Ruby On Rails Lesson
You may recall from Section 4.4.5 that we have already encountered, via a custom-built User class, user objects with name and email attributes. That class served as a useful example, but it lacked the critical property of persistence: When we created a User object at the Rails console, it disappeared as soon as we exited. Our goal in this section is to create a model for users that won’t disappear quite so easily.
As with the User class in Section 4.4.5, we’ll start by modeling a user with two attributes, a name and an email address, the latter of which we’ll use as a unique username.3 (We’ll add an attribute for passwords in Section 6.3.) In Listing 4.9, we did this with Ruby’s attr_accessor method:
In contrast, when using Rails to model users, we don’t need to identify the attributes explicitly. As noted briefly above, to store data Rails uses a relational database by default, which consists of tables composed of data rows, where each row has columns of data attributes. For example, to store users with names and email addresses, we’ll create a users table with name and email columns (with each row corresponding to one user). By naming the columns in this way, we’ll let Active Record figure out the User object attributes for us.
Let’s see how this works. (If this discussion gets too abstract for your taste, be patient; the console examples starting in Section 6.1.3 and the database browser screenshots in Figure 6.3 and Figure 6.6 should makethings clearer.) You may recall from Listing 5.28 that we created a Users controller (along with a new action) using the command
There is an analogous command for making a model: generate model. Listing 6.1 shows the command to generate a User model with two attributes, name and email.
(Note that, in contrast to the plural convention for controller names, model names are singular: a Users controller, but a User model.) By passing the optional parameters name:string and email:string, we tell Rails about the two attributes we want, along with what types those attributes should be (in this case, string). Compare this with including the action names in Listing 3.4 and Listing 5.28.
One of the results of the generate command in Listing 6.1 is a new file called a migration. Migrations provide a way to alter the structure of the database incrementally, so that our data model can adapt to changing requirements. In the case of the User model, the migration is created automatically by the model generation script; it creates a users table with two columns, name and email, as shown in Listing 6.2. (We’ll seein Section 6.2.5 and again in Section 6.3 how to make a migration from scratch.)