The Bottom Line
The Ruby on Rails 3 Tutorial by Michael Hartl is the antithesis of the rapid screencast approach. In the tutorial, the reader is walked through how to use Rails slowly and now with the live lesson video instructions Hartl has applied this philosophy to screencasts. They slow things down and show how to do things visually, and over the 18+ hours of video included they will show you how to use Rails from the ground up.
These screencasts are very good, and are a great resource for anyone learning Rails for the first time but they can be a bit slow for anyone who's had Rails experience, so they're not for everyone.
- Great for visual learners.
- The opposite of lightning fast "look how quickly you can do this in Rails" screencasts.
- Comprehensive. These aren't small videos, it's the entire tutorial in video form.
- Too slow for more experienced programmers.
- Minor technical issues (see below).
- Every section of Ruby on Rails 3 Tutorial by Michael Hartl is covered in video.
- Over 18 hours of screencast video.
- Follow along with the book (which comes with these videos), or free full-content web version.
- Teaches Rails from the ground up, very little previous experience needed.
Guide Review - Ruby on Rails 3 Tutorial Live Lessons
The following is a review of the video screencast supplement to Ruby on Rails 3 Tutorial by Michael Hartl. For more information on the tutorial itself, see my review of Ruby on Rails 3 Tutorial by Michael Hartl.
When I first learned Rails in the pre-1.0 days, screencasts were a huge help. The infamous David Heinemeier Hansson 15 Minute Blog screencast got me started, and others over the years have helped me learn things that would otherwise be difficult. Part of the appeal of screencasts is to not only show how to use an API or how to implement a feature, but to also show how to actually work in Rails. You have to juggle a lot of files, use external tools like Git, running tests, etc. It's a lot to take in and seeing how someone else does all this is pure gold when you're starting out.
However, most of the screencasts were showcasing Rails as well as rapid and agile development. They were about doing things fast. The video screencasts for Ruby on Rails 3 Tutorial are the opposite of this. They slow things down to a snail's pace, and show you everything you need to know in order to program Rails applications. They even show you how to install Git, how to navigate your app in an editor, etc. Not only will these video tutorials help you get going with Rails but they will help you orient yourself in a possibly brand new development environment, one without an IDE holding your hand. The video screencasts cover the entire tutorial as well. If it's in the text, it's covered in the screencast.
But this isn't for everyone. If you have any Rails experience at all, watching these tutorials is going to seem very slow. It's easy to skip ahead in the chapter of the book, but I found it not so easy to skip ahead in the videos. You can also skim some sections of the book, but you're stuck watching the videos at the same speed. But you can try these videos out before you buy, several example screencasts are available on the Rails Tutorial website.
I did have one technical issue with these videos: they were too high resolution. It warns you need a resolution of at least 1280x960 (my Macbook Pro is just shy of that). I was able to get around this by opening the HTML file, which gave me the videos in a web browser where I could scroll to the bottom of the video. It's not a big issue, but it's something to think about if you have a very low resolution screen.
Overall, these video tutorials should be a great resource for anyone new to Rails. Seeing things done is often much more rewarding than just having them explained to you in a book. You can pause the video, following along, and you'll never be lost. But if you have any Rails experience, you might want to stick to just reading from the book as it's much easier to follow that at your own pace.