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Mike Riley

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Ruby on Rails Tutorial: Learn by Example Review

November 14, 2010

Rails has attained a major milestone with its 3.0 release and is making more converts daily. The number of books and videos on the Rails framework is vast, though only a few titles yet exist that target the nuances that Rails 3 has to offer. Does Ruby on Rails Tutorial deliver the goods? Read on for the full review.This review was based on the electronic edition freely available online in HTML format at railstutorial.org, as well as the commercial PDF version and tutorial videos available for purchase directly from the railstutorial.org website. A print edition of the book, published by Addison-Wesley, will also be available soon for $39.99 US.

Written and presented by theoretical physicist Michael Hartl, Ruby on Rails Tutorial: Learn Rails by Example offers a superb introduction to the world of a Rails developer. The Rails Tutorial PDF and complete training video set is an absolutely top notch package for learning the Rails 3 framework. In fact, the tutorial teaches not just Rails, but also Git, Rspec and free/paid cloud-based services like Github and Heroku (the railstutorial.org website is hosted on Heroku). Readers will also learn the how to leverage a number of spiffy Ruby gems. Gems like the annotate-models, factory_girl, faker, gravatar_image_tag and will_paginate give the Twitter clone example project taught in the book an extra level of polish and professionalism.

As part of the direct online purchase, the PDF edition is available in two sets, one for Rails 2.3 and the other for Rails 3 (the same version presented on the railstutorial.org website). Each version is offered in a standard code listing as well as a bold code listing version, optimized desktop monitors and/or laptop displays. I preferred the bold edition, and it rendered beautifully on my iPad.

The book text is the formal, static version of what the screencasts deliver, and provides an excellent reference to quickly refresh what is taught in the video instruction. Each of the twelve chapters are filled with code and screenshots that guide students through each incremental stage of building the book's three examples, with the Twitter clone consuming a majority of the book's volume. At the close of each chapter, the author supplies numerous informative and entertaining footnotes that further convey his passion for Rails and his extensive, hard-earned experience working with the framework.

As for the video tutorials, they are simply outstanding. Unlike some programming screencasts featuring presenters that put their audience to sleep, Michael's videos are energetic and filled with interesting tips and side facts (such as learning about the origin of Lorem ipsum, for example). The Ruby on Rails Tutorial videos also capture a level of enthusiasm and self-deprecating honesty that is rarely found in other commercial screencasts. I also found Michael's cadence and friendly teaching style easy to follow and often found myself thinking I was watching a real-time presentation instead of a recording. Michael's admission of ignorance on some of the deeper technical aspects of Rails machinery is a rare and refreshing level of honesty that made me trust and respect his teaching skills and interest in my successfully understanding of the material even more. The videos are offered in two formats: standard desktop Quicktime format as well as for playback on the iPad. Both versions offer crystal clear video with vibrant, noise-free sound. The videos are best watched after reading the book chapter they correspond to. Not only does this viewing routine reinforce the principles, techniques and typical Rails developer practices but also offer a more memorable classroom experience - nearly as effective as a live, on-site trainer. After completing the combined book and video training, I came away with a highly satisfying one-on-one personal training experience.

I can't emphasize enough how much I enjoyed the Ruby on Rails Tutorial book+video bundle. railstutorial.org will no doubt educate legions of beginning and intermediate Rails developers, and will be one of those resources that students who complete the book and video course will refer to often. Because Michael offers the full contents of the book available for free on the website, both the book and videos are sure to become some of the most frequently cited educational references among Rails 3 students. This package will no doubt play a major catalytic role in many Rails technical training and development careers.

If you have any interest in Rails 3, you owe it to yourself and your educational investment to obtain this superb package. It will likely be one of the best and most educationally rewarding purchases you will make this year.

Title: Ruby on Rails Tutorial:Learn Rails by Example Author: Michael Hartl Pages: 500+ Video Viewing Time: 15+ hours Price: $95

And for those who prefer print editions and DVDs, the Ruby on Rails 3 Tutorial book and screencasts will be available soon from Addison-Wesley Professional. Click on the links below for more information:

Book: Ruby on Rails 3 Tutorial: Learn Rails by Example

Video: Ruby on Rails 3 Live Lessons (Video Training): Learn Rails by Example

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