Quest for the Holy Rails

May 2, 2007

All Aboard! Getting Started with Rails

Filed under: getting started, rails — Jake Brownson @ 6:07 am

I’m not going to try and recreate the wonderful getting started with Rails documents that exist all over the web. Instead I’m going to point you to the resources I found the most helpful when I started looking at Rails.

First: “Get Excited”!

Before we dig into the bowels of Ruby and Rails let’s get a taste of what it is we’re doing here. What’s so great about Rails? Does anybody actually use Rails?

  1. Watch the official screencasts. They will give you a taste of what Rails is about quickly and visually.
  2. One of the big questions I had when looking at Rails was: “Does this actually work in production?” The best way to answer this question is to show production websites that use Rails.

Next: Build a Solid Foundation

When I came to Rails I was mainly a C++ programmer. I had dabbled in PHP and other scripting languages, but Ruby was a completely new language to me. It was difficult to read some of the code in the Rails tutorials without knowing some of the unique Ruby syntax.

  1. At this point it’s not necessary to completely learn Ruby before starting on Rails, but it is valuable to pick up on some of the basics. Luckily there is a fantastic interactive tutorial that has you covered.
  2. Finally let’s get started with some basic Rails. There is a good list of tutorials at Top 12 Ruby on Rails Tutorials. My favorite is #3 Four Days on Rails, but your tastes may vary. Try a few and see what sticks.

Then: Getting Help

Once you’ve gone through the basic tutorials and understand the fundamentals of Ruby on Rails you’ll want to start writing code. At first it can be difficult to understand how to find the method you’re looking for, or what the error message you’re getting means, but there is help.

  1. Though daunting at first, the API reference is extremely helpful once you learn to use it. Spend some time browsing through the classes and functions to get an idea of what is available.
  2. The #rubyonrails IRC channel on irc.freenode.net is generally filled with friendly, helpful folks that are willing to answer stupid questions (don’t ask how I know). Even if you just spend some time lurking in the channel you’ll pick up all sorts of good tips.
  3. If you’ve got a real stumper try the official group.

And Beyond: The Path to Enlightenment

Thirsty for more? Here’s some resources that will help you with your Rails fix.

  1. Railscasts is a fantastic weekly screencast that gives a great tip every week with a high quality video.
  2. Another very high quality Rails screencast site is Peepcode. They cost $9 each but go into good depth on the topics they cover and are well worth the price.
  3. The Rails Podcast is a great way to get a sense of the Rails community. You get to hear prominent Rails developers talking about how they use Rails.
  4. There are several great blogs about Rails that are quite worth reading.

Questions

  • What’s your favorite Rails related resource?

Where to next?

You might want to look at some of the design decisions I made about my project or follow along as I implement the project.

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