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Easy-to-use and powerful slugging for Rails 3

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README.textile

Slugalicious — Easy and powerful URL slugging for Rails 3

(no monkey-patching required)

Author Tim Morgan
Version 1.2.1 (Mar 2, 2012)
License Released under the MIT license.

About

Slugalicious is an easy-to-use slugging library that helps you generate pretty
URLs for your ActiveRecord objects. It’s built for Rails 3 and is cordoned off
in a monkey patching-free zone.

Slugalicious is easy to use and powerful enough to cover all of the most common
use-cases for slugging. Slugs are stored in a separate table, meaning you don’t
have to make schema changes to your models, and you can change slugs while still
keeping the old URLs around for redirecting purposes.

Slugalicious is an intelligent slug generator: You can specify multiple ways to
generate slugs, and Slugalicious will try them all until it finds one that
generates a unique slug. If all else fails, Slugalicious will fall back on a
less pretty but guaranteed-unique backup slug generation strategy.

Slugalicious works with the Stringex Ruby library, meaning you get meaningful
slugs via the String#to_url method. Below are two examples of how powerful
Stringex is:


"$6 Dollar Burger".to_url #=> "six-dollar-burger"
"新年好".to_url #=> "xin-nian-hao"

Installation

Important Note: Slugalicious is written for Rails 3.0 and Ruby 1.9 only.

Firstly, add the gem to your Rails project’s Gemfile:


gem 'slugalicious'

Next, use the generator to add the Slug model and its migration to your
project:


rails generate slugalicious

Then run the migration to set up your database.

Usage

For any model you want to slug, include the Slugalicious module and call
slugged:


class User < ActiveRecord::Base
  include Slugalicious
  slugged ->(user) { "#{user.first_name} #{user.last_name}" }
end

Doing this sets the to_param method, so you can go ahead and start generating
URLs using your models. You can use the find_from_slug method to load a record
from a slug:


user = User.find_from_slug(params[:id])

Multiple slug generators

The slugged method takes a list of method names (as symbols) or Procs that
each attempt to generate a slug. Each of these generators is tried in order
until a unique slug is generated. (The output of each of these generators is run
through the slugifier to convert it to a URL-safe string. The slugifier is by
default String#to_url, provided by the Stringex gem.)

So, if we had our User class, and we first wanted to slug by last name only,
but then add in the first name if two people share a last name, we’d call
slugged like so:


slugged :last_name, ->(user) { "#{user.first_name} #{user.last_name}" }

In the event that none of these generators manages to make a unique slug, a
fallback generator is used. This generator prepends the ID of the record, making
it guaranteed unique. Let’s use the example generators shown above. If we create
a user with the name “Sancho Sample”, he will get the slug “sample”. Create
another user with the same name, and that user will get the slug
“sancho-sample;2”. The semicolon is the default ID separator (and it can be
overridden).

Scoped slugs

Slugs must normally be unique for a single model type. Thus, if you have a
User named Hammer and a Product named hammer, they can both share the
“hammer” slug.

If you want to decrease the uniqueness scope of a slug, you can do so with the
:scope option on the slugged method. Let’s say you wanted to limit the scope
of a @Product@’s slug to its associated Department; that way you could have a
product named “keyboard” in both the Computer Supplies and the Music Supplies
departments. To do so, override the :scope option with a method name (as
symbol) or a Proc that limits the scope of the uniqueness requirement:


class Product < ActiveRecord::Base
  include Slugalicious
  belongs_to :department
  slugged :name, scope: :department_url_component

  private

  def department_url_component
    department.name.to_url + "/"
  end
end

Now, your computer keyboard’s slug will be “computer-supplies/keyboard” and your
piano keyboard’s slug will be “music-supplies/keyboard”. There’s an important
thing to notice here: The method or proc you use to scope the slug must return a
proper URL substring. That typically means you need to URL-escape it and add a
slash at the end, as shown in the example above.

When you call to_param on your piano keyboard, instead of just “keyboard”, you
will get “music-supplies/keyboard”. Likewise, you can use the
find_from_slug_path method to find a record from its full path, slug and scope
included. You would usually use this method in conjunction with route globbing.
For example, we could set up our routes.rb file like so:


get '/products/*path', 'products#show', as: :products

Then, in our ProductsController, we load the product from the path slug like
so:


def find_product
  @product = Product.find_from_slug_path(params[:path])
end

This is why it’s very convenient to have your :scope method/proc not only
return the uniqueness constraint, but also the scoped portion of the URL
preceding the slug.

Altering and expiring slugs

When a model is created, it gets one slug, marked as the active slug (by
default). This slug is the first generator that produces a unique slug string.

If a model is updated, its slug is regenerated. Each of the slug generators is
invoked, and if any of them produces an existing slug assigned to the object,
that slug is made the active slug. (Priority goes to the first slug generator
that produces an existing slug [active or inactive]).

If none of the slug generators generates a known, existing slug belonging to the
object, then the first unique slug is used. A new Slug instance is created and
marked as active, and any other slugs belonging to the object are marked as
inactive.

Inactive slugs do not act any differently from active slugs. An object can be
found by its inactive slug just as well as its active slug. The flag is there so
you can alter the behavior of your application depending on whether the slug is
current.

A common application of this is to have inactive slugs 301-redirect to the
active slug, as a way of both updating search engines’ indexes and ensuring that
people know the URL has changed. As an example of how do this, we alter the
find_product method shown above to be like so:


def find_product
  @product = Product.find_from_slug_path(params[:path])
  unless @product.active_slug?(params[:path].split('/').last)
    redirect_to product_url(@product), status: :moved_permanently
    return false
  end
  return true
end

The old URL will remain indefinitely, but users who hit it will be redirected to
the new URL. Ideally, links to the old URL will be replaced over time with links
to the new URL.

The problem is that even though the old slug is inactive, it’s still “taken.” If
you create a product called “Keyboard”, but then rename it to “Piano”, the
product will claim both the “keyboard” and “piano” slugs. If you had renamed it
to make room for a different product called “Keyboard” (like a computer
keyboard), you’d find its slug is “keyboard;2” or similar.

To prevent the slug namespace from becoming more and more polluted over time,
websites generally expire inactive slugs after a period of time. To do this in
Slugalicious, write a task that periodically checks for and deletes old,
inactive Slug records. Such a task could be invoked through a cron job, for
instance. An example:


Slug.inactive.where([ "created_at < ?", 30.days.ago ]).delete_all
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