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The Railsbridge Documentation Project

Build Status

Author: Alex Chaffee


bundle install
rake run

If the above fails (say, because rerun doesn't work on your system), try


Then open http://localhost:9292 in a web browser.

If you make any changes, and especially before a pull request, run

rake spec

which will run some unit tests and also do syntax validation on all pages, to make sure you didn't break anything.

When you submit a Pull Request, Travis CI will also run all the tests.


This is a Sinatra app, deployed at The Railsbridge documentation project is home to a few subprojects, including the Railsbridge installfest instructions, which leads students through the various complicated setup instructions for getting Ruby, Rails, Git, etc. installed on their computer (whatever combination of computer, OS, and version they happened to bring the the workshop!), as well as the Railsbridge workshop "Suggestotron" curriculum.

Each subproject (a "site") comprises files stored under the "sites" directory; for instance, the installfest instructions are located at ROOT/sites/installfest, while the curriculum can be found under ROOT/sites/curriculum.

These files can be in any of these formats:

  • .step for StepFile
  • .md for Markdown
  • .mw for MediaWiki
  • for deck.rb

(If multiple files exist with the same base name, .step is preferred over .md, and .md over .mw.)

Markdown is a lightweight markup language designed by John Gruber. The syntax is described at the Daring Fireball Markdown Page plus GitHub Flavored Markdown extensions. (This README is written in Markdown.)

MediaWiki is the format of pages on the Devchix Wiki. This format is not fully supported and is provided as a temporary bridge while we move materials from the Devchix Wiki into this app.

StepFile is a new, Ruby-based DSL for describing complex, nested instructions in clear, reusable chunks.

Deck.rb converts Markdown files into an interactive in-browser HTML+JavaScript slide deck.

#Organizer Instructions

Slide contents that change with each workshop are contained in three files under the workshop project. The 'hello and welcome, this is when the breaks are' presentation slides are in The 'this is what we will learn today' slides are in And the 'this is what we have learned' slides are in

To change those contents, clone this repo, make changes, and then to include your changes in the publicly available repo, send a pull request.

##clone the repo

On a command line cd into a directory for the installfest app to live on your machine. For example, to put it in your home directory: cd ~

Then clone the repository from github: git clone git://

And open it in the editor of your choice.


If you want to change the name of the hosts and sponsors in the intro slides, open, find and replace the name of the previous hosts and sponsors on the slide deck. To include their logos, drop an image inside the public/img folder. If their are more or fewer hosts and sponsors than in the previous workshop, create new slides!

Check that the and files fit the workshop.

pull request

When you're happy with how you've changed the repository, commit it. In the command line, add your changes with git add . and commit them locally with git commit -m "super descriptive message ". Push it to your own fork of the repository withgit push. The next step, submitting a pull request is used to incorporate your changes into RailsBridge's version of the repository. Navigate to your forked version of the repository on github (and check the commits tab to see your changes!). There's a pull request button near the top of the page, and after clicking you can add a title and explanations of your changes. After submitting, it may take a while for people to review and accept your changes. Poke people. Make sure they check it out. Check out Github's help page on the pull requests.

StepFile Reference

A StepFile is a DSL for describing a series of instructions, possibly nested inside other instructions. Technically speaking it is an internal Ruby DSL which means it parses as Ruby code. Nested blocks use Ruby's do..end structures, named options use Ruby's hash syntax, and string options may use any of Ruby's myriad string formats (double-quote, single-quote, here doc, percent-q, etc.)

Here Docs are especially useful with messages since you can just dump in markdown between <<-MARKDOWN and MARKDOWN declarations.


  • steps support nested content via do and end

  • indents the nested block content

  • inside the nested block, the step count is reset, then resumes afterwards, e.g.

      Step 1: steal underpants
      Step 2: do the hokey pokey
        | Step 1: put your left foot in
        | Step 2: take your left foot out
        | Step 3: put your left foot in again
        | Step 4: shake it all about
      Step 3: profit!

step "name"

  • creates a new step heading
  • maintains a count of steps at the same level
  • prefixes name with e.g. "Step 1:"

link "name"

  • links to a step whose file name is filename

next_step "name"

  • makes a new step named "Next Step:"
  • links to a step whose file name is filename


  • creates a step which is named "Choose between..."
  • choice doesn't make any sense without a nested block
  • nested block usually contains option steps

choice "name"

  • same as above, but named "Choose name"
  • if you want ellipses, add them yourself

option "name"

  • creates a step which is named "Option 1: foo" instead "Step 1: foo"
  • supports nested blocks, which reset the step count again


verify "name"

  • usually contains console and result notes
  • kind of like a step, but doesn't increment the number count

tip "name"

  • called out in a blue box
  • the name is not markdown, but is a bold title for the tip box
  • content should be inside a nested block


message "text"

  • makes a paragraph of text anywhere in the document
  • the text parameter is passed through a Markdown converter

important "text"

  • like a message, but called out in a red box

todo "text"

  • meant as a note to future authors
  • set aside from surrounding text (in brackets and italics)
  • [should these be made invisible for students?]


Special elements do not format their text as Markdown.

console "text"

  • indicates that the student should type something in the terminal
  • says "type this in the terminal:" and then puts the text in a pre block
  • [should this be named terminal or type instead?]

result "text"

  • indicates that the student should see some output in the terminal
  • says "expected result:" and then puts the text in a pre block

erector elements

StepFile is an Erector-based DSL, so if you want to insert HTML tags or other stuff, use the appropriate Erector methods, e.g.

step "figure out your OS version" do
  message "Mac OS has code names, including:"
  table do
    tr do
     th "Leopard"
     td "OS X 10.5"
    tr do
     th "Snow Leopard"
     td "OS X 10.6"

TODO (features)

  • big fat checkboxes
  • checking the box should make the step go green
  • unchecked steps should be orange
  • maybe all unchecked but the next step should be gray
  • JS expando-collapso doohickeys
  • inlined steps, esp. verify, to share code without switching pages
  • readme: examples
  • result should take a regexp; then it will have an input field where the user can paste in what they got and it'll check it... for partial version strings
  • console should start with a $
    • but what about multi-line commands (with e.g. config data on line 2), or multiple commands?
  • put a [?] next to all the terminal boxes with a popup or link explaining what a terminal is
  • links to other docs (the link directive)
    • rounded boxes with arrows
    • add a "back" link (or "next") to go back to the linking list
    • side scrolling effect
  • add a tip directive
  • add a details block (nested, maybe collapsed)
  • each page/step could say which OS it's for, either for information, or to actively hide other OS step
  • "result" should take "or"
  • "result" needs to distinguish between literal console output, and a description of what you will see
  • "yay" directive ("Congratulations!")
  • prerequisites
  • "sudo" directive -- for danger color and popup "what is sudo?" help

TODO (technical)

  • test all pages during "startup"
    • growl if broken
  • 404 should show page with TOC and stuff
  • StepFile object
  • move fonts local

TODO (content)


some icons from