An example Rails 3.2 app with Devise, CanCan, and Twitter Bootstrap. With a tutorial.
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Rails Application for Devise with CanCan and Twitter Bootstrap Rails App for Devise with CanCan and Twitter Bootstrap

Rails 3.2 example application shows how to use Devise with CanCan and Twitter Bootstrap.

  • Devise gives you ready-made authentication and user management.
  • CanCan provides authorization for administrator access.
  • Twitter Bootstrap is a front-end framework for CSS styling.

Best of all, there’s a detailed tutorial to show how it’s built.

You can clone this app or generate a new Rails application using an application template.

Rails Application for Devise with CanCan and Twitter Bootstrap

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A complete walkthrough tutorial is available on the GitHub wiki:

View the Tutorial

The tutorial documents each step to follow to create the application. Every step is documented concisely, so a complete beginner can create this application without any additional knowledge. However, no explanation is offered for any of the steps, so if you are a beginner, you’re advised to look for an introduction to Rails elsewhere. See a list of recommended resources for Rails.

If you simply wish to modify the application for your own project, you can download the application and set it up as described below, without following the tutorial.

What Is Implemented — and What Is Not

This is a demonstration application that allows you to visit a home page and see a list of users. Devise provides user management so a visitor can register with an email address and password and create an account. Devise provides authentication so access to the site can be limited to users who are registered and logged in. CanCan is used for authorization, limiting access to only an administrator for designated pages.

The rake db:seed command sets up a database with two example users. The first user is designated as an administrator and can view a administrative page when logged in. The second user is restricted from accessing the administrative page.

Similar Examples and Tutorials

This is one in a series of Rails example apps and tutorials from the RailsApps Project. See a list of additional Rails examples, tutorials, and starter apps.

This example application is based on the rails3-devise-rspec-cucumber example and tutorial and adds CanCan and Twitter Bootstrap. View the rails3-devise-rspec-cucumber example and tutorial for the basics of setting up an application with RSpec and Cucumber.

This example application uses ActiveRecord and a SQLite database. You can use the Mongoid ORM with the MongoDB datastore instead, for faster development without schemas or migrations. The rails3-mongoid-devise example app and tutorial shows how to set up Devise and Mongoid with RSpec and Cucumber.

To see a more complex application that uses Devise, CanCan, and Twitter Bootstrap, see the rails-prelaunch-signup example and tutorial from the RailsApps project.


Before generating your application, you will need:

  • The Ruby language (version 1.9.3)
  • Rails 3.2

Be sure to see Installing Rails 3.2 for detailed instructions and advice.

Getting the Application

You have several options for getting the code.

Fork, Clone, or Generate?

Fork: If you’d like to add features (or bug fixes) to improve the example application, you can fork the GitHub repo and make pull requests. Your code contributions are welcome!

Clone: If you want to copy and customize the app with changes that are only useful for your own project, you can clone the GitHub repo. You’ll need to search-and-replace the project name throughout the application. You probably should generate the app instead (see below).

Generate: If you want to use the project as a starter app for your customized application, use the application template to generate a new version of the example app. You’ll be able to give it your own project name when you generate the app. Generating the application (described below) gives you many options, such as using Haml for views, additional Devise modules, and other popular gems such as will-paginate.

Clone the Repository

If you simply wish to examine the example code, you can download the code (“clone the repository”) with the command

$ git clone git://

The source code is managed with Git (a version control system). You’ll need Git on your machine (install it from

Using the Ready-Made Application Template

You can use an application template to generate a new version of the example app. You’ll find an application template for this app in the Rails Application Templates repository.

To build the “rails3-bootstrap-devise-cancan” example application, run the command:

$ rails new myapp -m -T

Use the -T flag to skip Test::Unit files.

The $ character indicates a shell prompt; don’t include it when you run the command.

This creates a new Rails app (with the name myapp) on your computer.

The application generator templates will ask you for various preferences.

To reproduce the example application exactly as found in the repository, make the following selections:

  • Would you like to use Haml instead of ERB? no
  • Would you like to use RSpec instead of TestUnit? yes
  • Would you like to use factory_girl for test fixtures with RSpec? yes
  • Would you like to use machinist for test fixtures with RSpec? no
  • Would you like to use Cucumber for your BDD? yes
  • Would you like to use Guard to automate your workflow? no
  • Would you like the app to use a Gmail account to send email? yes
  • Would you like to use Devise for authentication? #2
    1. No
    2. Devise with default modules
    3. Devise with Confirmable module
    4. Devise with Confirmable and Invitable modules
  • Would you like to manage authorization with CanCan & Rolify? yes
  • Which front-end framework would you like for HTML5 and CSS3? #4
    1. None
    2. Zurb Foundation
    3. Twitter Bootstrap (less)
    4. Twitter Bootstrap (sass)
    5. Skeleton
    6. Normalize CSS for consistent styling
  • Which form gem would you like? #1
    1. None
    2. simple form
    3. simple form (bootstrap)
  • Would you like to use rails-footnotes during development? no
  • Would you like to set a robots.txt file to ban spiders? yes
  • Would you like to add ‘will_paginate’ for pagination? no
  • Add ‘therubyracer’ JavaScript runtime (for Linux users without node.js)? no

You can choose other selections if you don’t care about matching the example application exactly.

Use “Recipes” to Customize an Application Template

The application template was created using the rails_apps_composer gem which provides a convenient way to assemble a reusable application template by selecting various “recipes” for popular Rails development packages. Use rails_apps_composer if you want to customize the application template for your own starter apps.

Edit the README

If you’re open sourcing the app on GitHub, please edit the README file to add a description of the app and your contact info. Changing the README is important if you’re using a clone of the example app. I’ve been mistaken (and contacted) as the author of apps that are copied from my example.

Getting Started

About Required Gems

The application uses the following gems:

See Example Gemfiles for Rails 3.2.

Install the Required Gems

Install the required gems on your computer:

$ bundle install

You can check which gems are installed on your computer with:

$ gem list --local

Keep in mind that you have installed these gems locally. When you deploy the app to another server, the same gems (and versions) must be available.

Configure Email

You must configure the app for your email account if you want your application to send email messages, for example, if you’ve generated the application with the option to install the Devise :confirmable module.

Use a Gmail account

If you’ve generated the application with the option to use a Gmail account to send email, you’ll need to modify the files config/environments/development.rb and config/environments/production.rb to include your Gmail username and password.

config.action_mailer.smtp_settings = {
  address: "",
  port: 587,
  domain: "",
  authentication: "plain",
  enable_starttls_auto: true,
  user_name: ENV["GMAIL_USERNAME"],
  password: ENV["GMAIL_PASSWORD"]

You can replace ENV["GMAIL_USERNAME"] and ENV["GMAIL_PASSWORD"] with your Gmail username and password. However, committing the file to a public GitHub repository will expose your secret password.

If you’re familiar with setting Unix environment variables, it’s advisable to leave config.action_mailer.smtp_settings unchanged and set your environment variables in the file that is read when starting an interactive shell (the ~/.bashrc file for the bash shell). This will keep the password out of your repository.

Are you using a bash shell? Use echo $SHELL to find out. For a bash shell, edit the ~/.bashrc file and add:

export GMAIL_PASSWORD="secret*"

Open a new shell or restart your terminal application to continue.

Configure ActionMailer

The example application is set to deliver email in both development and production. It will raise delivery errors in development but not production.

In development, config.action_mailer.default_url_options is set for a host at localhost:3000 which will enable links in Devise confirmation email messages to work properly. You’ll need to change the config.action_mailer.default_url_options host option from to your own domain for the production environment.

You can change these values as needed in the config/environments/development.rb and config/environments/production.rb files.

Configure Devise for Email

Complete your email configuration by modifying


and setting the config.mailer_sender option for the return email address for messages that Devise sends from the application.

Configure Devise

You can modify the configuration file for Devise if you want to use something other than the defaults:


Create a Default User

Set Up a Database Seed File

You’ll want to set up a default user so you can easily log in to test the app. You can modify the file db/seeds.rb for your own name, email and password:

user = User.create! :name => 'First User', :email => '', :password => 'please', :password_confirmation => 'please'
puts 'New user created: ' <<
user2 = User.create! :name => 'Second User', :email => '', :password => 'please', :password_confirmation => 'please'
puts 'New user created: ' <<
user.add_role :admin

Use the defaults or change the values for name, email, and password as you wish.

If you’ve generated the application with the option to install the Devise :confirmable module, there will be an extra attribute confirmed_at => for creation of a user.

Set the Database

Prepare the database and add the default user to the database by running the commands:

$ bundle exec rake db:migrate
$ bundle exec rake db:seed

Set the database for running tests:

$ bundle exec rake db:test:prepare

Test the App

You can check that your app runs properly by entering the command

$ rails server

To see your application in action, open a browser window and navigate to http://localhost:3000/. You should see the default user listed on the home page. When you click on the user’s name, you should be required to log in before seeing the user’s detail page.

To sign in as the first user (the administrator), (unless you’ve changed it) use

  • email:
  • password: please

You’ll see a navigation link for Admin. Clicking the link will display a page with a list of users at

To sign in as the second user, (unless you’ve changed it) use

  • email:
  • password: please

The second user will not see the Admin navigation link and will not be able to access the page at

Deploy to Heroku

For your convenience, here is a Tutorial for Rails on Heroku. Heroku provides low cost, easily configured Rails application hosting.


This application provides no useful functionality apart from demonstrating Devise with CanCan and Twitter Bootstrap working together on Rails 3. Add any models, controllers, and views that you need.

To see a more complex application that extends this example, see the rails-prelaunch-signup example and tutorial from the RailsApps project.


The example application contains a suite of RSpec unit tests and Cucumber scenarios and step definitions.

After installing the application, run rake -T to check that rake tasks for RSpec and Cucumber are available.

Run rake spec to run all RSpec tests.

Run rake cucumber (or more simply, cucumber) to run all Cucumber scenarios.

Please send the author a message, create an issue, or submit a pull request if you can contribute improved RSpec or Cucumber files.


Problems? Check the issues.

Problems with “Certificate Verify Failed”

Are you getting an error “OpenSSL certificate verify failed” when you try to generate a new Rails app from an application template? See suggestions to resolve the error Certificate Verify Failed.

Documentation and Support

This is the only documentation.

For a Devise introduction, Ryan Bates offers a Railscast on Devise. You can find documentation for Devise at There is an active Devise mailing list and you can submit Devise issues at GitHub.


Please create a GitHub issue if you identify any problems or have suggestions for improvements.

Where to Get Help

Your best source for help with problems is Stack Overflow. Your issue may have been encountered and addressed by others.

You can also try Rails Hotline, a free telephone hotline for Rails help staffed by volunteers.


If you make improvements to this application, please share with others.

Send the author a message, create an issue, or fork the project and submit a pull request.

If you add functionality to this application, create an alternative implementation, or build an application that is similar, please contact me and I’ll add a note to the README so that others can find your work.


Daniel Kehoe implemented the application and wrote the tutorial.

Is the app useful to you? Follow the project on Twitter: @rails_apps
and tweet some praise. I’d love to know you were helped out by what I’ve put together.


Public Domain Dedication

This work is a compilation and derivation from other previously released works. With the exception of various included works, which may be restricted by other licenses, the author or authors of this code dedicate any and all copyright interest in this code to the public domain. We make this dedication for the benefit of the public at large and to the detriment of our heirs and successors. We intend this dedication to be an overt act of relinquishment in perpetuity of all present and future rights to this code under copyright law.