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Zen Rails Base Application


Base or "skeleton" application for Ruby on Rails 6.1 projects. Built to minimize the time spent writing boilerplate code and performing repetitive setup tasks.

It comes with a preselected set of tools which I believe to be the most effective and widely used. If you are looking for greater flexibility, an application template which uses Rails's templating system such as Rails Composer should be a better fit as it allows the user to choose which templating engine, test framework, JS framework and other tools to use.

Although this project is opinionated regarding tool choices, community feedback and contributions are always welcome and highly appreciated.


It consists of a Rails 6.1.4 app, including:

  • A selection of useful gems for development and debugging such as rubocop, brakeman, awesome_print, byebug, and better_errors.

  • Preconfigured test environment, including:

  • Preconfigured authentication with the Devise gem.

  • Preconfigured authorization with the Pundit gem.

  • Internationalization (i18n)

    • All of the base application's strings are in YML dictionaries. This is arguably a good practice even for single language applications. Having an internationalized base application makes it easier and faster to translate elements like Devise, the layout and error messages when creating a single language app in a non-English language.
    • Methods for translating enum attributes, including the generation of translated options for select boxes. Implemented and documented in app/models/application_record.rb
  • jQuery

  • HTML Layouts developed with Bootstrap 3 (bootstrap-sass gem) to use as a starting point, including:

    • Navigation bar;
    • Displaying of flash messages and validation errors as Bootstrap alerts;
    • Role-based layout switching: different layouts for guests (unauthenticated users), ordinary users and admins;
  • Controller concerns such as SkipAuthorization.

  • User-friendly error messages (flash) on exceptions such as ActiveRecord::DeleteRestrictionError and Pundit::NotAuthorizedErrorand.

  • User management interface for admins in /admin/users with pagination (kaminari gem) and searching/filtering (ransack gem). Accessible only by users with "admin" role.

  • Seed users for the development environment.

  • Contact form built with the mail_form gem.

  • E-mails "sent" in the development environment are saved as html files in tmp/letter_opener (letter_opener gem).

  • The following JavaScript libraries:

    • Select2 for better select boxes.
    • SweetAlert2 for better JS popups, including the replacement of the default data-confirm confirmation by a better-looking version.
    • ZenUtils: a small JavaScript library consisting of utility functions. See app/assets/javascripts/zen-utils.js.
  • SCSS utility classes for alignment, spacing and font size standardization. See app/assets/stylesheets/utility-classes.scss.

  • High test coverage.

Development Environment Dependencies

  • Ruby 3.0.2
  • Yarn (requires Node.js)
  • Required for running JavaScript-enabled feature specs:


Setup tasks such as configuring time zones, default locale and action mailer (e.g., SMTP or transactional e-mail service) are not included in the following steps as they are not specific to this base app.

  1. Fork this repository.

  2. Clone the forked repository to your machine.

  3. Rename the application:

    1. Required: change the module name in config/application.rb from ZenRailsBaseApp to your application name, in camel case.
    2. Optional: Use your IDE's "search all files" feature to find and replace the following strings:
      • Replace zen_rails_base_app by your_app_name
      • Replace Project Name by the project's name
      • Replace manually by the different e-mail addresses that should send and receive e-mails in various parts of the application.
  4. Run bundle install to install the gems listed in the Gemfile and their dependencies.

  5. Run yarn install to install the front end (JavaScript) packages listed in packages.json and their dependencies.

  6. Configure the databases:

    1. If using PostgreSQL, uncomment the pg gem from the Gemfile. If using MySQL, uncomment the mysql2 gem.

    2. Uncomment the section of config/database.yml corresponding to your chosen DBMS.

    3. If you don't have a DB user (with a password) yet, create one.

    4. Edit the following fields ofconfig/database.yml:

      • database.development
      • database.test
      • default.username
      • default.password
  7. Before attempting to run the application or its test suite, run rails db:create db:migrate db:seed within the project's root directory. That will create the following seed users:

    • Ordinary user: email: / password: Devpass1
    • Admin user: email: / password: Devpass1
  8. Customise the authentication setup. You may want to change one or more of the following items:

    • Aside from Devise's default attributes, the User model also has role, first_name, and last_name attributes.
    • Aside from the Devise's default modules, this app also uses Confirmable, Timeoutable and Lockable.
    • Pundit is used for for authorization. The User model has an enum attribute called role. Its possible values are :user and :admin. The default value is :user.
  9. Customize the application colors by overwriting Bootstrap's variables in app/assets/stylesheets/global.scss.

  10. Remove unused items from the application, such as gems from the Gemfile, RSpec helpers, custom matchers and shared examples from spec/support.

  11. Consider going through the Zen Rails Security Checklist before deploying the application to production.

TODO (PRs welcome)

  • Dockerize. Set up all development dependencies in the Dockerfile.
  • Set up continuous integration.
  • Fix remaining Rubocop offenses
  • Upgrade Bootstrap 3 to Bootstrap 5
  • Install and configure the Secure Headers gem.
  • Set up CodeClimate with Rubocop, Reek, Brakeman, and ESLint engines.
  • Use Yarn instead of gems to install front end libraries such as jQuery and Select2.
  • Add an asterisk to the labels of required form fields.
  • Internationalize and translate the JS front end, mainly global.js and zen-utils.js.


  • Bruno Facca - Email: bruno at facca dot info - LinkedIn


Bug reports

Please use the issue tracker to report any bugs.


  1. Create an issue and describe your idea
  2. Fork it
  3. Create your feature branch (git checkout -b my-new-feature)
  4. Commit your changes (git commit -m 'Add some feature')
  5. Publish the branch (git push origin my-new-feature)
  6. Create a Pull Request


Released under the MIT License.


Base application for Ruby on Rails 6 projects. Built to minimize the time spent writing boilerplate code and performing repetitive setup tasks.







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