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Agile Web Development with Rails: A Pragmatic Guide

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Rails is a full-stack, open source web framework that enables you to create full-featured, sophisticated web-based applications, but with a twist... A full Rails application probably has less total code than the XML you'd need to configure the same application in other frameworks. With this book you'll learn how to use "ActiveRecord" to connect business objects and database tables. No more painful object-relational mapping. Just create your business objects and let Rails do the rest. You'll learn how to use the "Action Pack" framework to route incoming requests and render pages using easy-to-write templates and components. See how to exploit the Rails service frameworks to send emails, implement web services, and create dynamic, user-centric web-pages using built-in Javascript and Ajax support. There are extensive chapters on testing, deployment, and scaling. You'll see how easy it is to install Rails using your web server of choice (such as Apache or lighttpd) or using its own included web server. You'll be writing applications that work with your favorite database (MySQL, Oracle, Postgres, and more) in no time at all. You'll create a complete online store application in the extended tutorial section, so you'll see how a full Rails application is developed---iteratively and rapidly. Rails strives to honor the Pragmatic Programmer's "DRY Principle" by avoiding the extra work of configuration files and code annotations. You can develop in real-time: make a change, and watch it work immediately. Forget XML. Everything in Rails, from templates to control flow to business logic, is written in Ruby, the language of choice for programmers who like to get the job done well (and leave work ontime for a change). Rails is the framework of choice for the new generation of Web 2.0 developers. Agile Web Development with Rails is the book for that generation, written by Dave Thomas (Pragmatic Programmer and author of Programming Ruby) and David Heinemeier Hansson, who created Rails.

558 pages, Paperback

First published July 15, 2005

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Dave Thomas

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5 stars
609 (28%)
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849 (39%)
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512 (23%)
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128 (5%)
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61 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 106 reviews
Profile Image for Dimitrios Zorbas.
28 reviews8 followers
February 16, 2017
Incredible book, perfect companion for new or experienced developers willing to dive into Rails.

Even though the book is updated for Rails 5 it stills mentions apache / passenger in the deployment section without any mention on how to make ActionCable work with that stack.
Profile Image for Josh.
21 reviews12 followers
October 7, 2015
Not a good book for starting to learn the language. A much better choice is Michael Hartl's book Learn Web Development with Rails
21 reviews7 followers
February 3, 2010
In general, this book does a fairly good job of helping you create a rails-based application. Part 3 includes some great in-depth information on the topics that are briefly discussed in Part 2.

I only have one real gripe about this book. It packs in lots of topics (e.g. db theory, AJAX, unit testing, security, deployment), but it doesn't really tell you much about them. Therefore, if you have a problem, then good luck figuring it out using the content in the book.

A good example is the final chapter which covers deployment. The chapter devotes only a few small paragraphs to configuring Apache for passenger. To me, this section was completely useless unless you were already an expert with Apache configuration. I ended that chapter with a broken Apache server and no resources (from the book) to begin fixing it.

Another problem that I had with that chapter is that it really didn't follow the pattern that the chapters in Part 2 used. In those chapters, the authors would should you how to do something relatively small, show you how to test it, and then provide some troubleshooting information if the task was particularly complex. The deployment chapter gave you a *very brief and generalized* tutorial in each section, and then just assumed that everything went perfectly. It didn't show you how to test anything, and it didn't help you troubleshoot any possible problems.

Don't get me wrong. I know that no book will provide all of the information that I would ever need about a subject, and thank goodness for the internet in these situations. I was just hoping that all of the chapters in a book that I actually bought would provide better information than some person's blog.

So in general, I guess I would have to say that this was a very good book with some bad chapters that were tacked-on at the end.
Profile Image for Sam.
10 reviews6 followers
July 25, 2007
If you are interested in getting started with Rails, this is the way to go. I'd recommend you read the first few chapters of Thomas' "Programming Ruby" first, to get a foundation in ruby first.
Profile Image for Brent.
12 reviews3 followers
January 22, 2008
I read the first 100 pages last night. I'm really starting to like this rails stuff. This is really helping me get a handle on Rails. Good stuff.
Profile Image for Michael Economy.
195 reviews243 followers
June 3, 2011
[Review of Second Edition]

Dave thomas is a pretty good writer, I thought that The Pragmatic Programmer was an excellent book. However, alot of the garbage suggested in AWD makes me doubt how much experience the author has writing scalable, agile, high traffic web-applications.

If you go into this book looking to learn how to code with rails, thats fine, but don't expect to learn to program well for the web from this book. Infact, be prepared to ignore large portions of the book.

Anyway I guess this review is pretty pointless, this book is about rails 1.X. I do not recommend either using rails 1.X or reading docs on it either. If you're not pretty close to the newest version of the framework you're missing great new features, better performance, better new plugin support, and probably better stability. Reading old docs would be like reading instructions on doing it wrong.
4 reviews3 followers
November 25, 2011
It was one of the books with I read using rapid reading techniques. It means, that my review is going to be biased.

I liked the book - the first part was a hands-on tutorial on building a rails application from stratch. I believe it covered all the most popular issues we have when building web applications. The book includes information on how to do automated testing, like functional and unit testing. However, it expects to enter all commands to the rails console and does not always provide "results" in the book. The second part described implementation details and why Rails works. That part was harded to read rapidly as it contained API descriptions, etc.

I rated this book as 3/5, since for me it would be more appropriate to learn just what API is available. The rest of that I will not memorize anyway, so I will go to the documentation instead, when needed. At the same time, this book gave me a pretty good overview on rails. I recommend reading the first part and skim the second part and get the rest of the knowledge from documentation instead (when needed).
Profile Image for Mark.
8 reviews2 followers
June 10, 2010
I met Dave Thomas at a Ruby on Rails class. He really knows his stuff and I refer to his book at work.
Profile Image for Sebastian Gebski.
920 reviews783 followers
May 8, 2018
I needed a Rails refresh (without getting to deep - like in "The Rails Way") & that's precisely what I got.

Up-to-date (actually the most up-to-date book on the market on this topic at the moment of writing this review), very well structured, edited & presented - PragProg NEVER disappoints here. Their book can proudly hold the label "by developers for developers". Great code samples, clear description, fine pace - it really worked for me flawlessly. Maybe it's the case of knowing Rails earlier (but I've never written Rails or even Ruby for money), but I'd risk the statement that it would work exactly as well for any Rails starter.

Good stuff.

P.S. there's no Ruby intro (as a language), so make sure you handle language basics if you're a complete greenhorn here.
P.S.S. don't get distracted by the word "agile" - this is a tech book & there's no description what's Scrum, etc. :)
Profile Image for Marko Jevtić.
47 reviews2 followers
October 30, 2021
Excellent book, as far as programming books go. It explains a lot of principles while spoon-feeding various API consumption examples to the reader.

Since I'm not a big proponent of these sorts of books, due to the commonly found lack of true didactic value, this book was actually a very pleasant read.

I would, however, find it much more agreeable if some modern web development principles were also mentioned or at least some guidelines that would have an impact on a Rails developer (such as web accessibility).
July 9, 2019
This is a high level overview of the framework. While it gives you a nice picture of what is possible with Rails, some of the practices are very questionable like data migrations or all-in-one React components. Unfortunately, I've seen so many of this code in production it is not very easy to maintain this foundation.
Profile Image for Imtiaz Emu.
59 reviews33 followers
August 22, 2017
If you’re new to Rails, you’ll get step-by-step guidance. If you’re an experienced developer, this book will give you the comprehensive, insider information you need.
Profile Image for Olivia.
10 reviews1 follower
January 10, 2020
Only partly read, the version I have is too out of date for my needs.
Profile Image for Victor Hom.
31 reviews
December 3, 2020
Great following through Part 1 and 2 to get a feel for the structure of Rails

Part 3 is great for explaining the most important parts of Rails
Profile Image for Djeison.
5 reviews
October 25, 2017
Really interesting work, an excellent walk-through Rails framework. For me, as a Java Web Developer, it was a highly clarifying reading where I got to understand better this framework.
Profile Image for Anton Antonov.
197 reviews50 followers
November 25, 2015
Buzzwords don't make a great book.

"AWDR4" is a ... mess. The book doesn't have a clear goal of what to teach you. The "Rails is Agile" yada-yada, recital of the Agile manifesto and etc is just a facade. Rails is not an universal fix it all hammer that scales (architecture wise) in any project and size.

I might actually say that Rails as it is now in 2015, is in much trouble and definitely has to push focus on architectural changes and improvements instead of useless features *cough* *cough* ActionCable *cough*. https://github.com/apotonick/trailblazer is an attempt to correct mistakes but is it enough? Time will tell after Rails 5.

Back to the book, the pieces that make no sense to me are - The Ruby introduction, Non-browser Applications and Finding Your Way Around Rails.

The Ruby introduction is too shallow to do anyone good. I'm actually concerned that people might think they know Ruby now.

Non-browser Applications - no idea what the chapter was supposed to show.

Finding your Way Around Rails - after going through 2/3 of the book, now you learn where stuff is supposed to go in Rails. Suuuuper late and much useless by now. Everyone should've googled

The good things - exercises and story-driven chapters.

What to read if you want a good Rails intro book? https://www.railstutorial.org is more relevant, show-cases better Rails usage and better exercises.
Profile Image for Thomas Wolfe.
8 reviews3 followers
September 2, 2011
Suggested by my friend Kory. I read the beta version of this book. Again, in some ways I prefer books with a few errors, keeps me on my toes. I've got a few ideas on what I'm going to build with this new tool, I'll post back here when I do (although now I kind of want to play with jquery since I really know nothing about that library and it could prove useful in rails, or well any type of web apps). It's quite verbose, but I guess for people who want their hand held a bit (I'll admit, hand-holding is sometimes appreciated) that's okay. It's a good book, but it's lacks a literary tact that made why's guide so much fun. It's 100% technical with a few rough attempts at humor. I guess you could say, it's the same as most of the rubbish literature in our profession, good for learning how to do something (sadly unimaginative as it's still in the realm of business apps) but not much else. I can only recommend this book if you want to get acquainted with rails. I guess I'm going to have to keep looking for my fix of good technical and literature content, Why's gone and Joel Spolsky's work only goes so far. I guess I just need something new and different of the same quality to inspire me (after reading this book, I need it).
Profile Image for Darryl.
14 reviews
October 5, 2009
Decent book to learn rails. I'm a total noob when it comes to web apps, yet this book was good enough to get me through my first site. The approach they take is to write a full website first, then go back and fill in the details. I think this was a good approach as long as you're willing to do the whole example site along with the book. However, it made it hard to use the book as a reference once you run off on your own. Many times I knew I had seen a topic in the book and couldn't find it later. I suspect this is as good a rails learning book you'll find, but if you're serious about developing in rails this book won't be quite enough. In addition to this one, you'll want to pick up a ruby reference and either a rails cookbook or a true rails reference.
14 reviews
September 9, 2011
After introducing myself to Ruby, I read this book to become more familiar with the Rails framework. I was very pleased with how this book was laid out. The first section has you dig right into creating a basic storefront by guiding you through the basics of using the Rails framework. This first section teaches you everything you need to create a basic site of your own. The latter sections of the book go into depth regarding each concept you learned in the initial sections as well as other advanced concepts. The progression of the book was very natural and did not try to throw an advanced concept at you without showing you simple examples first on which you could build your knowledge. I'd recommend this book to anyone wanting to see what the fuss is all about regarding Ruby on Rails.
Profile Image for Krom.
37 reviews1 follower
March 3, 2011
This was the best book I found for Rails web development. If I had to choose between "Simply Rails" and this book, I would choose this book. The reason being that Simply Rails is a very gentle walk through of an example website, and that's about it. This book has that as the first section, and then continues on with more technical discussions of the major moving parts in the rails framework, and thus serves as both a primer and a reference.

The 4th edition is due to arrive soon, and is retooled for Rails 3. Anyone wanting to be on Rails 3 should get the 4th edition.
Profile Image for Andrew.
51 reviews2 followers
January 9, 2014
I think this is really a great book, describing everything you need to start with Rails. For this reason as well as to recommend anyone starting out with Rails to read this book, I rate it 5 stars. However, the book is not advanced enough to teach Rails from scratch to developers already familiar with modern web development. Anyway, I recommend even experienced web developers moving to Rails to run quickly through this book, take notes and move on to "The Rails 4 Way".
Profile Image for Chris Maguire.
147 reviews5 followers
August 9, 2013
Great intro to rails. It felt a little backwards building up a site before going into the details, but it wasn't too bad. I feel confident now that I could sit down at a rails app and at lease have an idea of what's going on.

I didn't follow along or do the exercises, which is crucial, and the book was still good.

This book changed my opinion of rails from "meh" to "wow". Rails is very powerful stuff. I don't necessarily like Ruby all that much but Rails is a pretty full-featured and capable toolset. This book quickly shows you how much Rails is capable of with relatively little code.
Profile Image for Panagiotis Atmatzidis.
21 reviews3 followers
May 25, 2015
The intro says that you can keep up if you don't know ruby and with relatively little CSS/HTML but I don't think so. I don't know much about CSS or HTML but I know ruby and have written two applications using Sinatra and MVC. Everything seems easy, I am trying to cope with the abstraction level but I wouldn't say that this book is for beginners. On the other hand I like its approach, goes directly to web development without loosing too much over various subjects, rails is a framework after all, nothing more.
Profile Image for Naoto Koshikawa.
19 reviews
December 25, 2011


1. 開発環境の準備
2. デモアプリの開発
3. rails詳説




Profile Image for Randall.
58 reviews
November 17, 2014
The first half of this book does a nice job of holding your hand and leading you through the creation of an application. Then the authors stick their hands in their pockets and let you fend for yourself. They move from consistent and explained examples to tech shorthand which is the most frequent boo boo of programming books for beginners. I have yet to find the book that speaks English (as opposed to Tech-ese) from cover to cover.
Profile Image for Paul.
147 reviews6 followers
February 15, 2013
A good book to have read at some point for historical reasons - DHH's involvement kind of makes that an imperative. However, it's dated (actually pre 1.0) so many of the specifics are no longer correct or recommended, and it misses big chunks of what is now conventional rails (RESTful routes for example). A better source for current practice (at least until 3.0) is The Rails Way by Obie Fernandez
Displaying 1 - 30 of 106 reviews

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