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[asset pipeline] refactor docs and add new content

This changes the document around and adds more details about
the rationale behind the pipeline. Still a WIP.
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1 parent 5fe67fa commit 8de6ded7a5aa243d3b7eca246384fb65fcdf91da Richard Hulse committed Jul 1, 2011
Showing with 162 additions and 25 deletions.
  1. +162 −25 railties/guides/source/asset_pipeline.textile
@@ -13,17 +13,44 @@ endprologue.
h3. What Is The Asset Pipeline?
-With Rails 3.1 comes a new feature known as the asset pipeline. The asset pipeline provides features that have usually been implemented by external Ruby libraries, such as Jammit and Sprockets. These libraries would serve concatenated or compressed versions of the assets of an application, such as stylesheets or JavaScript files so that the number of requests made to the server are lessened, making the page load faster. Rails 3.1 includes the +sprockets-rails+ gem, which depends on the +sprockets+ gem, by default.
+The asset pipeline provides a framework to concatenate and minify or compress Javascript and CSS assets. It also adds the ability to write these assets in other languages such as CoffeeScript, SCSS and ERB.
+
+Prior to Rails 3.1 these features were added through third-party Ruby libraries such as Jammit and Sprockets. Rails 3.1 includes the +sprockets-rails+ gem, which depends on the +sprockets+ gem, by default.
+
+By having this as a core feature of Rails, all developers can benefit from the power of having their assets pre-processed, compressed and minified by one central library, Sprockets. This is part of Rails' "Fast by default" strategy as outlined by DHH in his 2011 keynote at Railsconf.
+
+In new Rails 3.1 application the asset pipeline is enable by default. It can be disabled in +application.rb+ by putting this line inside the +Application+ class definition:
+
+<plain>
+ config.assets.enabled = false
+</plain>
+
+It is recommended that you use the defaults for all new apps.
+
+
+h4. Main Features
+
+The first is to concatenate of assets. This is important in a production environment to reduce the number of requests that a client browser has to make to render a web page. While Rails already has a feature to concatenate these types of asset--by placing +:cache => true+ at the end of tags such as +javascript_include_tag+ and +stylesheet_link_tag+--, many people do not use it.
+
+The default behavior in 3.1 + is to concatenate all files into one master file each for JS and CSS, however you can separate files or groups of files if required (see below).
+
+The second feature of the pipeline is to minify or compress. For CSS this usually involves removing whitespace and comments. For Javascript more complex processes can be applied.
+
+You can choose from a set of built in options or specify your own.
+
+The third feature is the ability to code these assets using another language, or language extension. These include SCSS or Sass for CSS, CoffeeScript for Javascript, and ERB for both.
-By having this now as a core feature of Rails, all developers can benefit from the power of having their assets pre-processed, compressed and minified by one central library, Sprockets.
h3. How to Use the Asset Pipeline
-In previous versions of Rails, all assets lived under the +public+ directory in directories such as +images+, +javascripts+ and +stylesheets+. With the asset pipeline, the preferred location for these assets is now the +app/assets+ directory. Files in this directory will be served by the Sprockets middleware included in the sprockets gem.
+In previous versions of Rails, all assets were located in subdirectories of +public+ such as +images+, +javascripts+ and +stylesheets+. With the asset pipeline, the preferred location for these assets is now the +app/assets+ directory. Files in this directory will be served by the Sprockets middleware included in the sprockets gem.
+
+This is not to say that assets can (or should) no longer be placed in +public+. They still can be and will be served as static files by the application or web server. You would only use +app/assets+ if you wish your files to undergo some pre-processing before they are served.
-This is not to say that assets can (or should) no longer be placed in +public+. They still can be, they will just be served by the application or the web server which is running the application and served just like normal files. You would only use +app/assets+ if you wish your files to undergo some pre-processing before they are served.
+When a scaffold or controller is generated for the application, Rails will also generate a JavaScript file (or CoffeeScript if the +coffee-script+ gem is in the +Gemfile+) and a Cascading Style Sheet file (or SCSS if +sass-rails+ is in the +Gemfile+) file for that controller.
+
+For example, if a +ProjectsController+ is generated, there will be a new file at +app/assets/javascripts/projects.js.coffee+ and another at +app/assets/stylesheets/projects.css.scss+. You can put any JavaScript or CSS unique to a controller inside their respective asset files.
-When a scaffold or controller is generated for the application, Rails will also generate a JavaScript file (or CoffeeScript if the +coffee-script+ gem is in the +Gemfile+) and a Cascading Style Sheet file (or SCSS if +sass-rails+ is in the +Gemfile+) file for that controller. For example, if a +ProjectsController+ is generated, there will be a new file at +app/assets/javascripts/projects.js.coffee+ and another at +app/assets/stylesheets/projects.css.scss+. You should put any JavaScript or CSS unique to a controller inside their respective asset files.
h4. Asset Organization
@@ -33,19 +60,19 @@ Assets can be placed inside an application in one of three locations: +app/asset
+lib/assets+ is for your own libraries' code that doesn't really fit into the scope of the application or those libraries which are shared across applications.
-+vendor/assets+ is for assets that are owned by outside entities, such as code for JavaScript plugins.
++vendor/assets+ is for assets that are owned by outside entities, such as code for JavaScript plugins.
-Any subdirectory that exists within these three locations will be added to the search path for Sprockets (visible by calling +Rails.application.config.assets.paths+ in a console). When an asset is requested, these paths will be looked through to see if they contain an asset matching the name specified. Once an asset has been found, it's processed by Sprockets and then served up.
+All subdirectories that exists within these three locations will be added to the search path for Sprockets (visible by calling +Rails.application.config.assets.paths+ in a console). When an asset is requested, these paths will be looked through to see if they contain an asset matching the name specified. Once an asset has been found, it's processed by Sprockets and served.
-h4. Serving Assets
+h4. Coding links to Assets
-To serve assets, we can use the same tags that we are generally familiar with:
+To access assets, we can use the same tags that we are generally familiar with:
<erb>
<%= image_tag "rails.png" %>
</erb>
-Providing that assets are enabled within our application (+config.assets.enabled+ in your environment is set to +true+), this file will be served by Sprockets unless a file at +public/assets/rails.png+ exists, in which case that file will be served. Alternatively, a file with an MD5 hash after its name such as +public/assets/rails-af27b6a414e6da00003503148be9b409.png+ will also be picked up by Sprockets. How these hashes are generated is covered in the "Production Assets":#production_assets section later on in this guide.
+Providing that assets are enabled within our application (+config.assets.enabled+ in the current environment's file is not set to +false+), this file will be served by Sprockets unless a file at +public/assets/rails.png+ exists, in which case that file will be served. Alternatively, a file with an MD5 hash after its name such as +public/assets/rails-af27b6a414e6da00003503148be9b409.png+ will also be picked up by Sprockets. How these hashes are generated is covered in the "Production Assets":#production_assets section later on in this guide.
Otherwise, Sprockets will look through the available paths until it finds a file that matches the name and then will serve it, first looking in the application's assets directories and then falling back to the various engines of the application.
@@ -56,9 +83,11 @@ Sprockets does not add any new methods to require your assets, we still use the
<%= javascript_include_tag "application" %>
</erb>
+These helpers (when the pipeline is on) are providing links to the compiled manifest with the specified name (or names).
+
h4. Manifest Files and Directives
-Sprockets allows some assets to be manifest files. These manifest files require what's known as _directives_, which instruct Sprockets which files to require in order to build a single CSS or JavaScript file. With these directives, Sprockets will load the files specified, process them if necessary, concatenate them into one single file and then compress them (if +Rails.application.config.assets.compress+ is set to +true+). By serving one file rather than many, a page's load time can be greatly reduced.
+Sprockets uses manifest files to determine which assets to include and serve. These manifest files contain _directives_ - instructions that tell Sprockets which files to require in order to build a single CSS or JavaScript file. With these directives, Sprockets will load the files specified, process them if necessary, concatenate them into one single file and then compress them (if +Rails.application.config.assets.compress+ is set to +true+). By serving one file rather than many, a page's load time is greatly reduced.
For example, in the default Rails application there's a +app/assets/javascripts/application.js+ file which contains the following lines:
@@ -68,7 +97,7 @@ For example, in the default Rails application there's a +app/assets/javascripts/
//= require_tree .
</plain>
-In JavaScript files, directives begin with +//=+. In this case, the following file is using the +require+ directive and the +require_tree+ directive. The +require+ directive tells Sprockets that we would like to require a file called +jquery.js+ that is available somewhere in the search path for Sprockets. By default, this is located inside the +vendor/assets/javascripts+ directory contained within the +jquery-rails+ gem. An identical event takes place for the +jquery_ujs+ require specified here also.
+In JavaScript files, directives begin with +//=+. In this case, the following file is using the +require+ directive and the +require_tree+ directive. The +require+ directive tells Sprockets that we would like to require a file called +jquery.js+ that is available somewhere in the search path for Sprockets. By default, this is located inside the +vendor/assets/javascripts+ directory contained within the +jquery-rails+ gem. An identical event takes place for the +jquery_ujs+ require
The +require_tree .+ directive tells Sprockets to include _all_ JavaScript files in this directory into the output. Only a path relative to the file can be specified.
@@ -81,37 +110,145 @@ There's also a default +app/assets/stylesheets/application.css+ file which conta
*/
</plain>
-The directives that work in the JavaScript files will also work in stylesheets, obviously requiring stylesheets rather than JavaScript files. The +require_tree+ directive here works the same way as the JavaScript one, requiring all stylesheets from the current directory.
+The directives that work in the JavaScript files will also work in stylesheets, obviously including stylesheets rather than JavaScript files. The +require_tree+ directive here works the same way as the JavaScript one, requiring all stylesheets from the current directory.
In this example +require_self+ is used. This will put the CSS contained within the file (if any) at the top of any other CSS in this file unless +require_self+ is specified after another +require+ directive.
+You can have as many manifest files as you need. For example the +admin.css+ and +admin.js+ manifest could contain the JS and CSS files that are used for the admin section of an application.
+
+For some assets (like CSS) the compiled order is important. You can specify individual files and they will be compiled in the order specified:
+
+<plain>
+/* ...
+*= require reset
+*= require layout
+*= require chrome
+*/
+</plain>
+
+
h4. Preprocessing
-Based on the extensions of the assets, Sprockets will do preprocessing on the files. With the default gemset that comes with Rails, when a controller or a scaffold is generated, a CoffeeScript file and a SCSS file will be generated in place of a regular JavaScript and CSS file. The example used before was a controller called "projects", which generated an +app/assets/javascripts/projects.js.coffee+ and a +app/assets/stylesheets/projects.css.scss+ file.
+The file extensions used on an asset will determine what preprocssing will be applied. When a controller or a scaffold is generated with the default Rails gemset, a CoffeeScript file and a SCSS file will be generated in place of a regular JavaScript and CSS file. The example used before was a controller called "projects", which generated an +app/assets/javascripts/projects.js.coffee+ and a +app/assets/stylesheets/projects.css.scss+ file.
When these files are requested, they will be processed by the processors provided by the +coffee-script+ and +sass-rails+ gems and then sent back to the browser as JavaScript and CSS respectively.
-In addition to this single layer of pre-processing, we can also put on additional extensions to the end of the file in order for them to be processed using other languages first. For example, we could call our stylesheet +app/assets/stylesheets/projects.css.scss.erb+ it would first be processed as ERB, then SCSS and finally served as CSS. We could also do this with our JavaScript file, calling it +app/assets/javascripts/projects.js.coffee.erb+.
+Additional layers of pre-processing can be requested by adding other extensions. These should be used in the order the processing should be applied. For example, a stylesheet called +app/assets/stylesheets/projects.css.scss.erb+ would first be processed as ERB, then SCSS and finally served as CSS. The same applies to a JavaScript file - +app/assets/javascripts/projects.js.coffee.erb+ would be process as ERB, CoffeeScript and served as JavaScript.
Keep in mind that the order of these pre-processors is important. For example, if we called our JavaScript file +app/assets/javascripts/projects.js.erb.coffee+ then it would be processed with the CoffeeScript interpreter first, which wouldn't understand ERB and therefore we would run into problems.
-h3. Production Assets
+h3. In Development
+
+TODO: Talk about: Rack::Cache's caching (used in dev and production. The only difference is hashing and headers).
+
+In the development environment assets are compiled and cached on the first request after the server is started. Sprockets sets a +must-validate+ cache-control http header to reduce request overhead on subsequent requests - on these the browser gets a 304 (not-modified) response.
+
+If any of the files in the manifest have changed between requests, the server will respond with a new compiled file.
+
+h3. In Production
+
+In the production environment, assets are served slightly differently.
+
+On the first request the assets are compiled and cached as before, however the manifest names are altered to include an md5 hash. Files names will typically look like these:
+
+<plain>
+/assets/application-908e25f4bf641868d8683022a5b62f54.js
+/assets/application-4dd5b109ee3439da54f5bdfd78a80473.css
+</plain>
+
+The MD5 is generated from the contents of the compiled files, and is included in the http +Content-MD5+ header.
+
+Sprockets also sets the +Cache-Control+ http header to +max-age=31536000+. This signals all caches between your server and the client browser that this content (the file served) can be cached for 1 year. The effect of this is to reduce the number of requests for this asset from your server; the asset has a good chance of being in the local browser cache or some intermediate cache.
+
+This behavior is controlled by the setting of +config.action_controller.perform_caching+ setting in Rails (which is +true+ for production, +false+ for everything else). This value is propagated to Sprockets during initialization for use when action_controller is not available.
+
+TODO:
+ * Sass-rails's handy +image_url+ helpers
+ * ERB pre-processing and +asset_url+
+
+
+h4. Precompiling assets
-In the production environment, assets are served slightly differently to how they are served in the development environment.
+TODO: Complete this
-TODO: Talk here about:
- * Rack::Cache's caching
- * Sprocket's auto-generated MD5 hashes
- * Sass-rails's handy +image_url+ helpers
- * ERB pre-processing and +asset_url+
+Even though assets are served by Rack::Cache with far-future headers, in high traffic sites this may not be fast enough.
+Rails comes bundled with a rake task to compile the manifest to a file on disc. These are located in the +public/assets+ directory where they will be served by your web server instead of the Rails application.
-h4. Compressing Assets
+The rake task is:
+
+<erb>
+rake assets:precompile
+</erb>
+
+TODO: explain where to use this with Capistrano
+
+TODO: talk about the +config.assets.precompile+ option and the default matcher for files:
+
+<erb>
+[ /\w+\.(?!js|css).+/, "application.js", "application.css" ]
+</erb>
-The default Gemfile also includes the "uglifier":https://github.com/lautis/uglifier gem. This gem wraps "UglifierJS":https://github.com/mishoo/UglifyJS (written for NodeJS) in Ruby. It compress your code by removing white spaces and other magical things like changing your if and else statements to ternary operators when possible.
+TODO: Not sure what to do with this:
Sprockets also creates a "Gzip":http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gzip (.gz) of your assets. This prevents your server from contently compressing your assets for each request. You must configure your server to use GZip compression and serve the compressed assets in {location}. {Give Apache and NGINX examples since those are what's cool}
+
+
+h3. Customizing The Pipeline
+
+h4. CSS
+
+TODO: Talk about the options
+
+<erb>
+config.assets.css_compressor = :scss
+</erb>
+
+current options are scss
+
+h4. Javascript
+
+TODO: Talk about the options
+
+<erb>
+config.assets.js_compressor = :uglifier
+</erb>
+
+Current options are uglifier, closure, yui
+
+The default Gemfile also includes the "uglifier":https://github.com/lautis/uglifier gem. This gem wraps "UglifierJS":https://github.com/mishoo/UglifyJS (written for NodeJS) in Ruby. It compress your code by removing white spaces and other magical things like changing your if and else statements to ternary operators when possible.
+
+h4. Using your own compressor
+
+The config setting shown above will also take an Object.
+
+This object must have a 'compress' method that takes a string as the sole argument and it must return a string.
+
+<erb>
+class Transformer
+ def compress(string)
+ do_something_returning_a_string(string)
+ end
+end
+</erb>
+
+And the config:
+
+<erb>
+config.assets.css_compressor = Transformer.new
+</erb>
+
+
+h4. Changing the 'assets' path
+
+The public path that Sprockets uses is +/assets+.
+
+This can be changed thus:
+
+config.assets.prefix = "/some_other_path"
+
+
h3. Adding Assets to Your Gems
Assets can also come from external sources in the form of gems.
@@ -120,5 +257,5 @@ A good example of this is the +jquery-rails+ gem which comes with Rails as the s
h3. Making Your Library or Gem a Pre-Processor
-"You should be able to register [your gems] on Tilt and Sprockets will find them." - Josh
+"You should be able to register [your gems] on Tilt and Sprockets will find them." - Josh
Tilt: https://github.com/rtomayko/tilt

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