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PopulateMe is an admin system for managing structured content of web applications. It is built on top of the Sinatra framework, but can be used along any framework using Rack.
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README.md

Populate Me

Overview

PopulateMe is a modular system which provides an admin backend for any Ruby/Rack web application. It is made with Sinatra but you can code your frontend with any other Framework like Rails.

Table of contents

Documents

The Document class is a prototype. It contains all the code that is not specific to a database system. When using this class, documents are just kept in memory and therefore are lost when you restart the app.

Obviously, in a real application, you would not use this class, but a persistent one instead. But since the purpose is to have a common interface for any database system, then the following examples are written using the basic Document class.

For the moment, PopulateMe only ships with a MongoDB document, but we hope there will be others in the future, including some for SQL databases.

Schema

Here is an example of a document class:

require 'populate_me/document'

class BlogArticle < PopulateMe::Document
  
  field :title, default: 'New blog article', required: true
  field :content, type: :text
  field :created_on, type: :datetime, default: proc{Time.now}
  field :published, type: :boolean

  sort_by :created_on, :desc

end

Quite common so far. The field method allows you to record anything about the field itself, but here are the keys used by PopulateMe:

  • :type Defines the type of field (please find the list of types below).
  • :form_field Set to false if you do not want this field in the default form.
  • :label What the label in the form says (defaults to a human-friendly version of the field name)
  • :wrap Set it to false if you do not want the form field to be wrapped in a div with a label.
  • :default Either a default value or a proc to run to get the default value.
  • :required Set to true if you want the field to be marked as required in the form.
  • :only_for List of polymorphic type values

As you can see, most of the options are made for you to tailor the form which PopulateMe will generate for you in the admin.

Available types are:

  • :string Short text.
  • :text Multiline text.
  • :boolean Which is true or false.
  • :select Dropdown list of options (records a string).

A :list type exists as well for nested documents, but it is not fully working yet.

The field method creates a getter and a setter for this particular field.

blog_article.published # Returns true or false
blog_article.published = true

Relationships

In its simplest form, when using the modules convention, relationships can be declared this way:

class BlogArticle < PopulateMe::Document
  
  field :title

  relationship :comments

end

class BlogArticle::Comment < PopulateMe::Document

  field :author
  field :blog_article_id, type: :hidden
  position_field scope: :blog_article_id

end

The relationship method creates 2 getters for this particular field, one with the same name and one with _first at the end. Both are cached so that the database is queried only once.

blog_article.comments # Returns all the comments for this article
blog_article.comments_first # Returns the first comment for this article

It uses the PopulateMe::Document::admin_find and
PopulateMe::Document::admin_find_first methods in the background, so default sorting order is respected.

Validations

In its simplest form, validations are done by overriding the #validate method and declaring errors with the #error_on method.

class Person < PopulateMe::Document
  
  field :name

  def validate
    error_on(:name, 'Cannot be fake') if self.name=='John Doe'
  end

end

If you don't use the PopulateMe interface and create a document programmatically, here is what it could look like:

person = Person.new(name: 'John Doe')
person.new? # returns true
person.save # fails
person.valid? # returns false
person.errors # returns { name: ['Cannot be fake'] }

Callbacks

There are some classic hooks which trigger the callbacks you declare. Here is a basic example:

require 'populate_me/document'

class Person < PopulateMe::Document
  
  field :firstname
  field :lastname
  field :fullname, form_field: false

  before :save do
    self.fullname = "#{self.firstname} #{self.lastname}"
  end

  after :delete, :goodbye

  def goodbye
    puts "So long and thanks for all the fish"
  end

end

First you can note that the field option form_field: false makes it a field that does not appear in the form. This is generally the case for fields that are generated from other fields.

Anyway, here we define a callback which PopulateMe runs each time a document is saved. And with the second one, you can see that we can pass the name of a method instead of a block.

The list of hooks is quite common but here it is as a reminder:

  • before :validate
  • after :validate
  • before :create
  • after :create
  • before :update
  • after :update
  • before :save (both create or update)
  • after :save (both create or update)
  • before :delete
  • after :delete

Now you can register many callbacks for the same hook. They will be chained in the order you register them. However, if for any reason you need to register a callback and make sure it runs before the others, you can add prepend: true.

before :save, prepend: true do
  puts 'Shotgun !!!'
end

If you want to go even further and create your own hooks, this is very easy. You can create a hook like this:

document.exec_callback(:my_hook)

And you would then register a callback like this:

register_callback :my_hook do
  # Do something...
end

You can use before and after as well. In fact this:

after :lunch do
  # Do something...
end

Is equivalent to:

register_callback :after_lunch do
  # Do something...
end

Single Documents

Sometimes you want a collection with only one document, like for recording settings for example. In this case you can use the ::is_unique class method.

require 'populate_me/document'

class GeneralWebsiteSettings < PopulateMe::Document
  field :main_meta_title
  field :main_meta_description
  field :google_analytics_ref
end

GeneralWebsiteSettings.is_unique

It just creates the document if it does not exist yet with the ID unique. If you want a different ID, you can pass it as an argument.

Just make sure that if you have fields with required: true, they also have a :default value. Otherwise the creation of the document will fail because it is not self.valid?.

Mongo Documents

Note: the current version works with the mongo driver version 2

Now let's declare a real document class which can persist on a database, the MongoDB kind of document. The first thing we need to clarify is the setup. Here is a classic setup:

# lib/db.rb
require 'mongo'
require 'populate_me/mongo'

client = Mongo::Client.new([ '127.0.0.1:27017' ], :database => 'your-database-name')

PopulateMe::Mongo.set :db, client.database

require 'person'

Then the document is pretty much the same as the prototype except that it subclasses PopulateMe::Mongo instead.

# lib/person.rb
require 'populate_me/mongo'

class Person < PopulateMe::Mongo
  field :firstname
  field :lastname
end

As you can see in setup, you can define inheritable settings on PopulateMe::Mongo, meaning that any subclass after this will have the :db and you can set it only once.

Nevertheless it is obviously possible to set a different :db for each class.

# lib/person.rb
require 'populate_me/mongo'

class Person < PopulateMe::Mongo

  set :db, $my_db

  field :firstname
  field :lastname

end

This is particularly useful if you keep a type of documents in a different location for example. Otherwise it is more convenient to set it once and for all.

You can also set :collection_name, but in most cases you would let PopulateMe defaults it to the dasherized class name. So BlogArticle::Comment would be in the collection called blog-article--comment.

Whatever you choose, you will have access to the collection object with the ::collection class method. Which allows you to do anything the driver does.

first_pedro = Person.collection.find({ 'firstname' => 'Pedro' }).first
mcs = Person.collection.find({ 'lastname' => /^Mc/i })

Although since these are methods from the driver, first_pedro returns a hash, and mcs returns a Mongo::Collection::View. If you want document object, you can use the ::cast class method which takes a block in the class context/scope and casts either a single hash into a full featured document, or casts the items of an array (or anything which responds to :map).

first_pedro = Person.cast{ collection.find_one({ 'firstname' => 'Pedro' }) }
mcs = Person.cast{ collection.find({ 'lastname' => /^Mc/i }) }
first_pedro.class # returns Person
mcs[0].class # returns Person

Admin

A basic admin would look like this:

# lib/admin.rb
require "populate_me/admin"

class Admin < PopulateMe::Admin
  # Since we are in lib we use this to move
  # the root one level up.
  # Not mandatory but useful if you plan to have
  # custom views in the main views folder
  set :root, ::File.expand_path('../..', __FILE__)
  # Only if you use Rack::Cerberus for authentication
  # you can pass the settings
  set :cerberus, {company_name: 'Nintendo'}
  # Build menu and sub-menus
  set :menu, [ 
    ['Settings', '/admin/form/settings/unique'],
    ['Articles', '/admin/list/article'],
    ['Staff', [
      ['Designers', '/admin/list/staff-member?filter[job]=Designer'],
      ['Developers', '/admin/list/staff-member?filter[job]=Developer'],
    ]]
  ]
end

So the main thing you need is to define your menu. Then mount it in your config.ru whereever you want.

# config.ru
require 'admin'

map '/admin' do
  run Admin
end

Most of the URLs in your menu will probably be for the admin itself and use the admin URL patterns, but this is not mandatory. A link to an external page would load in a new tab. Whereas admin URLs create columns in the PopulateMe user interface. Many things are possible with these patterns but here are the main ones:

  • /:path_to_admin/list/:dasherized_document_class This gives you the list of documents from the desired class. They are ordered as specified by sort_by. You can also filter like in the example to get only specific documents.
  • :path_to_admin/form/:dasherized_document_class/:id You would rarely use this one which directly opens the form of a specific document, since all this is generally accessed from the list page. It doesn't need to be coded. The only is probably for single documents because they are not part of a list. The ID would then be litterally unique, or whatever ID you declared instead.

Polymorphism

You can use the schema to set a Document class as polymorphic. The consequence is that the admin will make you choose a type before creating a new document. And then the form will only display the fields applicable to this polymorphic type. And once created, it will only show relationships applicable to its polymorphic type. You can do this with the :only_for option.

Here is an example of a document that can either be a title with a paragraph, or a title with a set of images:

# lib/models/box.rb

require 'populate_me/document'

class Box < PopulateMe::Document

  field :title
  field :paragraph, type: :text, only_for: 'Paragraph'
  relationship :images, only_for: 'Image slider'
  position_field

end

In this case, when you create a Box with the polymorphic type Paragraph, the form will have a field for :paragraph but no relationship for images. And if you create a Box with the polymorphic type Image slider, it will be the opposite.

The option :only_for can also be an Array. Actually, when inspecting the fields, you'll see that even when you pass a String, it will be put inside an Array.

Box.fields[:paragraph][:only_for] # => ['Paragraph']

A hidden field is automatically created called :polymorphic_type, therefore it is a method you can call to get or set the :polymorphic_type.

box = Box.new polymorphic_type: 'Paragraph'
box.polymorphic_type # => 'Paragraph'

One of the information that the field contains is all the :values the field can have.

Box.fields[:polymorphic_type][:values] # => ['Paragraph', 'Image slider']

They are in the order they are declared in the fields. If you want to just set this list yourself or any other option attached to the :polimorphic_type field you can do so with the Document::polymorphic class method.

# lib/models/box.rb

require 'populate_me/document'

class Box < PopulateMe::Document

  polymorphic values: ['Image slider', 'Paragraph']
  field :title
  field :paragraph, type: :text, only_for: 'Paragraph'
  relationship :images, only_for: 'Image slider'
  position_field

end

If each polymorphic type has a lot of fields and/or relationships, you can use the Document::only_for class method which sets the :only_for option for everything inside the block.

# lib/models/media.rb

require 'populate_me/document'

class Media < PopulateMe::Document
  
  field :title
  only_for 'Book' do
    field :author
    field :publisher
    relationship :chapters
  end
  only_for 'Movie' do
    field :script_writer
    field :director
    relationship :scenes
    relationship :actors
  end
  position_field

end

It is worth noting that this implementation of polymorphism is supposed to work with fixed schema databases, and therefore all fields and relationship exist for each document. In our case, books would still have a #director method. The difference is only cosmetic and mainly allows you to have forms that are less crowded in the admin.

To mitigate this, a few methods are there to help you. There is a predicate for knowing if a class is polymorphic.

Media.polymorphic? # => true

For each document, you can inspect its polymorphic type or check if a field or relationship is applicable.

book = Media.new polymorphic_type: 'Book', title: 'Hot Water Music', author: 'Charles Bukowski'
book.polymorphic_type # => 'Book'
book.field_applicable? :author # => true
book.relationship_applicable? :actors # => false

Customize Admin

You can customize the admin with a few settings. The main ones are for adding CSS and javascript. There are 2 settings for this: :custom_css_url and :custom_js_url.

# lib/admin.rb
require "populate_me/admin"

class Admin < PopulateMe::Admin

  set :custom_css_url, '/css/admin.css'
  set :custom_js_url, '/js/admin.js'

  set :root, ::File.expand_path('../..', __FILE__)

  set :menu, [ 
    ['Settings', '/admin/form/settings/unique'],
    ['Articles', '/admin/list/article'],
    ['Staff', [
      ['Designers', '/admin/list/staff-member?filter[job]=Designer'],
      ['Developers', '/admin/list/staff-member?filter[job]=Developer'],
    ]]
  ]

end

Inside the javascript file, you can use many functions and variables that are under the PopulateMe namespace. See source code to know more about it. Some are callbacks like PopulateMe.custom_init_column which allows you to bind events when a column was created.

# /js/admin.js

$(function() {
  
  $('body').bind('change', 'select.special', function(event) {
    alert('Changed!');  
  });

  PopulateMe.custom_init_column = function(column) {
    $('select.special', column).css({color: 'orange'});
  }

});

The other thing you might want to do is adding mustache templates. You can do this with the setting :custom_templates_view.

# lib/admin.rb
require "populate_me/admin"

class Admin < PopulateMe::Admin
  
  set :custom_templates_view, :custom_templates

  # ...

end

Let's say we want to be able to set the size of the preview for attachments, as opposed to the default value of 150. We would put this in the view:

<script id="template-attachment-field-custom" type="x-tmpl-mustache">
  {{#url}}
    <img src='{{url}}{{cache_buster}}' alt='Preview' width='{{attachment_preview_width}}' />
    <button class='attachment-deleter'>x</button>
    <br />
  {{/url}}
  <input type='file' name='{{input_name}}' {{#max_size}}data-max-size='{{max_size}}'{{/max_size}} {{{build_input_atrributes}}} />
</script>

This is the default template except we've replace 150 with the mustache variable attachment_preview_width. Everything that you set on the schema is available in the template, so you can set both the custom template name and the width variable in the hash passed to field when doing your schema. The template name is the ID of the script tag.

# /lib/blog_post.rb
require 'populate_me/document'

class BlogPost < PopulateMe::Document

  field :title
  field :image, type: :attachment, custom_template: 'template-attachment-field-custom', attachment_preview_width: 200, variations: [
    PopulateMe::Variation.new_image_magick_job(:thumb, :gif, "-resize '300x'")
  ]

  # ...

end

API

In a normal use, you most likely don't have anything to do with the API module. It is just another middleware automatically mounted under /api on your Admin. So if your Admin path is /admin, then your API path is /admin/api.

The purpose of the API module is to provide all the path patterns for creating, deleting and updating documents. The interface does all the job for you. But if you end up building your all custom interface, you probably want to have a look at the implementation.

Another aspect of the API is that it relies on document methods. So if you want to create a subclass of Document, make sure that you override everything that the API or the Admin may need.

This module is derived from a Gem I did called rack-backend-api. It is not maintained any more since PopulateMe is the evolution of this Gem.

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