Aaron Sumner


5 useful Ruby on Rails plugins

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I've been using Ruby on Rails since 2005. I honestly don't know how I survived the first decade-plus of the web developer part of my career without it. Rails handles at least 80% of the humdrum routine of application development and, by enforcing constraints, makes you a better coder (in my opinion–honestly, the core Rails contributors are better programmers than I'll ever be, so I try to emulate their styles and decisions rather than question them).

Over my next few posts I'm going to share some useful resources for web developers either new to Rails or folks who've worked with other platforms who'd like to know more. First, I'm going to share a few plugins I've noticed being installed in most of my Rails apps. Remember: There's no shame in using plugins!

  1. restful-authentication: This has become the default user account creation utility for most of the Rails community. After installation, you can have a fully-functional username/password system working in your application within two minutes. I usually extend it a bit to make it possible for users to edit their account settings (in tandem with the restful_acl plugin I'll talk about in my next Rails post). restful-authentication has been around for awhile (previously known as acts_as_authenticated) and is in active development.
  2. forgot_password: Pretty much every restful-authentication tutorial out there includes a section on how to help your users reset forgotten passwords. This plugin takes care of it for you, generating the required controller, views, model, and migration to handle the magic. forgot_password should work with any authentication system, in theory, but I've only tried it with restful-authentication.
  3. paperclip: Inevitably, you'll want to allow users to upload files to your application. Paperclip makes this incredibly easy. If you've got ImageMagick installed, you can use paperclip to automatically resize images. I usually veer from the default settings and store files outside of the public folder, in such a way that I can protect the files with restful-authentication and restful_acl–perhaps I'll write a tutorial on how to do this sometime.
  4. has_many_polymorphs: Polymorphs are a semi-advanced topic in Rails development, but has_many_polymorphs simplifies the process. If you need to use tags in your app, this plugin could be invaluable. I usually tweak some settings, and I've come across a few bits of weirdness, but for my apps this plugin has worked pretty well.
  5. google_analytics: If you're using Google Analytics to track site usage, install this plugin. I forgot, this is a handy gem now.

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