A Ruby micro-server for prototype apps
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A nimble web server one-liner for modern web-apps, a bit in the style of lineman, middleman, serve, another serve and such. Will display your precious stuff on port 9292.

It does some of what those other projects - only the stuff I need, with less. And with the stuff that I consider essential that still isn't supported where it should be supported. You can see Vitrine as reinventing the wheel for sure, but the reason I wrote it is that I found the other development servers giving me death by a thousand paper cuts. Just that really:

For example, serve which I loved dearly compiles .coffee files to JS with their native extension and does not do source maps. It also depends on Compass, so you probably won't be able to put in the newer version of SASS required for source maps. Sprockets does not do source maps either. The CoffeeScript gem does not propagate the syntax error line to your browser console, so it's notoriously difficult to find out where the errors are - because someone refused to accept a PR to the CoffeeScript gem - and these small irritating things just go on and on and on. In the meantime, I wanted a comfortable dev environment, without resorting to filesystem watching and rebuilding all my assets every time I change a character. So there: Vitrine.

Core idea of Vitrine

You want a server that will automatically wrap your CoffeeScript and SASS assets, and allow some rudimentary templating. This is practically enough for putting together MVP prototypes, especially as far as single-page apps go. You want this server to not coerce you into a specific SCSS framework, you don't want to scaffold anything, you don't want to have any configs defined and you hate running wizards. You also don't feel like buying any Mac applications which call out to command-line compilers anyway.

If most of the above is true, Vitrine is just what you need.

All you need is some public

Vitrine assumes that there are two directories under the current tree:

  • public - for the JS, for CSS and SCSS and in general all the static files served straight out
  • views - for the templates, in any Ruby templating format you have

This structure fits my preferred stack (Sinatra + Passenger) perfectly and allows running sane defaults. It is also migratable to another stack with minimum effort, while still having things like asset passthrough via Passenger work out of the box.

Automatic compilation

Vitrine is for development. It takes runtime compilation to 11 and beyound. Running tasks is all fine and good when you build out the app for production, but when iterating on UI it's essential to be able to just yank the file in there and carry on. Compilation perks include:

  • Any .scss file you shove into the public directory can be referenced as .css from your HTML. Ask for foo.css and foo.scss will be compiled on the fly.
  • Any .coffee file you shove into the public directory can be references as .js from your HTML. Ask for bar.js and bar.coffee will be compiled on the fly.
  • CoffeeScript and SCSS files will have sourcemaps out of the box for pleasant browser debugging (something Sprockets still cannot do properly)
  • Decent error messages will be shown for both invalid SCSS and invalid CoffeeScript, including proper line reference for syntax errors (something Sprockets still cannot do properly)

Vitrine favors runtime assembly for JavaScript and CSS. That is: load many files into your page in development mode, and build them into one chunk using external tools on deployment only.

This helps accelerating the roundtrip time because if you use asset compilation on every reload when designing the UI you can easily get into the compile-concat-minify roundtrip times of more than a few seconds. This is too much.

You are totally free to use your own compile-concat-minify pipelines when building for production. Unlike Sprockets Vitrine does not force you to inject any specific preprocessor directives into your scripts or CSS - this also facilitates debugging a GREAT LOT.

Asset caching

Succesfully compiled assets will be ETagged based on their mtime. You should run an HTTP caching proxy on top of Vitrine if you use it in production.

Automatic Ruby template pickup

If you have the "views" directory available, Vitrine will try to pick up any usable file for any URL without extensions. From there on, it's going to try to render it with the automatically picked template engine using the standard Sinatra facilities. You can use HAML, LESS, Slim, ERB, Builder or anything else you like.

The "catch-all" template for single-page apps

If you are writing an SPA, you can make a template called catch_all.erb (or .haml or whatever really) in your views which is going to be the fall-through template for all missing URLs without extension.

Automatic reload via Guard

If your project already has a Guardfile, Vitrine will inject live-reloading hooks into your HTML using rack-livereload, so you won't need browser extensions at all.

Sensible caching

Vitrine will etag all the precompiled assets for faster reloading.

Using the whole Vitrine as Rack middleware

Most actions in Vitrine will fall through to 404, so Vitrine::App can be used as a middleware handler. Put Vitrine into your application stack and it will complement your main application very nicely. But don't forget to set :root - like so:

use Vitrine::App.new do | vitrine |
  vitrine.settings.set :root => File.expand_path(File.dirname(__FILE__))

Note the expand_path call - the path absolutely has to be absolute

You can also only opt-in to the asset compilation system of Vitrine only once you have migrated your app from the prototype stage into, say, a Sinatra application.

Note that you need to have an ExecJS environment on your server for this:

use Vitrine::AssetCompiler do | ac |
  ac.settings.set :root => File.dirname(__FILE__)

But you can also choose to have your JSON-serving API backend at the end of the Rack stack, and Vitrine on top of it for assets and templating - the choice is entirelly up to you.

Packaging and baking of assets

This is on the TODO list, primarilly because it's notoriously difficult to splice assets for minification preserving their source maps.

The idea is that you will end up upgrading the site to either a Node app or a Ruby app with it's own config.ru - if after that point you still wish to use Vitrine, you can use it like a Rack middleware.

Contributing to vitrine

  • Check out the latest master to make sure the feature hasn't been implemented or the bug hasn't been fixed yet.
  • Check out the issue tracker to make sure someone already hasn't requested it and/or contributed it.
  • Fork the project.
  • Start a feature/bugfix branch.
  • Commit and push until you are happy with your contribution.
  • Make sure to add tests for it. This is important so I don't break it in a future version unintentionally.
  • Please try not to mess with the Rakefile, version, or history. If you want to have your own version, or is otherwise necessary, that is fine, but please isolate to its own commit so I can cherry-pick around it.


Copyright (c) 2013 Julik Tarkhanov. See LICENSE.txt for further details.