Top 12 Ruby on Rails Tutorials

A former student asked me a few days ago how I learned Ruby on Rails. The answer was that I simply read alot of great tutorials. So in the spirit of sharing, here are the 12 tutorials that I found most useful:

  1. Rolling with Ruby on Rails – Curtis Hibbs of ONLamp.com offers his first excellent introduction to Ruby on Rails. This is the article that got me really excited about RoR.
  2. 2. Rolling with Ruby on Rails, Part 2 – The sequel to Curtis Hibbs excellent series of articles.
  3. 3. Four Days on Rails (PDF) – a great tutorial that is broken down into simple tasks that you can do over a four day period. To be quite honest, this tutorial only takes about 2 hours, but nonetheless it is very well organized!
  4. 4. Really Getting Started in Rails – Amy Hoy has a great tutorial that not only covers RoR, but also introduces the reader to many of the basic concepts of the very cool Ruby scripting language.
  5. Tutorial in Ruby on Rails – is a basic tutorial aimed at newbies.
  6. Fast-track your Web apps with Ruby on Rails – IBM jumps into the sandbox with an excellent (as usual) tutorial to get you on your feet fast.
  7. Getting Your Feet Wet With Ruby on Rails – Talking about getting on your feet fast, this one from Webmonkey promises to get them wet too!
  8. How to make a todo list program with Rails – Another excellent introductory tutorial that actually helps you build something useful!
  9. Ajax on Rails – Curtis Hibbs offers part 3 of his look at RoR
  10. Many to Many Tutorial for Rails (PDF) – is a nice document that begins to delve into some of the more complex parts of web application programming, but in fine Ruby on Rails manner, it’s really not too complicated!
  11. Distributing Rails Applications – A Tutorial – So now you’ve built your RoR application, how to you push it to a production server? This tutorial covers the bases.
  12. Installing Ruby on Rails with Lighttpd and MySQL on Fedora Core 4 – and of course this list wouldn’t be complete without a shameless bit of self-promotion, this tutorial promises what it says. Other install tutorials can be found here, here and here!

Hey, Ruby on Rails Fans!

UPDATE, JUNE 2009: Want more up-to-date tutorials on Ruby programming? OK, we heard you. By popular demand, Digital Media Minute has a brand new, maintained list of 11 12 more-recent tutorials on both Ruby the language and Rails the framework. Don’t miss it! New Ruby Programming Tutorial section.

Happy Rails developing and if you have any other tutorials that you’d like to share, please leave them in the comments!

Ruby Programming Tutorial


Ruby on Rails continues to be very popular, and for someone getting started a good Ruby programming tutorial might be the difference between spinning one’s wheels and understanding Ruby quickly. Digital Media Minute did a well-received post on Ruby on Rails Tutorials a while ago, and as RoR has evolved to become quite complex over the last five years I thought it would be helpful to create another list of tutorials. Some of these tutorials focus on Ruby the programming language or the Rails web application framework, but this list includes excellent examples of both, in the interest of being complete. Also, while these lean more toward beginners, look for more advanced Ruby programming tutorials from Digital Media Minute in the future. This list is maintained: I update it when I find a good Ruby on Rails tutorial, and suggestions are much appreciated.

Getting Started

  1. Here’s an oustanding guide by Patrick Lenz at Sitepoint, on the basics of Ruby. Lenz starts by providing some context (scripting vs compiled languages, OOP concepts) then gets down to his introduction in a clear, conversational tone.
  2. Not surprisingly, Smashing Magazine has an excellent intro guide by Jan Varwig to RoR that is pretty recent. Some web development familiarity is assumed, and the author’s aim is to help you decide if Ruby on Rails is for you, without having to go through an entire tutorial.
  3. Another clear, enthusiastic RoR beginner’s guide that walks you through the basics of building a simple application is over at Webmonkey, by Paul Adams.

  4. Take a look at something really excellent, by Kalid Azad over at BetterExplained.com. He has a  guide that is part cheat sheet, part Ruby programming tutorial focusing specifically on the concepts that he found confusing as he learned Ruby on Rails. (His whole site, applying this philosophy mostly to math and programming, is well-conceived.)
  5. 5. Why’s (Poignant) Guide to Ruby is outrageously imaginative, a completely original way of teaching a programming language, at least in my experience. A tutorial with multi-tangential storylines. Think Alice in Wonderland meets–hmm–William Gibson? Not everyone’s cup of tea maybe, but really awesome creativity here. I couldn’t find the author’s name, he/she seems to be a world-class creative type who just happens to be a programmer. Give this to your smart 12-year-old who is a bit put off by technology and see what happens. Update 6/21/09: The same mysterious author has created a site for beginners that invites you to type ruby commands directly into your browser while being led along by a tutorial. For someone who might benefit from being led along from the very basics, this tutorial has a lot of utility, as well as being very cool & easy to use.
  6. Another Ruby tutorial with plenty of imagination is the Humble Little Ruby Book. Don’t be fooled by the title-I found enough attitude here to keep me smiling as I looked it over. Not everyone needs personality their introduction to a programming language, but it has to make the material feel more accessible and I give high marks to the authors for making the additional effort. Downloadable as a free 147-page ebook!
  7. Rubyonrails.org has a guide covering Rails Installation, creating an application, and connecting the application to a database– the general layout of a Rails application. Starts with basic principles of MVC and RESTful design and gets you familiar with the initial components of a Rails application. Note that this tutorial focuses on the Rails framework as opposed to the Ruby language–it assumes some familiarity with Ruby.
  8. For a comprehensive, maybe even definitive guide to Ruby, with a tutorial as well as additional resources, you should check out Rubycentral’s offering. After the tutorial, there’s a section on Ruby’s integration into it’s environment: running Ruby, programming Ruby with the Web, creating GUI applications using Tk, using Ruby in a Windows environment, native API calls, COM integration, Windows automation, extending Ruby and embedding Ruby within code of your own. The third and fourth parts are an advanced section and a library reference with over 800 methods and 40+ built-in classes and modules. Sheer excellence. Deserves a bookmark if you are serious about Ruby.
  9. Here’s a 35 minute screencast of a pair programming session between David Heinemeier Hansson and Miles K. Forrest. Hansson is the creator of the Rails framework and Forrest is a beginning web application programmer. More than a tutorial, I found it a fascinating exchange.
  10. Digital Media Minute also did a lengthy, detailed how-to guide on Installing Ruby on Rails with Lighttpd and MySQL on Fedora Core 4 that remains quite popular.
  11. We’re a bit biased, but we think this short article containing a list of seven tutorials for installing ruby on rails on a windows machine is worth a look.
  12. This one-day course from UC Berkeley is broken into seven one-hour videos, and gives you access to the lecture slides too. Assumes familiarity with basic Java programming concepts and that you’re ‘reasonably experienced’ in 1-2 languages.
  13. Meshplex.org has a collection of over 30 modules aimed at helping beginners to learn Ruby on Rails. Plenty of sample code and examples.
  14. Web Developer’s Virtual Library has a small but growing list of Ruby tutorials, most of which address very specific areas of Ruby related topics, like views, REST and ror models.
  15. Rails In A Nutshell is under development (Nov. 2009), but is being presented on the O’Reilly Labs as an “Open Feedback Publishing System” project, that lets readers add comments to almost every paragraph. Excellent example of collaborative publishing, but the book itself looks to be an excellent, concise intro to Rails, with plenty of examples. Well, you expect excellence from O’Reilly.
  16. Over at railstutorial.org, Michael Hartl (of RailsSpace) is producing a Ruby on Rails tutorial that looks to be of extremely high quality, with a gorgeous, easy to read layout. It should be completed by June 2010 but the first several chapters are already available. Items covered so far (Dec. 2009): version control, basic deployment, controllers and helpers, building Ruby classes, integrating layouts, and building a signup system. There will eventually be a screencast series too.
  17. If you are a .NET developer who is interested in using Ruby on Rails, take a look at this well-done introduction to Ruby from the standpoint of a .NET developer, by Michael Ceranski at codecapers. As it outlines the steps to building a simple RoR application on a windows machine it will teach you how to use Ruby on Rails with SQL Server, as well as help you see similarities between the features in ASP.NET stack and Ruby on Rails framework, where they exist.
  18. A whole lot more than a ruby programming tutorial is Ruby Best Practices by Gregory Brown, available as of March 2010 as a free eight-chapter pdf.
  19. RubyKoans.com is a self-paced learning resource for developers looking to learn ruby or sharpen their existing toolsets. The library works on Mac OS X, Windows and *nix systems running almost every flavor of Ruby under the sun. Great name by the way, and who says that a website whose aim is to teach you ruby can’t be absolutely gorgeous, as RubyKoans is?

Context:

    >>This list would be incomplete without a link to Rubyonrails.org. There is documentation, screencasts, a blog with upcoming workshops, podcasts, a job board, etc. etc. Another good place to have bookmarked if you are serious about Ruby on Rails.

    >>Here is an interview with the creator of Ruby, Yukihiro Matsumoto or ‘Matz’, and here’s another talk with Matz from 2003.
    >>Reading David Heinemeier Hansson’s blog would be a good way to keep up with the evolving story of Rails. It’s updated infrequently, but the archives provide an interesting meta-view of the framework.

Building a Web Application with Ruby on Rails and Amazon S3

Amazon Web Services Developer Connection is starting to gather a great collection of tutorials for using their amazing web services. Building a Web Application with Ruby on Rails and Amazon S3 is one that caught my eye. It is full of short examples that shows virtually every part of the S3 service and how to access it using Rails.  Update: the article to which this post originally pointed has been updated  so I have updated the link to reflect that. Over time Amazon Web services seem to be finding more and more traction with developers and even non-professionals now as an extremely economical storage solution which Amazon has done an excellent job in educating people about.

Mr. Neighborly’s Humble Little Ruby Book

If one of your New Year’s resolutions was to learn Ruby on Rails, I would suggest reading Mr. Neighborly’s Humble Little Ruby Book. It is a great online introduction to the Ruby programming language and will definitely give you a kickstart while learning the Rails framework. I know that learning Ruby on Rails has completely changed my professional profile; there is so much demand for RoR  developers that it has given me a heightened sense of confidence, knowing that I can go after jobs that actually excite me. There are so many resources on the Web for learning Ruby on Rails than any programmer with even a little bit of extra time should learn this technology, which is so rapidly being adopted now.

13 Ruby on Rails Screencasts

This is a great collection of 13 Ruby on Rails Screencasts of presentations made to the San Diego Ruby (and Rails) User Group. I particularly enjoyed Patrick Crowley’s ActsAsTaggable Plugin presentation. It was nice to see him talk about the differences between the gem and the plugin and then shows how to quickly implement folksonomy based tagging in a web application. Even though there is no shortage of Ruby on Rails resources and screen casts all over the Web I feel compelled to share good ones in an effort to help my readers avoid wading through some of the lower quality efforts. I feel comfortable vouching for this particular set of Ruby on Rails screen casts.

Evaluation – Rails vs Django

Rails vs Django is a nice evaluation of the two most popular web application frameworks. Rails uses the Ruby scripting language while Django uses the Python scripting language. Both are very capable and offer a unique set of features. This evaluation shows you how long it took to write the application and compares the lines of code along with some syntactical differences. I think this article has been much needed for a while and to the credit of the author(s) ( is not attributed to any particular person at all, as far as I can see), the execution here is as thorough as you would have hoped. It’s an extremely professional evvaluation of both frameworks and I think if you have any experience with either you’ll enjoy it.

Instant Rails for Windows

Instant Rails is a cool project that provides developers with a contained sandbox for working with Ruby on Rails. In fact, Instant Rails is a one-stop Rails runtime solution containing Ruby, Rails, Apache, and MySQL, all preconfigured and ready to run. No installer is needed as you simply drop it into the directory of your choice and run it.  This is a superb tool for developers who are just starting to learn Ruby on Rails but haven’t really progressed past the “playing with it” stage i.e. it doesn’t take a lot of time to set up as it is already preconfigured. I love little time-saving projects like this that generous developers are willing to share with colleagues all over the world.

Free Ruby On Rails Hosting

Now you have no excuse not to try Ruby on Rails. RailsPlayground is offering FREE Ruby On Rails hosting! If you’re like me and you find yourself getting enthusiastic about RoR, hosting like this is a perfect opportunity to begin to build something with your nascent skills.

I’ve already signed up for a hosting package and I’m excited to get creating! Look for lots more posts on Digital Media Minute on Ruby, especially tutorials that will help you get started using it: I have a post coming soon that will list a dozen or so tutorials that I’ve used to learn this terrific new tool.

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