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Extending Refinery with Engines


Refinery is designed to be easily extended so you can quickly customise your Refinery site to manage new areas you want to add to your site. If you see something you want to customise, the chances are you can customise it.

The main way of extending Refinery is through adding new engines to your app. By default you can edit pages in Refinery's backend, but how do you add a new section to manage like products?

See: The Refinery Engine Generator

The Structure of an Engine

Think of a engine in Refinery as a small Rails app. Engines have a structure that is extremely similar to a Rails app. Here's an example of Refinery's pages engine (located in Refinery's pages/ folder)

  |- app
  |   |- controllers
  |   |   |- admin
  |   |   |    |- pages_dialogs_controller.rb
  |   |   |    |- page_parts_controller.rb
  |   |   |    |- pages_controller.rb
  |   |   |- pages_controller.rb
  |   |- helpers
  |   |   |- pages_helper.rb
  |   |- models
  |   |   |- page.rb
  |   |- views
  |       |- pages
  |       |   |- home.html.erb
  |       |   |- show.html.erb
  |       |- admin
  |           |- pages
  |               |- _form.html.erb
  |               |- edit.html.erb
  |               |- index.html.erb
  |               |- new.html.erb
  |- config
  |   |- routes.rb
  |- rails
      |- init.rb


In this example you see one "public" controller app/controllers/pages_controller that is responsible for managing the front end when I view a page.


This bit is important. It's where all the controllers are held to manage pages in the Refinery back end in this example. You can ignore the pages_dialogs_controller.rb and page_parts_controller.rb for now and let's just focus on the admin/pages_controller.rb file. Here's what that looks like inside at a basic level:

module Admin
  class PagesController < Admin::BaseController

    crudify :page, :conditions => {:parent_id => nil},
                   :order => "position ASC", :paging => false


This single controller allows us to create, read, update and delete pages in the backend. With a little bit of Refinery magic we utilise the crudify mixin which gives us all of these regular features out of the box.

How crudify works is an entire topic of it's own. Check out the crudify documentation to get an insight into how that works.

app/views and app/helpers

Works exactly the same as app/views and app/helpers in a normal Rails app. You just put the views and helpers related to this engine in here instead of in your actual main app directory.


Works exactly the same as config/routes.rb in your app except this routes file only loads the routes for this engine.


This file runs when your site is started up. All is does is registers this engine with Refinery so it knows that it exists, how to handle it in the Refinery admin menu and how to render recent activity on the Dashboard (see "Getting your Engine to Report Activity in the Dashboard")


::Refinery::Plugin.register do |plugin| = "pages"
  plugin.version = 1.0
  plugin.menu_match = /(refinery|admin)\/page(_dialog|part)?s$/
  plugin.activity = {
    :class => Page,
    :url_prefix => "edit_",
    :title => "title",
    :created_image => "page_add.png",
    :updated_image => "page_edit.png"


      title: Pages
      description: Manage content pages

Getting your Engine to Report Activity in the Dashboard

Recent activity reporting is built right in, so all you need to do is follow the convention below and your engine will start showing up in the recent activity list of the Dashboard.

In our example above we showed the use of plugin.activity for the pages engine.

::Refinery::Plugin.register do |plugin| = "pages"
  plugin.version = 1.0
  plugin.menu_match = /(refinery|admin)\/page(_dialog|part)?s$/
  plugin.activity = {
    :class => Page,
    :url_prefix => "edit_",
    :title => "title",
    :created_image => "page_add.png",
    :updated_image => "page_edit.png"

Here's what the different activity options mean:


# the name of the class we're watching.

# Just use "edit_" if you're not sure how this works.
# When it says "'About' page was updated about 4 hours ago", the page title "About"
# is linked to that page in a way we specify.  So by setting "_edit" as a :url_prefix what
# we're doing is making it link to the page that allows us to edit this page.
# So the next result is edit_admin_page_url(page)

# which attribute on the :class should be in the activty message. In our case it's "title"
# because we want it to run something like this "#{page.title} was updated about ...."


:created_image and :updated_image
# the activity monitor knows if something is created or updated and shows a different icon
# depending on how you want that to look. You can specify the filename to any image you
# want in the public/images/refinery/icons/ directory.

Search Engine Optimisation: Improving the default URLs

In our example above we extended Refinery to manage a products area. The problem is when I look at a product on the front end I get a URL like http://localhost:3000/products/1 but I would really like it to be something like http://localhost:3000/products/my-product

To achieve this all you need to do is open up the product model (found in /vendor/plugins/products/app/models/product.rb) and add the following line inside your class:

has_friendly_id :title, :use_slug => true

Note you want to change :title to the field which you want to show up in the URL.

This will work just fine for new products added from this point, but you'll want to migrate any existing products you have to use this new URL format. All you have to do is save each product you have in the database to make it create a nice URL for you.

ruby script/console
>> Product.all.each {|p| };nil

Now all the products in your database will have nice URLs.

How to get a WYSIWYG editor to show on your form fields

Refinery uses a standards compliant visual editor called WYMeditor

Note: When using the Refinery generator, if you apply a field type of "text" to any of your fields, they automatically load as a WYMEditor.

The WYSIWYG editor can only be applied to a textarea. All you need to do is add a class of "wymeditor widest" to a textarea in your form and a WYSIWYG editor will load right in place.


Again going back to our product plugin example if you had this in your vendor/plugins/products/app/views/admin/products/_form.html.erb file:

<%= f.text_area :description %>

Just change that to:

<%= f.text_area :description, :class => "wymeditor widest" %>

Refresh and you're done.

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