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The upstream Rails Application Template

March 06, 2009 by alex

Ruby on Rails 2.3 is almost there and brings a bunch of pretty cool new features. One of them is called templates and it allows you to customize the bootstrapping of new applications in order to automate the initial setup of your new app and hence get up to speed faster.

I find the naming a bit confusing: since we already have view templates in Rails I will refer to this new feature as application templates from now on.

So what does an application template do? Whenever you start a new rails application you are already using the Rails default template by issuing the rails command. It creates the usual app, config etc. folders and generates a bunch of scripts and configuration files for you. Application templates simply extend this process by allowing you to add your own setup steps. This is done by writing your own template file (or grabbing someone else’s).

Pratik Naik has already written an excellent tutorial on this so I’m not going to repeat what’s already written. Basically Rails offers you a few convenience methods for adding for example routes, plugins, gems or files to your new application.

So this blog post is more about showing off my very own template that I wrote today. (For the impatient: here it is).

Of course I’m not the first and only one who has written such a template so before I started I found this collection of templates which I immediately started to steal borrow from. As you probably know every programmer has its own style, uses his own unique set of tools in his (or her) own way. Which is why I found all of the templates I saw didn’t really fit my very own needs. The ones I found were pretty basic (to me) so when I rolled my own I took what I needed from what was there and added a whole bunch of my own stuff:

  • setup of configuration files for Rspec, Cucumber and Culerity (Culerity is my plugin for driving Celerity - think Selenium but withour having to use a real browser - with Cucumber)
  • a working user registration/login process using authlogic, including all controllers and views
  • an XHTML application layout with jQuery (+ a few plugins) and blueprint CSS set up
  • a simple capistrano deployment script
  • German localization for all the built-in helpers
  • a Thinking Sphinx configuration file

I pretty much need all of the above for 99% of my Rails projects and it costs me at least a day every time to set this all up. Well, not anymore :) Now I can run rails my_new_app -m http://gist.github.com/75038 and immediately after that start working on the distinct features.

I’m already planning to add a few extra. First of all the user authentication needs cucumber features so I don’t break anything when extending that. I also want to add configuration and deployment for a staging server. And maybe make the whole script a bit more configurable, i.e. install thinking sphinx or not etc.

The script is already pretty large so I’m not sure how much more I would want to put into it. Since you can apply templates to exisitng apps it will probably make sense to split the whole thing up at some point, so I could put the authentication part into its own template.

If you want to get started with application templates now I suggest you simply start with mine and/or the others and grab whatever you need. Just make sure you re-publish what you added so we can all build upon everyone’s work. Thanks.