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on December 27, 2010
There are as many rails tutorials on the web and in book form as there are ruby methods. An infinite expanse of information - most of it leading to heartbreak and frustration.

Hartl, with this book as well as the first venture, takes the reader by the hand and gently guides him/her/it/them/monkeybacon through the world of ruby and ruby on rails with the excitement and ease a master has when taking students along for a ride.

I have a collection of books and tutorials and, WITHOUT FAIL, each and every one of them ends somewhere with some sort of mistake in code that I've never been able to get over (including the first book by Hartl, by the way). Not so with this one. I completed the project outlined in this book. First time that's happened with any of the other books/tutorials.

As I am a functioning idiot, this is no mean feat. It is quite an accomplishment. Not by me, but by the author.

If you are able to view the tutorial videos, those will make your life that much better.

Buy it. Now.
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on February 26, 2011
This is an exceptionally well-written tutorial, probably the best way to learn Ruby on Rails. The Kindle version, however, is very poorly done. Code listings are shown as images on the Kindle -- with small grey font which is very difficult to read even when zoomed-in. Furthermore, text search does not include the code listings and command examples. For example, I needed to find an explanation of the command "rake db:test:prepare" but got back "0 matches found".

Though the Kindle edition is awful, the excellent content is accessible on web pages for free at [...]. There, one can also purchase a (fully searchable) PDF version directly from the author.

I don't know whether it's Amazon's or the publisher's fault, but the Kindle edition of this book is a complete waste of money.
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on November 22, 2011
This book will most likely overwhelm a beginner. Don't get me wrong the author knows his stuff and is a good teacher but you have to wrap your head around so many other technologies. Git, Rspec, Test Driven development was just too much for me to take in all at one time.

In my opinion those are advanced topics that should be introduced at the end of the book or in another book. My personal belief is you should lay a solid foundation by just learning the basics of Ruby on Rails first and then learn all the extras like Git and Rspec which is icing on the cake. Ruby on Rails = The Cake. Git, Rspec, Test Driven Development = The Icing.

Once you have a solid knowledge of Ruby on Rails then you can learn how to use Git for version control and Rspec for Test Driven Development. I think a good place to start with just learning the basics of Ruby on Rails is Kevin Skoglund's Rails 3 tutorial on After following his tutorial you should have a solid basic foundation and then you'll be ready for Michael Hartl's book. All that being said Michael Hartl's book is very good but might be a little too much on the plate for beginners.
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on December 28, 2010
Arriving at Rails after a career in finance, it was especially important for me to find a book that took a holistic approach to developing Rails applications. Mr. Hartl's book does an exceptional job of addressing both the structure and function of Ruby on Rails, as well as the most modern methodologies for developing web applications. Without this book, a novice web programmer like myself likely would have missed learning test-driven development (TDD), which is critically interfaced with producing robust applications.

Mr. Hartl has also put together an outstanding series of screencasts, comprising over 15-hours of video, providing an inside look into an advanced user's coding process. The screencasts pay dividends well above their investment of time and money.

A cursory examination of Mr. Hartl's resume, including his teaching awards in physics at Caltech, will evidence his great talent for simplifying the complex. Having explored this book among a half-dozen of its peers, I can attest that it is indeed best-in-class.
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on January 6, 2011
While there are tons of other RoR tutorials out there, they all usually reach a point where the gently increasing learning curve suddenly goes vertical. Not so with this book.

The author doesn't make things overly complicated, makes it clear when you need to be aware of new concepts and when not to worry (because it'll be covered later), and while this book does follow the traditional "develop an app while learning" method, it does so while introducing you to tools and techniques that Rails developers use in the real world. Before you know it, you'll be creating new git repos, pushing them to Github, creating branches for new developments and using test driven development (with tools like Rspec) to test your new code. If most of that went over your head *and* you want to learn Rails, you *need* this book.

Interestingly, he demonstrates how you can create working Rails apps with a minimal knowledge of Ruby - which kills the assumption that Rails neophytes need to have a strong grasp of the Ruby language before tackling Rails development.

Combined with 15+ hours of video lessons complementing each chapter of the book, this makes for an essential tool in the arsenal of any aspiring Rails developer.
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on July 4, 2012
Focused on everything but explaining the WHYs. This allowed me to follow the book in a very procedural one dimesnsional way until i had this awesome looking app that i had no idea how i would make on my own after completing the book. Michael tells you to do things and that about it. Doesnt tell the whys and the hows are extremely verbose in explanations - for example he called pound signs (#) octothorps. Michael failed to cover simple concepts of developing a basic app. He was all over the place in his book. While talking views and HTML concepts, Michael would randomly jump into test cases using rspec. I love the fact that chapter one introduces git and completes with a webapp running on Heroku, but after that everything went down hill. He focused much of the energy on configurations, rspec, a bunch of gemfile addins and just way too much verbose octothorp garbage. Just read the rails guides. They are great!!!
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on January 10, 2011
After tinkering around with Dreamweaver and other excuses not to get into coding my web pages myself, this book made it interesting, fun and easy to want to stick with it. Entertaining and well-crafted prose makes it a joy to read, without ever getting off subject or losing time.

What an easy way to feel like you're getting a whole set of personalized lessons for $25. You'll kick yourself later for wasting time with other books before trying this one. Hope there will be more coming!
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on April 8, 2014
Now that I've been doing a lot of Rails, it's a really nice book to go back to and quickly refer to some useful tips and tricks. However, as an absolute beginner it became very unwieldy after the first few chapters.

Rails itself was super easy to learn, but given that it has so many moving parts, it takes time to get a good sense of the ecosystem (for a beginner). This book attempts to fasttrack that process and doesn't always succeed.

The first few chapters give a really detailed overview of the various concepts around the MVC architecture, which is very well written and which I found quite useful. But a bit later into the book, the author sometimes resorts to a few lines of code and a brief description of why you're making that change to the existing codebase. For an absolute beginner to web frameworks, this method of learner requires that you put aside a substantial amount of time for this book. If you don't and you come back after a couple of days, you won't be able to fully understand what the incremental change is for and you'll be lost as a result.

Still, it is a good book if you set aside some time for it and have some background in web frameworks and MVC. Beginners will benefit too, but IMO, only after 2-3 readings.
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on July 24, 2011
I can highly recommend this book as an introduction to Rail3. It thoroughly describes most aspects (though leaves one important one out, localization). As an already seasoned web developer on other platforms, this book was a great introduction to the entire Rails ecosystem, and the Ruby language itself.

However there is a general problem with the kindle edition. The code examples are not embedded as text but as images. This has the following drawbacks.

* It can be difficult to read, in particular, it is difficult to distinguish parenthesis, braces, and burly braces.
* Setting a wide margin decreases the size of the image making it more difficult to read.
* Copy/pasting is not possible.
* Searching for text is not possible.

It would have received 5 stars, had the code examples been in text form.
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on January 28, 2012
To some extent it seems the reviews here depend on your perspective and experience with software development. As a very experienced software developer on Windows, Linux, and mobile platforms, this book was not at all a stretch, but I wasn't looking for something to make my head hurt. What I *was* looking for was an approachable, thorough introduction to Ruby and Rails. The author strikes a very nice balance between just explaining his sample and diving into concepts of the language and framework. The pace is good, and I felt like I was learning how to do things as I followed along.

You kind of have a choice as a learner whether you would like to type in the examples and make the changes as the sample develops through the book, or if you want to cut-copy-paste. I almost never gave in to the temptation to copy-paste from the website. I found that by manually typing in all the examples, my brain was slowed down enough to really concentrate on what was going on. Also, occasionally I would miss subtle changes he was making or make a syntax error in my typing. Since he stresses test-during-development, my test cases would instantly fail when this happened and I got great practice in real-life debugging which is perhaps the only way we programmers really learn about the details of the language. If you really want to learn, I suggest not cheating and copying the text.

I went through this book on my MacBook, which is the same environment the author uses. While he gives pointers on how this might work on other Linux or Windows platforms, I wouldn't risk that extra level of complexity and frustration if I were trying to focus on learning the subject of the book. I love that the commands he walks people through for setting up the tools "just work" on a fairly recent MacBook.

One note, the book is available online for free at the author's website, however I consider the money I paid for my portable Kindle edition worth it to support the author's efforts. Ruby/Rails moves fast, and it clearly takes a lot of effort for him to keep this tutorial up to date with relevant examples that will work when the readers try them.
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