Welcome to the Rails 6 API tutorial. In this series we’ll walk through building a backend API using Ruby on Rails. The topics in this series include:

  1. Creating a Rails API Project and Routing
  2. Basic Controller and Models
  3. Building a POST Endpoint
  4. HTTP Status Codes
  5. Active Record Validations
  6. Destroy Controller Action
  7. Exception Handling in Controllers

My background

I’m a software engineer with 10 years industry experience and I’ve been building Ruby on Rails applications for much of that time. A lot of my time with Rails has been spent working on backend APIs. In this tutorial I want to share that knowledge.

The application

In this tutorial series we’re going to build an API backend for a book store. The API should allow us to do things like list the books we have in store, add new books to the store and delete books from our store’s database.

Installing Rails

This tutorial assumes you have Ruby and Rails 6 installed on your machine. If you haven’t done so already GoRails has a good guide on how to do that.

Creating a new Rails API app

To build the application we’re going to be using Rails API-only. This allows us to generate a specialised Rails application that has all the functionality required for building APIs. For a full list of what Rails API-only applications include, you can read the docs. At a high level, Rails API-only does not include the view rendering logic but does include controllers, models, routing, etc.

Let’s create a new Rails API-only application. I’m naming my application “nile” but you can call it whatever you want. To create the application run the following command in the terminal:

$ rails new nile --api

The output should look something like this:

      create
      create  README.md
      create  Rakefile
      create  .ruby-version
      create  config.ru
      create  .gitignore
      create  Gemfile
         run  git init from "."
Initialized empty Git repository in /Users/tomkadwill/workspace/nile/.git/
      create  app
      create  app/assets/config/manifest.js
      create  app/assets/stylesheets/application.css
      create  app/channels/application_cable/channel.rb
      create  app/channels/application_cable/connection.rb
      create  app/controllers/application_controller.rb
      create  app/helpers/application_helper.rb
      .
      .
      .

Rails has created all of the project files for us and installed the default gems.

Now we can cd into the project and open it in our editor (I’m using VSCode but you can use any good text editor):

$ cd nile
$ code .

Adding the first API route

Now that we have initialized the Rails project we can start working on the first API endpoint. To start with, we’re going to be adding an endpoint to return all of the books we have in our store. The route should look like: localhost:3000/books. To do that we can add the following to config/routes.rb:

Rails.application.routes.draw do
  # For details on the DSL available within this file, see https://guides.rubyonrails.org/routing.html
  get '/books' => 'books#index'
end

To see what this has done, we can run rake routes via the command line:

$ bin/rails routes

If you scroll to the top of the console output, you should see the new route:

Prefix Verb   URI Pattern           Controller#Action
books  GET    /books(.:format)      books#index

Our route is correct but we can re-write it in a nicer way:

Rails.application.routes.draw do
  # For details on the DSL available within this file, see https://guides.rubyonrails.org/routing.html
  resources :books
end

The resources method will generate all 7 restful resources. If we run rake routes again we see:

Prefix Verb   URI Pattern           Controller#Action
books  GET    /books(.:format)      books#index
       POST   /books(.:format)      books#create
book   GET    /books/:id(.:format)  books#show
       PATCH  /books/:id(.:format)  books#update
       PUT    /books/:id(.:format)  books#update
       DELETE /books/:id(.:format)  books#destroy

This is great because Rails is able to generate all the routes we need via a single method call. However, we don’t need all of these routes so we can pair it down to just the one we need:

Rails.application.routes.draw do
  # For details on the DSL available within this file, see https://guides.rubyonrails.org/routing.html
  resources :books, only: :index
end

Which will give us:

Prefix Verb   URI Pattern           Controller#Action
books  GET    /books(.:format)      books#index

Starting the development server

Let’s test our new route. To do that we need to start the development server. Rails has a built in command for that:

$ bin/rails server

By default, the rails server will run on http://localhost:3000. If you browse to that url you will see the Rails welcome page.

Hitting our new route

TODO - 7:00