An example Rails 3.2 app with Devise, CanCan, and Twitter Bootstrap. With a tutorial.
Pull request Compare This branch is 49 commits behind RailsApps:master.
Fetching latest commit…
Cannot retrieve the latest commit at this time.
Failed to load latest commit information.


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 build this application in only a few minutes using the Rails Composer tool.

Rails Application for Devise with CanCan and Twitter Bootstrap

Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Follow the project on Twitter: @rails_apps. Please tweet some praise if you like what you’ve found.


A complete tutorial is available:

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.

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

See the article Installing Rails for advice about updating Rails and your development environment.

Getting the Application

You have several options for getting the code. You can fork, clone, or generate.


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!


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). To clone:

$ git clone git://

You’ll need git on your machine. See Rails and Git.


If you want to use the project as a starter app, use the Rails Composer tool 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 gives you many additional options.

To build the example application, run the command:

$ rails new rails3-bootstrap-devise-cancan -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 named rails3-bootstrap-devise-cancan on your computer. You can use a different name if you wish.

You’ll see a prompt:

question  Install an example application?
      1)  I want to build my own application
      2)  rails3-bootstrap-devise-cancan
      3)  rails3-devise-rspec-cucumber
      4)  rails3-mongoid-devise
      5)  rails3-mongoid-omniauth
      6)  rails3-subdomains

Choose 2) rails3-bootstrap-devise-cancan.

The application generator template will ask you for additional preferences.

Edit the README

If you’re storing the app in a GitHub repository, please edit the README files to add a description of the app and your contact info. If you don’t change the README, people will think I am the author of your version of the application.

Getting Started

Install the Required Gems

Check the Gemfile to see which gems are used by this application.

If you used the Rails Composer tool to generate the example app, the application template script has already run the bundle install command.

If not, you should run the bundle install command to install the required gems on your computer:

$ bundle install

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

$ gem list

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.

I recommend using rvm, the Ruby Version Manager, to create a project-specific gemset for the application. See the article Installing Rails.

Configure Email

You must configure the app for your email account if you want your application to send email messages.

Use a Gmail account

You’ll need to modify two files to include your Gmail username and password:

  • config/environments/development.rb
  • config/environments/production.rb
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 production only. 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 these two files:

  • config/environments/development.rb
  • config/environments/production.rb

Configure Devise for Email

Complete your email configuration by modifying

  • config/initializers/devise.rb

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:

  • config/initializers/devise.rb

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.

Set the Database

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

$ rake db:migrate
$ rake db:seed

Set the database for running tests:

$ rake db:test:prepare

If you’re not using rvm, the Ruby Version Manager, you should preface each rake command with bundle exec. You don’t need to use bundle exec if you are using rvm version 1.11.0 or newer.

Test the App

You can check that your application 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

Stop the server with Control-C.

If you test the app by starting the web server and then leave the server running while you install new gems, you’ll have to restart the server to see any changes. The same is true for changes to configuration files in the config folder. This can be confusing to new Rails developers because you can change files in the app folders without restarting the server. Stop the server each time after testing and you will avoid this issue.

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.


The tutorial provides additional 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.

MIT License

MIT License

Copyright © 2012 Daniel Kehoe alpha