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Review of The Ruby Way by Hal Fulton

by Peter Cooper on Nov 03, 2006 |

In 2001 Hal Fulton released The Ruby Way, only the second English language Ruby book available at the time. Since then Ruby has become popular in the West and with the help of Ruby on Rails has achieved significant critical success. With a significant number of enhancements and changes to the Ruby language and ecosystem of libraries and developers, Fulton decided a second edition was in order. That second edition of The Ruby Way, as published by Addison-Wesley, is now available.

For those unfamiliar with the first edition, The Ruby Way has a chapter for each major topic relating to Ruby with about ten to twenty sub sections each containing code examples of how to achieve a particular goal. Scanning through the contents pages is like scanning through a recipe book. Even though the book is not officially a "Ruby Recipes" book, it has a similar feel, with the added benefit that each code example demonstrates the most practical, and stylistically acceptable, route to a certain outcome.

The main topics the book covers are: Ruby concepts and syntax, strings, regular expressions, internationalization, math, dates and times, arrays, hashes and enumerables, data structures, I/O, metaprogramming, GUI development, threads, systems administration, data parsing, testing and debugging, distributing code, network programming, and the Web. Each section contains many 'recipes' and code samples.

With this cookbook style in mind, the book is not for beginners. Developers with experience of OOP could find the book useful to 'learn by example', but anyone unfamiliar with different languages, OOP and dynamic language features will find the book impractical to learn from. Fulton acknowledges this and squarely pitches the book at those who know at least a little Ruby but are looking for the way forward.

If you're not entirely convinced whether to buy the book or not, consider the kudos it has received from the highest echelons of the Ruby community. About the book, Rails creator David Heinemeier Hansson says, "Many of the early ideas for Rails were inspired by the first edition, especially what is now Chapter 11. It puts you on a roller coaster ride between 'How could I use this?' to 'This is so cool!' Once you get on that roller coaster, there's no turning back."

In the foreword, Matz talks about how he feels Fulton has come closest, in The Ruby Way, to expressing the 'Tao of Ruby'. With such a compelling recommendation by the creator of Ruby, the book is an easy purchase and should quickly become a much loved companion with your Ruby development in the coming years. The book's list price is $39.99 and is available directly from the publisher for $35.99 or via other booksellers such as Amazon.com.

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