Falling Leaves: the Ardes blog
Ian White

Many of our plugins are now available on github: github.com/ianwhite

And OSS projects such as these can now be hosted free on lighthouse: ianwhite.lighthouseapp.com

The ones that you see on lighthouse have all had a good dusting off to make sure they're compliant with the very latest edge, and BC to 2.0.2. response_for is now branched to support edge and 2.0.2, but the other plugins haven't yet required this.

If you don't see one you use there, it means that I haven't deemed it being used by many people - so leave a comment to say otherwise

resources_controller: things

April 27th, 2008

Ian White

RC's got a github home now

The subversion repo will still continue to be maintained for the foreseeable future.

RC's also reported as being one of the things under the hood at naked.

Lastly, I've been cooking my CI with garlic.

resources_controller new trunk

February 26th, 2008

Ian White

There's going to be some new features coming in resources_controller. Stay tuned...

Meanwhile, rc has got a new repository location (the old one will still work for a while, but will remain at the current version):

trunk: http://svn.ardes.com/resources_controller/trunk/resources_controller

tag 0.5: http://svn.ardes.com/resources_controller/tags/0.5/resources_controller

For those interested in providing patches, you should checkout http://svn.ardes.com/resources_controller/trunk and run rake pre_commit in that directory to check your changes. Then send a diff along, or post it on the google group.


November 20th, 2007

Ian White

If you're using response_for, then you might want to grab response_for_resources_controller

It simply replaces the default action modules with ones that use the response_for idiom.

This means that you can override what an action does without overriding how it responds. For example, I want a standard REST controller, that sets a protected attribute, user, on create.

class PostsController < ApplicationController
  resources_controller_for :posts

  def create
    self.resource = new_resource
    resource.user = current_user
  end # the standard response_for :create is used

If you don't know what response_for does, it lets you declaratively set the respond_to of an action. For example: if you want to override some aspect of the response, here I just want to change the flash message on successful create:

class LoginsController < ApplicationController
  resources_controller_for :logins

  response_for :create do |format|
    format.html { flash[:notice = "You have logged in" } if resource_saved?


I added save_resource and resource_saved? to rc, as a way of sharing the result of the save outside the scope of the action. Previously I've done this with valid?, but realised that this might hit the database unnecessarily in some circumstances. You can use either idiom.

Ian White

Jason Lee of Big First Name just posted his experiences of using resources_controller on the google group.

He writes:

I've just converted one my existing apps ( http://big.first.name ) to using the resources_controller plugin and thought I'd share some results with the group...
before RC, the output of "rake stats"...
| Name          | Lines | LOC   | Classes | Methods 
| Controllers   |  1785 |  1324 |      20 |     112 

after RC conversion (with only minor refactoring)...
| Name          | Lines | LOC   | Classes | Methods 
| Controllers   |   877 |   655 |      20 |      45

That's 50% less code and 60% less methods. I've still got some chunky controller code lying around but overall I'm very happy with the result.

That's cool!

resources_controller at LRUG

October 10th, 2007

Ian White

I gave a talk about resources_controller at LRUG which was great fun.

Thanks to everyone for listening and for the feedback. Skills Matter are apparently going to post a video of the presentation at some point. In the meantime, the slides are here.

Ian White

I've been chatting to a few people at RailsConfEuropoe about resources_controller, so I thought I'd say a few words about waht it's key features are, and about RC at RailsConfEuropoe in general.

Key features

There's a few plugins out there that try and solve the same sort of problem - DRY up RESTful controllers. I believe that RC's standout features can be seen when considering how to write controller for a polymorhpic has_many relationship.

Polymorphic Tags

So you want to tag a bunch of models, and so you sure the :polymorphic has_many assoc, and make a Tag model with belongs_to :taggable, :polymorphic => true.

You want tags to be nested under a bunch of different resources like this:

  map.resources :users do |user|
   user.resources :tags, :controller => 'user_tags'

  map.resources :posts do |post|
   post.resources :tags, :controller => 'post_tags'

Standardly, you'd then have to write two controllers: UserTagsController, and PostTagsController, and map the above two nested routes to those different controllers. These would be essentially the same functionality except:

  • they would load different models in before filters: @user in one and @post in the other,
  • they get the post from different collections (@tag = @user.tags.find(params[:tags_id]) vs @tag = @post.tags.find(params[:tags_id])),
  • they redirect to different routes on completion of certain actions user_tags_path and post_tags_path in the other.

To do this, even with plugins to dry everything up, you still need to create two (or three, or four) controllers for tags - all doing essentially the same thing.

it gets worse. You'll need a bunch of different views - because they all need to link to urls relative to the enclosing resource. Suddenly you've got a lot of really similar code - or some really ungly hacks in your views.

(and all of this gets much worse if you have deeply nested routes)

Polymorphic tags with resources_controller

resources_controller (used in the default way) inspects the route that was used to invoke the controller. From this, it:

  • loads all of the enclosing resources,
  • uses the immediately enclosing resource as the resource service (the object that we send find and new to to - in the case of /posts it would be the Post class, in the case of /post/1/tags it would be the @post.tags association),
  • does some method missing magic so that you can refer to all named routes relative to the current resource

All this means you just need to write one controller, and one set of views for Tags

Here's some sample code

  class TagsController < ApplicationCntroller
    resources_controller_for :tags

in show.html.erb:

  <%= link_to 'tags', resources_path %>

The above will be user_tags_path(@user) in one case and post_tags_path(@post) in another.

It gets better, you can refer to the enclosing resource as well:

  <%= link_to "back to #{enclosing_resource_name.humanize}", enclosing_resource_path %>

And if you have routes like /users/1/posts/2/tags, and /posts/1/tags, the you can use the same view for posts:

  <%= link_to 'tags', resource_tags_path %> # in /users/1/posts/2/tags will be:
                                            # user_post_tags_path(@user, @post)
  <%= link_to 'tags', resource_tags_path %> # in /posts/2/tags will be:
                                            # post_tags_path(@post)

That's just some of the features, I'd love to get feedback, patches, bug reports, etc. There are links to RC via svn, and rdoc on our plugins page

BoF and RejectConf

Man, I've got a lot to learn about presentations...

I gave a BoF at RailsConfEurope07 session on resources_controller - I was expecting about 10 people and a round table discussion on taking the pain out of RESTful controllers. About 50 or 60 people turned up so we ended up all crowded round a couple of laptops. But everyone was friendly and there was no heckling. Paolo, who gave the incredibly entertaining talk on widgets, took some photos

There was, however, plenty of heckling at the RejectConf talk. The format was 5 minutes of slides, 20 seconds automatic countdown for each one. I wrote the presentation during the day, and ran through it with my wife before hand. It sucked - way too much info. So I cut it down.

However, I was first up, and gave the audience the choice of the insane, or sane, talk, and they chose insane. I tried to get across about 1/2 an hour's worth of stuff in 5 minutes, and the audience looked as though they were in a wind tunnel. It was a great icebreaker for the other speakers though. I'll post the slides here in due course.

RejectConf was simply awesome by the way. The berlin ruby user group rocks.

resources_controller - update

September 5th, 2007

Ian White

It's been a while, but some major improvements to resources_controller have just been checked in.

The test coverage has slipped just a bit - that's my next task. However, it's still pretty good. Thanks to the RC group (in particluar Chris Hapgood) and the Guys at Greenvoice for nudging me towards singular resources, and away from lots of inherited controllers.

Major headlines

  • Singular resources are fully supported
  • RC loads enclosing resources by default, which means you pretty much just have to write one line to have all your routes taken care of (more on this below).
  • Cleaner code

Go get get it from the ArDes plugins page.

What follows is from the rdoc

With resources_controller (http://svn.ardes.com/rails_plugins/resources_controller) you can quickly add an ActiveResource compliant controller for your your RESTful models.


Here are some examples - for more on how to use RC go to the Usage section at the bottom, for syntax head to resources_controller_for

Example 1: Super simple usage

Here's a simple example of how it works with a Forums has many Posts model:

  class ForumsController < ApplicationController
    resources_controller_for :forums

Your controller will get the standard CRUD actions, @forum will be set in member actions, @forums in index.

Example 2: Specifying enclosing resources

  class PostsController < ApplicationController
    resources_controller_for :posts, :in => :forum
As above, but the controller will load @forum on every action, and use @forum to find and create @posts

Wildcard enclosing resources

All of the above examples will work for any routes that match what it specified

              PATH                     RESOURCES CONTROLLER WILL DO:

  Example 1  /forums                   @forums = Forum.find(:all)

             /users/2/forums           @user = User.find(2)
                                       @forums = @user.forums.find(:all)

  Example 2  /posts                    @posts = Post.find(:all)

             /forums/2/posts           @forum = Forum.find(2)
                                       @posts = @forum.posts.find(:all)

             /sites/4/forums/3/posts   @site = Site.find(4)
                                       @forum = @site.forums.find(3)
                                       @posts = @forum.posts.find(:all)

             /users/2/posts/1          This won't work as the controller specified
                                       that :posts are :in => :forum

It is up to you which routes to open to the controller (in config/routes.rb). When you do, RC will use the route segments to drill down to the specified resource. This means that if User 3 does not have Post 5, then /users/3/posts/5 will raise a RecordNotFound Error. You dont' have to write any extra code to do this oft repeated controller pattern.

With RC, your route specification flows through to the controller - no need to repeat yourself.

If you don't want to have RC match wildcard resources just pass :load_enclosing => false

  resources_controller_for :posts, :in => :forum, :load_enclosing => 'false'

Example 3: Singleton resource

Here's an example of a singleton, the account pattern that is so common.

  class AccountController < ApplicationController
    resources_controller_for :account, :class => User, :singleton => true do

Your controller will use the block to find the resource. The @account will be assigned to @current_user

Example 4: Allowing PostsController to be used all over

First thing to do is remove :in => :forum

  class PostsController < ApplicationController
    resources_controller_for :posts

This will now work for /users/2/posts.

Example 4 and a bit: Mapping non standard resources

How about /account/posts? The account is found in a non standard way - RC won't be able to figure out how tofind it if it appears in the route. So we give it some help.

(in PostsController)

  map_resource :account, :singleton => true, :class => User, :find => :current_user

Now, if :account apears in any part of a route (for PostsController) it will be mapped to (in this case) the current_user method of teh PostsController.

To make the :account mapping available to all, just chuck it in ApplicationController

This will work for any resource which can't be inferred from its route segment name

  map_resource :peeps, :source => :users
  map_resource :posts, :class => BadlyNamedPostClass

Example 5: Singleton association

Here's another singleton example - one where it corresponds to a has_one or belongs_to association

  class ImageController < ApplicationController
    resources_controller_for :image, :singleton => true

When invoked with /users/3/image RC will find @user, and use @user.image to find the resource, and @user.build_image, to create a new resource.

Putting it all together

An exmaple app


 map.resource :account do |account|
   account.resource :image
   account.resources :posts

 map.resources :users do |user|
   user.resource :image
   user.resources :posts

 map.resources :forums do |forum|
   forum.resources :posts
   forum.resource :image


 class ApplicationController < ActionController::Base
   map_resource :account, :singleton => true, :find => :current_user

   def current_user # get it from session or whatnot

 class ForumsController < AplicationController
   resources_controller_for :forums
 class PostsController < AplicationController
   resources_controller_for :posts

 class UsersController < AplicationController
   resources_controller_for :users

 class ImageController < AplicationController
   resources_controller_for :image, :singleton => true

 class AccountController < ApplicationController
   resources_controller_for :account, :singleton => true, :find => :current_user

This is how the app will handle the following routes:

 PATH                   CONTROLLER    WHICH WILL DO:
 /forums                forums        @forums = Forum.find(:all)
 /forums/2/posts        posts         @forum = Forum.find(2)
                                      @posts = @forum.forums.find(:all)

 /forums/2/image        image         @forum = Forum.find(2)
                                      @image = @forum.image   
 /image                       no route

 /posts                       no route

 /users/2/posts/3       posts         @user = User.find(2)
                                      @post = @user.posts.find(3)
 /users/2/image POST    image         @user = User.find(2)
                                      @image = @user.build_image(params[:image])

 /account               account       @account = self.current_user

 /account/image         image         @account = self.current_user
                                      @image = @account.image

 /account/posts/3 PUT   posts         @account = self.current_user
                                      @post = @account.posts.find(3)


Ok - so how do I write the views?

For most cases, just in exactly the way you would expect to. RC sets the instance variables to what they should be.

But, in some cases, you are going to have different variables set - for example

  /users/1/posts    =>  @user, @posts
  /forums/2/posts   =>  @forum, @posts

Here are some options (all are appropriate for different circumstances):

  • test for the existence of @user or @forum in the view, and display it differently
  • have two different controllers UserPostsController and ForumPostsController, with different views (and direct the routes to them in routes.rb)
  • use enclosing_resource - which always refers to the... immediately enclosing resource.

Using the last technique, you might write your posts index as follows (here assuming that both Forum and User have .name)

  <h1>Posts for <%= link_to enclosing_resource_path, "#{enclosing_resource_name.humanize}: #{enclosing_resource.name}" %></h1>

  <%= render :partial => 'post', :collection => @posts %>

Notice enclosing_resource_name - this will be something like 'user', or 'post'. Also enclosing_resource_path - in RC you get all of the named route helpers relativised to the current resource and enclosing_resource. See NamedRouteHelper for more details.

This can useful when writing the _post partial:

    <%= post.name %>
    <%= link_to 'edit', edit_resource_path(tag) %>
    <%= link_to 'destroy', resource_path(tag), :method => :delete %>

when viewed at /users/1/posts it will show

   Cool post
   <a href="/users/1/posts/1/edit">edit</a>
   <a href="js nightmare with /users/1/posts/1">delete</a>

when viewd at /forums/1/posts it will show

   Cool post
   <a href="/forums/1/posts/3/edit">edit</a>
   <a href="js nightmare with /forums/1/posts/3">delete</a>

This is like polymorphic urls, except that RC will just use whatever enclosing resources are currently loaded to generate the urls/paths.

General Usage

To use RC, there are just three class methods on controller to learn.

  resources_controller_for name, options, &block
  nested_in name, options, &block

  map_resource name, options, &block

Customising finding and creating

If you want to implement something like query params you can override find_resources. If you want to change the way your new resources are created you can override new_resource.

  class PostsController < ApplicationController
    resources_controller_for :posts

    def find_resources
      resource_service.find :all, :order => params[:sort_by]

    def new_resource
      returning resource_service.new(params[resource_name]) do |post|
        post.ip_address = request.remote_ip

In the same way, you can override find_resource.

Writing controller actions

You can make use of RC internals to simplify your actions.

Here's an example where you want to re-order an acts_as_list model. You define a class method on the model (say *order_by_ids* which takes and array of ids). You can then make use of *resource_service* (which makes use of awesome rails magic) to send correctly scoped messages to your models.

Here's how to write an order action

  def order

the route

  map.resources :things, :collection => {:order => :put}

and the view can conatin a scriptaculous drag and drop with param name 'things_order'

When this controller is invoked of /things the :order_by_ids message will be sent to the Thing class, when it's invoked by /foos/1/things, then :order_by_ids message will be send to Foo.find(1).things association

ArDes Rails Plugins Page

June 7th, 2007

Ian White

Check out our rails plugins page, which contains links to rdoc, svn and other plugin related stuff.

You may also be interested in the latest build report which shows what plugins are tested against what versions of rails.

resources_controller part II

February 14th, 2007

Ian White

Update: check out resource s controller update

Update: point 3 below (broken in rails < edge) is now solved. (non-edge) Rails <= 1.2.2 users should also install this plugin.

(this is a followup to this entry)

There were some problems with resources_controller as released a couple of weeks ago, including:

  • No support for name_prefix, which crippled the url_helpers
  • Limited support for polymorphic resources
  • Broken in rails < Edge, due to the fact that scoped creates for associations are new.
  • Lack of test support to show me the above

The 1st, 2nd and 4th points have been thoroughly addressed in the latest release, and if you run the tests you'll find out if your version of rails is susceptible to the 3rd point. The solution to the 3rd point should be pretty trivial and will appear soon.

(Thanks to Igor Alexeiuk for pointing me in the right direction on the above, and for contributing some code for name_prefix stuff)

Here's an example of what you can do:

class TagsController < ApplicationController
  resources_controller_for :tags
  nested_in :taggable, :polymorphic => true, :load_enclosing => true

The above controller can be used to service all of your models that have tags, wherever they're located in the resource schema. The controller will load the enclosing resources (raising RecordNotFound if the relationships don't match) and the named routes will also work.

Take a look at the test app to see what the new syntax is like, and what the plugin is capable of here

Announcing resources_controller

February 2nd, 2007

Ian White

Update: check out resource s controller update

Update: check out this entry

Update: for Rails <= 1.2.2 users, also install this plugin

So you want to write a quick and dirty REST server:

  • Models, ActiveRecord mmmm nice and DRY tick
  • Routes, super easy - even nesting routes! tick
  • Controllers - oh crap, we're talking scaffoling, then changing like 8 lines of code in each one of the nested controllers - there's major duplication - there must be a better way...

The above inspired me to come up with the resources_controller plugin (svn, and rdoc).

(If you're interested in how this works, and you don't want to read the rdoc, read my post at rails weenie)

Here's an example, your usual forums/posts/comments one. See the docs for more examples.

  class ForumsController < ApplicationController
    resources_controller_for :forums
  class PostsController < ApplicationController
    resources_controller_for :posts, :in => :forum
  class CommentsController < ApplicationController
    resources_controller_for :comments, :in => [:forum, :post]

Couple of caveats: you need rspec to run the tests, and there's no resource_controller (singleton resource controller) plugin as yet.

Please let me know how to make it better.


2/Feb: Much better docs, and a few improvements