Rails asset pipeline: Why things break in production and what precompilation does to your assets

When you work with a Rails 3.1+ application, you will be working with the asset pipeline. The asset pipeline is awesome until you deploy. Then it will be less so if you haven't done everything as the pipeline expected it from you.

The problem

When using the asset pipeline your assets (images, javascripts, stylesheets, fonts) live in folders inside app:


With the asset p…

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Test your application's e-mail spam scoring with

You can use to check your application's e-mails for issues that might cause e-mails to be classified as spam.

They provide a one-time e-mail addresses that you can use to sign up etc. You can then check for scoring results of SpamAssassin and other potential issues.
You don't need to hit 10/10. Something around 9/10 is perfectly fine.


  • For password-protected staging sites you will get an error for links that can not be resolved. This is fine, simply check production once available.

When you want to format only line breaks, you probably do not want simple_format

For outputting a given String in HTML, you mostly want to replace line breaks with <br> or <p> tags.
You can use simple_format, but it has side effects like keeping some HTML.

If you only care about line breaks, you might be better off using a small, specialized helper method:

def format_linebreaks(text)
  safe_text = h(text)
  paragraphs = split_paragraphs(safe_text).map(&:html_safe)

  html = ''.html_safe
  paragraphs.each do |paragraph|
    html << content_tag(:p, paragraph)
  end    ...

Redirecting responses for PATCH or DELETE will not redirect with GET

Redirect responses to PATCH and DELETE requests will be followed with PATCH or DELETE. Redirect responses to GET and POST will be followed with a GET.
The Rails form_for helper will use a workaround to send POST requests with a _method param to avoid this issue for PATCH/DELETE.

If you make requests yourself, watch out for the following behavior.

When you make an AJAX request PATCH /foo and the /foo action redirects to /bar, browsers will request PATCH /bar. You probably expected the second request to be…


simple_format does not escape HTML tags

simple_format ignores Rails' XSS protection. Even when called with an unsafe string, HTML characters will not be escaped or stripped!

Instead simple_format has a whitelist of tags it allows. These are:

=> #<Set: {"small", "dfn", "sup", "sub", "pre", "blockquote", "ins", "ul", "var", "samp", "del", "h6", "h5", "h4", "h3", "h2", "h1", "span", "br", "hr", "em", "address", "img", "kbd", "tt", "a", "acronym", "ab...

You don't need each, collect or select in Coffeescript

Working with lists in Javascript is painful because the native Array class is so poorly designed.

One way to reduce the pain is to to use Underscore.js's functions like _.each, or, which unfortunately clutters your code with awkward calls to the _ helper.

Fortunately when you use CoffeeScript you don't need any of that. CoffeeScript has a very versatile for keyword that can do anything that each, collect or select can do. Enjoy!




Stop writing "require 'spec_helper'" in every spec

Simply add this to your .rspec instead:

--require spec_helper

If you are on rspec >= 3 and use a rails_helper.rb require this instead of the spec_helper:

--require rails_helper

If you are using parallel_tests and this is not working for you, .rspec might be ignored. Try using a .rspec_parallel file.


Difference between respond_to/format and params[:format]

To return non-HTML responses (like XLS spreadsheets), we usually use the

respond_to do |format|
  format.xls do
    # send spreadsheet

This is often, but not always the same as checking for params[:format] == :xls, so don't rely on this when e.g. one format checks for authorization and the other doesn't.

params[:format] is only set when a user explicitly puts a .xls at the end of the URL.

The format.xls block also responds when the user's browser requests the application/excel MIME type.

If Intern…

Rails: How to provide a public link in a mail

Lets say we have a user with a contract whereas contract is a mounted carrierwave file.

Now we want to send the link to the contract in a mail. For this use case join the root_url with the public contract path in the mailer view:

Plain text email

URI.join(root_url, @user.contract.url)

HTML email

link_to('Show contract', URI.join(root_url, @user.contract.url).to_s)

Note: You need to follow […


Testing ActiveRecord callbacks with RSpec

Our preferred way of testing ActiveRecord is to simply create/update/destroy the record and then check if the expected behavior has happened.

We used to bend over backwards to avoid touching the database for this. For this we used a lot of stubbing and tricks like it_should_run_callbacks.

Today we would rather make a few database queries than have a fragile test full of stubs.


Let's say your User model creates a first Project on cr…

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Rails: Adding view paths on the fly

Rails offers a way to prepend (or append) view paths just for the current request.


A use case of this is a different set of view templates that should be used under certain circumstances:

class UsersController < ApplicationController

  before_action :prepare_views
  def index
  def prepare_views
    if <condition>
      prepend_view_path Rails.root.join('app', 'views', 'special')

If <condition> is true, Rails will first look into app/views/special to find a…


Grep through the DOM using the Capybara API

When your Cucumber feature needs to browse the page HTML, and you are not sure how to express your query as a clever CSS or XPath expression, there is another way: You can use all and find to grep through the DOM and then perform your search in plain Ruby.

Here is an example for this technique:

Then /^I should see an image with the filename...
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Showing a custom maintenance page while deploying

Add a custom maintenance page for each vhost (require capistrano 3.x):


Add this line to your application's Gemfile:

gem 'capistrano', '~> 3.0'
gem 'capistrano-maintenance', '~> 1.0'

Add this line to you application's Capfile:

require 'capistrano/maintenance'

Enable task

Present a maintenance page to visitors. Disables your application's web interface by writing a #{maintenance_basename}.html file to each web server. The servers must be configured to detect the presence of this file, and if it i…


HTML5: disabled vs. readonly form fields

Form fields can be rendered as noneditable by setting the disabled or the readonly attribute. Be aware of the differences:

disabled fields

  • don’t post to the server
  • don’t get focus
  • are skipped while tab navigation
  • available for button, fieldset, input, select, textarea, command, keygen, optgroup, option

Browser specific behavior:

  • IE 11: text inputs that are descendants of a disabled fieldset appear disabled but the user can still interact with them
  • Firefox: selecting text in a disabled text field is no…

Calling a helper method with the same name as your current partial

Partials always define a local variable with the same name as themselves. E.g. when you are in _recent_users.html.erb, a local variable recent_users will be defined and overshadow any helper method that is also called recent_users().

If you would like to use a helper method recent_users() in a partial _recent_users.html.erb you can say this in the partial template:

<% recent_users = self.recent_users() %>
<% recent_users.each do |user| %>
<% end %>

How to stub class constants in RSpec

Hint: There's another card with this helper for Cucumber features.

Sometimes you feel like you need to stub some CONSTANT you have defined in an other class. Since actually constants are called constants because they're constant, there's no way to easily stub a constant.

Here are three solutions for you.

Easiest solution

Rethink! Do you really need CONSTANT = %w[foo bar] to be constant? In many cases, setting it as a…

Chrome: Making high-resolution website screenshots without add-ons

If you want to make a screenshot of a website that works well in print or on a high-DPI screen (like Apple Retina displays), here is how you can capture a high-resolution screenshot.

You can do this without an addon:

  • Open the website
  • If you have multiple monitoros:
    • Resize the Chrome window so it covers multiple monitors (in Linux you can hold ALT and resize by dragging with the right mouse button)
    • Zoom into the page using CTRL + and CTRL - so it covers most of the window area. Leave generous padding on the left and right so…

Centering with CSS vertically and horizontally (all options overview)

There are a million ways to center <div>s or text in CSS, horizontally or vertically. All the ways are unsatisfying in their own unique way, or have restrictions regarding browser support, element sizes, etc.

Here are two great resources for finding the best way of aligning something given your use case and browser support requirements:

How to center in CSS
A long form that lets you define your use case and browser support requirements, then shows you the preferred way of aligning.

[Centering CSS: A com…

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