The big news today in the world of web development is that Ruby on Rails 1.0 was officially released. It’s been in continuous development for more than a year, with most of the features in place for a while, so the 1.0 label is more for marketing purposes. After all, not everyone feels comfortable working with software starting with a zero!
At this point, I realize I need to back up – I’m guessing most of you have no idea what Ruby on Rails is. Ruby on Rails is a web application framework written in the Ruby programming language. Ruby is often compared to other scripting languages like Perl and Python, but has one thing these others lack: beauty. I feel funny saying it, but well written Ruby code is elegant and beautiful. If you ever had any doubts about me being a geek, now you know!
The awesome thing about Rails is that it takes care of the mindnumbingly tedious tasks that take up most of a programmer’s time: talking to databases, validating forms, configuration, etc. This lets you concentrate on the real problem you’re trying to solve instead of wasting it on administrivia. Again, beautiful!
The other great thing about Rails is that it makes doing the right thing easy. If you still to the framework’s conventions, you’re much more likely to end up with an easy to manage application than by doing everything on your own. It also has testing features built right in, making it trivial to “test everything”. Sure, you sacrifice some flexibility by following the Rails conventions, but you more than make up for it in speed and productivity. It’s a trade off I’m willing to make.
I’ve been moonlighting as a Ruby programmer for a few months now, and it’s pretty refreshing after working with PHP all day long at work. Even though I’m still very new to Ruby, I find that makes a lot more sense than PHP, which means fewer trips to the documentation. When I do need help with something though, support is always there.
So, congratulations to everyone involved with this big milestone. The relaunched Ruby on Rails website is amazing too – it’s simplicity and style match the framework very well!