How small can a Ruby on Rails app be?

Ruby on Rails is one of the most popular web frameworks in Ruby. But, did your know that a Rails app can be written in under 20 lines of code in a single file? And you can customize the layout, to fit your needs.

All that is possible by running Rails as a rack application. See how below.

First things first - so what is Rack?

Rack provides a modular interface for developing web apps in Ruby. A Rack::Handler connects webservers with Rack. By default it ships with handlers for many Ruby servers like Thin and WEBRick. It also provides a handy rackup commandline tool, which internally starts a Rack::Server.

Any object that responds to a call function and takes an env hash as parameter, returning an Array with the http response code, hash of headers, and a response body that can respond to each.

For example the below instance of the class RunMe. You can run this with a Rack Handler.

Save all of this in a server.rb and run it with ruby server.rb.

The rackup command line tool can be used, in which case you can forego the explicit use of the WEBrick handler. rackup internally calls Rack::Server.start

Running the Rails Application on Rack

When rails server is called the start method of Rails::Server is called. Rails::Server inherits from Rack::Server.

Rails::Application is an class with a call function and has all the properties of [1]. So if we define a class that inherits from Rails::Application we can serve it with.

So lets create a simple Rails::Application. Create a file named as follows:

This just prints ‘Hello World’. For a more useful experiment, you can define a controller and render a template.

Lets create a PagesController that renders some html inline.

This right here, is a Rails application in a single file, with just 16 lines of Ruby. Well pretty small, huh! If you need to build something useful with this, it will be well beyond 16 lines of course, but you can fit all of it in a single file.

You can use this for running specialized applications on Rack, with the features of Rails, and you can pick and choose which ones. Load only the libraries and middlewares you use in Rails and run the app on Rack.

You can split up the views to a separate folder, models into separate files and use require_relative to use them. Or organize folders based on functionality. Or bring a folder structure that fit your needs.
Sample Rails application on Rack folder structure.

You can find the source for this article, and more examples in the repository.


PS: This article was originally posted in HASH32 Engineering Blog.

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