The Bottom Line
Practical Rails Plugins gives a broad survey of plugins available for Ruby on Rails programmers. Each chapter will teach you how to do something amazing with your Rails applications with the minimum of effort. It's a great addition to any Rails programmer's bookshelf.
- Well organized
- Simple examples, but detailed enough to explain how to really use the plugins
- Each chapter is independent, so there is little crossover between chapters
- Some typographical errors to be found not only in text, but in code examples as well
- Like all Rails books, this one will be obsolete when the next major version of Rails is released
- Model Enhancements - Tagging, attachments, versioning, rating, etc.
- Controller Enhancements - Scaffolding, navigation, payment gateways
- Login and Security - User authentication, OpenID, Role-based Access Control (RBAC)
- Search and Query - YM4R and Geocoding, Pagination, full text search
- Performance Optimization Plugins - Caching, background tasks
- View and User Interface Enhancement-Lightbox, HTML templates, graphing & charting, Liquid templates, sidebars, PDF generation
- Testing with Plugins - Rcov, RSpec, preventing validation errors
Guide Review - Practical Rails Plugins by Nick Plante and David Berube
Practical Rails Plugins has a total of 26 action-packed chapters, each one outlining at least one way to make your Rails applications better. Each chapter picks a task (such as pagination or user authentication) and gives a brief overview of the problems you'll face and the available plugins. A complete solution, from installing the plugin to integrating into the view, is then presented for the plugin the authors think best solve the problem. Occasionally, additional plugins are also included to supplement the plugin being discussed. In all, perhaps 40 plugins are used throughout the book.
Though the book does have some typographical errors (as most do), a few were spotted in code examples. While grammatical errors and misplaced punctuation are easily forgivable, errors in the code are frustrating. While this isn't a reason not to buy the book, be aware that copying the code verbatim from its pages might not be possible.
And, as with all books about Ruby on Rails, this book will be obsolete in a year or so. Practical Rails Plugins was published in 2008 and covers Rails 2.1. The plugins presented here may be in any state of activity and may not be updated for future versions of Ruby on Rails. Though in the fast pace Ruby on Rails world, this is not unusual.
In all, Practical Rails Plugins is a great book. It has some very minor flaws, but it's nothing that should stop you from buying the book. It's like the authors said "here's some really awesome things you can do really easily in Rails with a few plugins" and put it down in one handy book.