As a programming language, Ruby has a lot to offer. It supports a variety of programming paradigms, allowing you to use it to write functional, object oriented and imperative code. Ruby has become particularly popular because it was created with the intention of making programming an enjoyable experience, according to the language’s creator, Yukihiro Matsumoto.
Getting Up to Speed with Ruby
Whether you already have experience programming with other languages or you’re learning Ruby as your first programming language, Ruby is a relatively easy language to pick up. You will need a walk-through that helps you set up Ruby initially if you aren’t an experienced programmer, but you’ll be able to start building your first program immediately. Ruby uses a package manager to allow easy downloads of existing repositories and libraries, known as ‘gems’ — any good Ruby tutorial will walk you through the process of installing Ruby gems, as well as writing code in Ruby.
Becoming a Ruby expert will take longer, of course. Depending on how many hours a day you’re prepared to put into becoming a Ruby master, you can become good enough to work on your own projects in a matter of months. It’s usually more a matter of a year or two to learn enough about Ruby development to be able to land a job with your coding skills, provided you’re starting from absolute zero as a programmer.
The Ruby on Rails Framework
One of the most useful tools to extend your ability to work with Ruby is the Ruby on Rails framework (also referred to as simply ‘Rails’). Meant primarily for developing web applications, Ruby on Rails is known for letting developers quickly put together an app and get it online — it may not scale particularly well for hundreds of thousands of users, but you can create a proof of concept overnight.
There are a variety of other Ruby-based frameworks out there, meant to speed Ruby development for different purposes. Ruby on Rails is just the most popular. There are also quite a few different implementations of Ruby, such as JRuby, which allows you to run Ruby code through the Java virtual machine (making it faster) and improves its interactions with Java code.
Going Beyond Programming Basics
If you’re learning Ruby as your first programming language, the first step you should logically take is to learn to write code. But once you’ve got that down, there are some related skills that should come a close second.
Git, or another version control system: In order to manage the updates you make to your code and create the ability to roll back to old versions of what you’ve written, you’ll want to learn a version control system, like Git.
Test driven development: When you’re writing software that you expect many people to use, you need to be able to quickly locate and resolve problems, especially as you’re adding new code. Following the principles of test driven development will allow you to do exactly that.
CSS and HTML: If you don’t already know the mechanics of building websites, building web applications is a whole lot harder. You’ll need at least some fundamental CSS and HTML skills in order to fully make use of your Ruby knowledge.
Most of all, though, the best way to continue to build your skills as a Ruby programmer is to write more code. On a regular basis — daily is ideal — you should be writing code, so that you continue to exercise the knowledge you pick up in classes and through books, building on it as it becomes second nature to you.