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The Merb Way by Foy Savas

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The Bottom Line

While The Merb Way is informative, it isn't practical. The Merb Way teaches Merb internals, but does so without providing any real life examples or techniques. More than anything, The Merb Way is a discussion of how Merb works, but not how to use it. Often, large sections of source code are presented in lieu of discussion. The Merb Way is best suited to hardcore Merb programmers, as well as Rails programmers who want to be ready for Rails 3.


  • In depth explanation of every subsystem.
  • Source code gives you a first hand look at how each subsystem interacts with each other.
  • Of particular interest to Rails programmers that want to be ready for Rails 3.


  • Doesn't show you how to use Merb in a real-world application.
  • Source code is often overused in place of discussion.
  • Much of the information may seem irrelevant to people learning Merb from a top-down perspective.


  • Ch. 1: Brief overview/history of Merb. Covers how to generate new Merb projects, layouts and overview of the Merb framework.
  • Ch. 2: Helps tie controllers to web servers and clients. Presents an in-depth look at how routing in Merb works.
  • Ch. 3: An in-depth bottom up look at how controllers work,plenty of source code from the Merb framework.
  • Ch. 4: A short chapter that talks about how Merb interacts with views. Both ERB and Haml are covered.
  • Ch. 5: Covers how Merb can interact with an ORM library. Merb can use many libraries--only DataMapper is covered in-depth.
  • Ch. 6: Another short chapters with a few handy reference sections that documents the various helpers available from Merb.
  • Ch. 7: Teaches how to extract reusable portions of your applications into "slices."
  • Ch. 8 and 9: Cover Merb's various forms of session stores, as well as Merb's stock authentication slice.
  • Ch.10-13: How Merb applications can send mail, use smaller AJAXlike controllers, cache content, integrate w/testing suites.

Guide Review - The Merb Way by Foy Savas

The Merb Way is an in-depth and bottom up look a the Merb MVC framework. All of the major subsystems are covered. By the end of the book, you'll have a good idea of how it all fits together. Plenty of source code from the Merb framework is presented to complement the discussion, though it often seems like there's more code than discussion.

What The Merb Way isn't is a book that teaches you how to program web applications in Merb. It seems like every Rails (that other popular Ruby MVC framework) book opens with the obligatory blog example. While it might be a bit old by now, it gets you on your feet for both top down and bottom up discussions. Without discussing a complete application, it's hard to visualize where everything fits together and how to actually use it. This is a shame, since there are not many Merb books around.

It's hard to say who this book is for. Interested Merb programmers would be interested in The Merb Way, but only if they're already familiar with Merb from the top down. Rails programmers might also be interested (since Merb has merged with Rails), but since one of the advantages of Rails is you don't have to know how it all works it's certainly not required reading. Rails Core programmers (those who work on the Rails code itself) should definitely read this as Rails 3 will be based on Merb. For everyone else, even those using Merb to write web applications, this book could safely be skipped.

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