It didn't cover Acts as Threaded usage. Obviously it is impossible for a single book to answer all your questions about Rails, but a 75% ratio seems like a great start to me!
There are 70 recipes in this book split among user interface, database, controller, testing, big-picture, and email categories. I must stress again though how well these recipes pack in the tips. Don't be at all surprised if you learn an applicable view layer or even pure Ruby trick in a database recipe.
If you are a Rails user, I must recommend you pick up this title immediately. I really believe there is something in here for all.
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