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= Action Pack -- On rails from request to response

Action Pack splits the response to a web request into a controller part
(performing the logic) and a view part (rendering a template). This two-step
approach is known as an action, which will normally create, read, update, or
delete (CRUD for short) some sort of model part (often backed by a database)
before choosing either to render a template or redirecting to another action.

Action Pack implements these actions as public methods on Action Controllers
and uses Action Views to implement the template rendering. Action Controllers
are then responsible for handling all the actions relating to a certain part
of an application. This grouping usually consists of actions for lists and for
CRUDs revolving around a single (or a few) model objects. So ContactController
would be responsible for listing contacts, creating, deleting, and updating
contacts. A WeblogController could be responsible for both posts and comments.

Action View templates are written using embedded Ruby in tags mingled in with
the HTML. To avoid cluttering the templates with code, a bunch of helper
classes provide common behavior for forms, dates, and strings. And it's easy
to add specific helpers to keep the separation as the application evolves.

Note: Some of the features, such as scaffolding and form building, are tied to
ActiveRecord[] (an object-relational
mapping package), but that doesn't mean that Action Pack depends on Active
Record. Action Pack is an independent package that can be used with any sort
of backend (Instiki[], which is based on an older version
of Action Pack, uses Madeleine for example). Read more about the role Action
Pack can play when used together with Active Record on

A short rundown of the major features:

* Actions grouped in controller as methods instead of separate command objects
  and can therefore helper share methods.

    BlogController < ActionController::Base
      def display
        @customer = find_customer
      def update
        @customer = find_customer
        @customer.attributes = @params["customer"] ? 
          redirect_to(:action => "display") : 
        def find_customer() Customer.find(@params["id"]) end

  Learn more in link:classes/ActionController/Base.html

* Embedded Ruby for templates (no new "easy" template language)

    <% for post in @posts %>
      Title: <%= post.title %>
    <% end %>

    All post titles: <%= @post.collect{ |p| p.title }.join ", " %>

    <% unless @person.is_client? %>
      Not for clients to see...
    <% end %>
  Learn more in link:classes/ActionView.html

* Builder-based templates (great for XML content, like RSS)

  xml.rss("version" => "2.0") do do
      xml.description "Basecamp: Recent items"
      xml.language "en-us"
      xml.ttl "40"

      for item in @recent_items
        xml.item do


* Filters for pre and post processing of the response (as methods, procs, and classes)

    class WeblogController < ActionController::Base
      before_filter :authenticate, :cache, :audit
      after_filter { |c| c.response.body = GZip::compress(c.response.body) }
      after_filter LocalizeFilter
      def list
        # Before this action is run, the user will be authenticated, the cache
        # will be examined to see if a valid copy of the results already
        # exist, and the action will be logged for auditing.
        # After this action has run, the output will first be localized then 
        # compressed to minimize bandwith usage
        def authenticate
          # Implement the filter will full access to both request and response
  Learn more in link:classes/ActionController/Filters/ClassMethods.html

* Helpers for forms, dates, action links, and text

    <%= text_field "post", "title", "size" => 30 %>
    <%= html_date_select( %>
    <%= link_to "New post", :controller => "post", :action => "new" %>
    <%= truncate(post.title, 25) %>
  Learn more in link:classes/ActionView/Helpers.html

* Layout sharing for template reuse (think simple version of Struts 

    class WeblogController < ActionController::Base
      layout "weblog_layout"
      def hello_world

    Layout file (called weblog_layout):
      <html><body><%= @content_for_layout %></body></html>
    Template for hello_world action:
      <h1>Hello world</h1>
    Result of running hello_world action:
      <html><body><h1>Hello world</h1></body></html>

  Learn more in link:classes/ActionController/Layout/ClassMethods.html

* Advanced redirection that makes pretty urls easy

    RewriteRule ^/library/books/([A-Z]+)([0-9]+)/([-_a-zA-Z0-9]+)$ \
      /books_controller.cgi?action=$3&type=$1&code=$2 [QSA] [L]

    Accessing /library/books/ISBN/0743536703/show calls BooksController#show
    From that URL, you can rewrite the redirect in a number of ways:
    redirect_to(:action => "edit") =>

    redirect_to(:path_params => { "type" => "XTC", "code" => "12354345" }) =>

    redirect_to(:controller_prefix => "admin", :controller => "accounts") =>

  Learn more in link:classes/ActionController/Base.html

* Easy testing of both controller and template result through TestRequest/Response

    class LoginControllerTest < Test::Unit::TestCase
      def setup
        @controller =
        @request    =
        @response   =

      def test_failing_authenticate
        process :authenticate, "user_name" => "nop", "password" => ""
        assert_flash_has 'alert'
        assert_redirected_to :action => "index"

  Learn more in link:classes/ActionController/TestRequest.html

* Automated benchmarking and integrated logging

    Processing WeblogController#index (for at Fri May 28 00:41:55)
    Parameters: {"action"=>"index", "controller"=>"weblog"}
    Rendering weblog/index (200 OK)
    Completed in 0.029281 (34 reqs/sec)

    If Active Record is used as the model, you'll have the database debugging
    as well:

    Processing WeblogController#create (for at Sat Jun 19 14:04:23)
    Params: {"controller"=>"weblog", "action"=>"create",  
             "post"=>{"title"=>"this is good"} }
    SQL (0.000627) INSERT INTO posts (title) VALUES('this is good')
    Redirected to http://test/weblog/display/5
    Completed in 0.221764 (4 reqs/sec) | DB: 0.059920 (27%)

    You specify a logger through a class method, such as:

    ActionController::Base.logger ="Application Log")
    ActionController::Base.logger ="Application Log")

* Powerful debugging mechanism for local requests

    All exceptions raised on actions performed on the request of a local user
    will be presented with a tailored debugging screen that includes exception
    message, stack trace, request parameters, session contents, and the
    half-finished response.

  Learn more in link:classes/ActionController/Rescue.html

* Scaffolding for Action Record model objects

    require 'account' # must be an Active Record class
    class AccountController < ActionController::Base
      scaffold :account
    The AccountController now has the full CRUD range of actions and default
    templates: list, show, destroy, new, create, edit, update
  Learn more in link:classes/ActionController/Scaffolding/ClassMethods.html

* Form building for Active Record model objects

    The post object has a title (varchar), content (text), and 
    written_on (date)

    <%= form "post" %>
    ...will generate something like (the selects will have more options of
    <form action="create" method="POST">
        <input type="text" name="post[title]" value="<%= @post.title %>" />
        <textarea name="post[content]"><%= @post.title %></textarea>
        <b>Written on:</b><br/>
        <select name='post[written_on(3i)]'><option>18</option></select>
        <select name='post[written_on(2i)]'><option value='7'>July</option></select>
        <select name='post[written_on(1i)]'><option>2004</option></select>

      <input type="submit" value="Create">

    This form generates a @params["post"] array that can be used directly in a save action:
    class WeblogController < ActionController::Base
      def save
        post = Post.create(@params["post"])
        redirect_to :action => "display", :path_params => { "id" => }

  Learn more in link:classes/ActionView/Helpers/ActiveRecordHelper.html

* Automated mapping of URLs to controller/action pairs through Apache's

    Requesting /blog/display/5 will call BlogController#display and 
    make 5 available as an instance variable through @params["id"]

* Runs on top of CGI, FCGI, and mod_ruby

    See the address_book_controller example for all three forms

== Simple example

This example will implement a simple weblog system using inline templates and
an Active Record model. The first thing we need to do is setup an .htaccess to
interpret pretty URLs into something the controller can use. Let's use the
simplest form for starters:

  RewriteRule ^weblog/([-_a-zA-Z0-9]+)/([0-9]+)$ \
    /weblog_controller.cgi?action=$2&id=$3 [QSA]
  RewriteRule ^weblog/([-_a-zA-Z0-9]+)$ \
    /weblog_controller.cgi?action=$2 [QSA]
  RewriteRule ^weblog/$ \
    /weblog_controller.cgi?action=index [QSA]

Now we'll be able to access URLs like weblog/display/5 and have
WeblogController#display called with { "id" => 5 } in the @params array
available for the action. So let's build that WeblogController with just a few

  require 'action_controller'
  require 'post'
  class WeblogController < ActionController::Base
    layout "weblog/layout"
    def index
      @posts = Post.find_all
    def display
      @post = Post.find(@params["id"])
    def new
      @post =
    def create
      @post = Post.create(@params["post"])
      redirect_to :action => "display", :id =>

  WeblogController::Base.template_root = File.dirname(__FILE__)
  WeblogController.process_cgi if $0 == __FILE__

The last two lines are responsible for telling ActionController where the
template files are located and actually running the controller on a new
request from the web-server (like to be Apache).

And the templates look like this:

    <%= @content_for_layout %>

    <% for post in @posts %>
      <p><%= link_to(post.title, :action => "display", :id => %></p>
    <% end %>

      <b><%= post.title %></b><br/>
      <b><%= post.content %></b>

    <%= form "post" %>
This simple setup will list all the posts in the system on the index page,
which is called by accessing /weblog/. It uses the form builder for the Active
Record model to make the new screen, which in turns hand everything over to
the create action (that's the default target for the form builder when given a
new model). After creating the post, it'll redirect to the display page using
an URL such as /weblog/display/5 (where 5 is the id of the post.

== Examples

Action Pack ships with three examples that all demonstrate an increasingly
detailed view of the possibilities. First is blog_controller that is just a
single file for the whole MVC (but still split into separate parts). Second is
the debate_controller that uses separate template files and multiple screens.
Third is the address_book_controller that uses the layout feature to separate
template casing from content.

Please note that you might need to change the "shebang" line to 
#!/usr/local/env ruby, if your Ruby is not placed in /usr/local/bin/ruby

== Download

The latest version of Action Pack can be found at


Documentation can be found at 


== Installation

You can install Action Pack with the following command.

  % [sudo] ruby install.rb

from its distribution directory.

== License

Action Pack is released under the same license as Ruby.

== Support

The Action Pack homepage is You can find
the Action Pack RubyForge page at
And as Jim from Rake says:

   Feel free to submit commits or feature requests.  If you send a patch,
   remember to update the corresponding unit tests.  If fact, I prefer
   new feature to be submitted in the form of new unit tests.

For other information, feel free to ask on the ruby-talk mailing list (which
is mirrored to comp.lang.ruby) or contact
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