Colby.so Writing on Ruby on Rails, software teams, and solo building

Hotwiring Rails Newsletter - December 2021

This newsletter went out via email to the Hotwiring Rails subscriber list, but I know that not everyone wants another email cluttering up their inbox. For those folks, I’ll always publish the full content of the newletter here too, so you can get all the content with none of the emails. If you’d like to get the next edition of this (monthly) newletter in your inbox, you can subscribe here.

Thoughts or feedback on how I can make this newsletter more valuable? Have something you’d like to include in next month’s edition? Send me an email, or find me on Twitter.

Read the rest Six-minute read


Live reloading with Ruby on Rails and esbuild

As you may have heard by now, Rails 7 comes out of the box with importmap-rails and the mighty Webpacker is no longer the default for new Rails applications.

For those who aren’t ready to switch to import maps and don’t want to use Webpacker now that it is no longer a Rails default, jsbundling-rails was created. This gem adds the option to use webpack, rollup, or esbuild to bundle JavaScript while using the asset pipeline to deliver the bundled files.

Of the three JavaScript bundling options, the Rails community seems to be most interested in using esbuild, which aims to bring about a “new era of build tool performance” and offers extremely fast build times and enough features for most users’ needs.

Using esbuild with Rails, via jsbundling-rails is very simple, especially in a new Rails 7 application; however, the default esbuild configuration is missing a few quality of life features. Most important among these missing features is live reloading. Out of the box, each time you change a file, you need to refresh the page to see your changes.

Once you’ve gotten used to live reloading (or its fancier cousin, Hot Module Replacement), losing it is tough.

Today, esbuild doesn’t support HMR, but with some effort it is possible to configure esbuild to support live reloading via automatic page refreshing, and that’s what we’re going to do today.

We’ll start from a fresh Rails 7 install and then modify esbuild to support live reloading when JavaScript, CSS, and HTML files change.

Before we get started, please note that this very much an experiment that hasn’t been battle-tested. I’m hoping that this is a nice jumping off point for discussion and improvements. YMMV.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get started!

Read the rest 17-minute read


Rendering view components with Turbo Stream broadcasts

View components, via Github’s view_component gem, are growing in popularity in the Rails community but until recently, view components and Turbo Stream broadcasts didn’t play well together. This made using both view components and Turbo Streams in the same application clunky and a little frustrating.

While there were ways to get components working with streams, thanks to a recent addition to turbo-rails, rendering view components from Turbo Streams now works seamlessly out of the box.

To demonstrate how to connect these two powerful tools together, we’ll be building a very simple Rails application that allows users to manage a list of Spies.

Each spy in the list of spies will be rendered using a view component, and when new spies are added to the database, the newly created spy record will be rendered and broadcast via a callback in the spy model.

When we’re finished, it’ll work like this:

A screen recording of a user with two open browser windows. In one, a list of spies is shown. In the other, the user is typing into a form to create a new spy. They finish typing, click a button to create a spy, and the browser window the list of spies is updated to include the newly created spy

Beautiful, I know.

This article assumes that you’re comfortable building Rails applications. You won’t need any previous experience with Turbo Streams or view components to follow along.

If you want to skip right to the end the complete code for this article can be found on Github.

Let’s start building!

Read the rest Nine-minute read


Hotwiring Rails Newsletter - November 2021

This newsletter went out via email to the Hotwiring Rails subscriber list, but I know that not everyone wants another email cluttering up their inbox. For those folks, I’ll always publish the full content of the newletter here too, so you can get all the content with none of the emails. If you’d like to get the next edition of this (monthly) newletter in your inbox, you can subscribe here.

Thoughts or feedback on how I can make this newsletter more valuable? Have something you’d like to include in next month’s edition? Send me an email, or find me on Twitter.

Read the rest Four-minute read


Filter, search, and sort tables with Rails and Turbo Frames

Today we are going to build a table that can be sorted, searched, and filtered all at once, using Ruby on Rails, Turbo Frames, a tiny Stimulus controller, and a little bit of Tailwind for styling.

We will start with a sortable, Turbo Frame-powered table that displays a list of Players from a database. We built this sortable table in a previous article — you might find it helpful to start with that article, especially if you are new to Turbo.

When we are finished, users will be able to search for players by name, filter them by their team, and sort the table. Sorting, searching, and filtering all work together, in any combination, and they each occur without a full page turn. The end result will work like this:

A screen recording of a user interacting with a table on a website. They click column headers to sort the table, use a drop down menu to filter the table by a specific team, and type in a search box to filter the table by name

This article is intended for folks who are comfortable with Ruby and Rails code. You won’t need any prior experience with Turbo Frames or Stimulus.

Let’s dive in!

Read the rest 27-minute read


Turbo Frames on Rails

Turbo, part of the Hotwire tripartite, gives you the tools to write dramatically less custom JavaScript than you would otherwise need to build modern, performant web applications.

Turbo is composed of Turbo Drive, Turbo Frames, Turbo Streams, and Turbo Native. Each is a valuable piece of the puzzle but today we’re going to focus on Turbo Frames.

Turbo Frames “allow predefined parts of a page to be updated on request.” Used wisely, frames allow developers to decompose their UI into independently updated pieces, quickly.

Why should I use Turbo Frames?

Turbo Frames unlock a huge amount of potential with minimal changes to existing code and they can be gradually introduced to existing projects without necessitating major architectural changes.

In greenfield projects designed with Turbo Frames in mind, a small team of developers can use frames to deliver fast, efficient user interfaces in dramatically less time than would be required when build a SPA-powered front end.

While Turbo Frames can be used with many different tech stacks, Rails developers will find the tight integration of frames into Rails (via the turbo-rails gem) makes using frames in Rails a breeze.

The Turbo documentation gap

As with many new technologies, one of the barriers to getting started with Turbo Frames is inconsistent/incomplete documentation. Along with problems in the official documentation, much of the tutorial content written about Turbo Frames is already out of date.

Turbo has evolved quickly since its release in December of 2020, and the documentation and supporting tutorials from content creators have struggled to keep pace.

As an example of the documentation gap, turbo-rails doesn’t have any dedicated usage documentation, instead just linking to the base Turbo docs and letting users figure out the rest.

This means that learning to use Turbo Frames in your Rails application today often requires reading the docs, then digging through source code, and then Googling your way through Github issues and forum posts. Turbo Frames can be difficult to approach.

In time the documentation will improve and the community will coalesce around best practices and standards that can be more easily communicated to new users.

In the meantime, here we are.

Read the rest 24-minute read


Sort tables (almost) instantly with Ruby on Rails and Turbo Frames

One of the wonderful things about working in Rails in 2021 is that we are spoiled for options when it comes to building modern, reactive applications. When we need to build highly interactive user experiences, we don’t need to reach for JavaScript frameworks like Vue or React — the Rails ecosystem has all the tools we need to deliver exceptionally fast, efficient, and easy-to-maintain front ends.

Yesterday, I published an article demonstrating a simple implementation of a sortable table with StimulusReflex. Today, we’re going to build the same experience with Turbo Frames instead.

Why build the same thing with two different tools? Because we have great options to choose from in Rails-land, and understanding each option is a great place to start when considering which tool is right for you and your team.

Like yesterday, our application is going to allow users to view a table of players. They’ll be able to click on each header cell to sort the table in ascending and descending order.

Sorting will happen very quickly, without a full-page turn, and we won’t be writing any custom JavaScript or doing anything outside of writing ordinary Ruby code and ERB templates.

When we’re finished, the application will work like this:

A screen recording of a user clicking on column headers on a data table. With each click, the table sorts itself by that column and a triangle indicator appears next to the column used for sorting

You can demo the application for yourself on Heroku (the free dyno might need a moment to wake up when you visit it) or view the complete source on Github.

This article assumes that you are comfortable building applications with Ruby on Rails and may be difficult to follow if you have never worked with Rails before. Previous experience with Turbo Frames is not required.

Let’s get started!

Read the rest 21-minute read


Sort tables (almost) instantly with Ruby on Rails and StimulusReflex

Today we’re going to use Ruby on Rails and StimulusReflex to build a table that sorts itself each time a user clicks on a header column.

Sorting will occur without a page turn, in less than 100ms, won’t require any custom JavaScript, and we’ll build the whole thing with regular old ERB templates and a little bit of Ruby.

The end result will be very fast, efficient, simple to reason about, and easy to extend as new functionality is required.

It’ll be pretty fancy.

When we’re finished, it will work like this:

A screen recording of a user clicking on column headers on a data table. With each click, the table sorts itself by that column and a triangle indicator appears next to the column used for sorting

You can view the finished product on Heroku, or find the full source on Github.

This article will be most useful to folks who are familiar with Ruby on Rails, but you will not need any previous experience with Stimulus or StimulusReflex to follow along. If you’ve never worked with Rails before, some concepts here may be a little tough to follow.

Let’s get started!

Read the rest 26-minute read


Server-rendered modal forms on Rails with CableReady, Mrujs, Stimulus, and Tailwind

The Rails ecosystem continues to thrive, and Rails developers have all the tools they need to build modern, reactive, scalable web applications quickly and efficiently. If you care about delivering exceptional user experiences, your options in Rails-land have never been better.

Today we’re going to dive into this ecosystem to use two cutting edge Rails projects to allow users to submit forms that are rendered inside of a modal.

The form will open in a modal with content populated dynamically by the server, the server will process the form submission, and the DOM will updated without a full-page turn.

To accomplish this, we’ll use Stimulus for the front-end interactivity, CableReady’s brand new CableCar feature to send content back from the server, and Mrujs to enable AJAX requests and to automatically process CableCar’s operations.

It’ll be pretty fancy.

When we’re finished, our application will look like this:

A screen recording of an initially empty web page with a header that reads Customers and a link to create new customers. The user clicks on the new customer link adn a pop-up modal displays on the screen. The user types in a name, creating a customer and the page updates automatically with the new customer's inforamtion. The user continues to add and update a few more customer records, each time the form opens in a modal and the page updates with the user's change immediately.

This article includes a fair amount of JavaScript and assumes a solid understanding of the basics of Ruby on Rails.

If you’ve never used Rails before, this article might move a little too quickly for you. While comfort with Rails and JavaScript are needed, you don’t need to have any prior experience with CableReady or Stimulus.

As usual, you can find the complete source code for this article on Github.

Let’s dive in!

Read the rest 31-minute read


Doing the Impossible — Building a Persistent Audio Player in Ruby on Rails

Today we’re going to learn how to build a Ruby on Rails app that accomplishes what some folks think is impossible in a multi-page application — persisting an audio player while navigating around an application.

We’ll use Ruby on Rails and Turbo to accomplish this, but we could use Turbo’s predecessor, Turbolinks to achieve the same result, and Rails is only incidental to the finished project. We could just as easily use Turbo with any other “multi-page” framework and deliver the same experience.

When we’re finished, our application will allow users to create and manage Ideas along with a persistent audio player tuned to a white noise internet radio station, to help them focus while they generate ideas.

Users will be able to start and stop the audio using a standard <audio> input. When audio is playing, it will continue playing as the user navigates around the application.

The application will look like this:

A screen recording of a web page. On the web page is an audio player and interface to create and view Ideas. The user clicks play on the audio player and then navigates through pages of the idea management interface. While they navigate, the audio player continues playing.

After we’ve built our application, we’ll spend a time talking about myths in web development, and how to avoid falling into the expert-led myth-trap.

This article assumes basic familiarity with Ruby on Rails, but no prior experience with Turbo is required, and you should be able to follow along even if you’ve never seen Rails code before.

Let’s get started.

Read the rest Eight-minute read