gnikyt Code ramblings.

Extending a Rails Engine

Redesigning my CMS in Rails has been great fun. There have been many challenges faced, and many conquered (like having 100% code coverage :D). One thought that crossed my mind after building the monster was how do you extend an engine? By extending, I mean to add or overwrite methods of controllers, models, helpers, etc.

The Rails Engine Guide is excellent and it has two main points on extending the engine functionality. One is by use of “decorators” and the other is by abstracting all your controller and model code into concerns inside your engine. While I like the concern method, as it gives more flexibility for complex extensions, its overkill in my opinion. The decorator option is very easy to implement without changing much of your existing engine.

The first step as the Rails guide shows you, is to add support for decorator loading inside your engine lib. Below is how I did it in my CMS engine called Guts:

# lib/guts/engine.rb
# ... etc ...
isolate_namespace Guts

config.to_prepare do
  Dir.glob("#{Rails.root}app/decorators/*/guts/*_decorator*.rb").each do |c|
    require_dependency c
# ... etc ...

This will look for all decorators in the main Rails apps for the path app/decorators/{controllers,models,concerns,helpers,etc}/guts/{file}_decorator(s).rb and load them in using require_dependency.

Now the engine has support to load the decorators, lets move on to some examples. All following examples from here-on-out will be using my engine for example purposes.

Controllers #

Create a file in app/decorators/controllers/guts/ such as type_decorator.rb

Add in the following code using class_eval from Ruby:

Guts::TypesController.class_eval do
  # Decorator action is explode.. we will route this as: guts/types#explode
  def explode
    # Will render app/views/guts/types/explode.html.erb

Next open app/config/routes.rb in your main Ruby app and prepend this new route at the very top of the route file before mounting the Guts engine in the Rails.application.routes.draw block.

As an example:

Guts::Engine.routes.prepend do
  # Create a route of /guts/types/explode
  # Map it to types controller and the explode method
  # Give the route a name of guts_types_explode
  get "/types/explode", to: "types#explode", as: :guts_types_explode

Rails.application.routes.draw do
  # Mount the Guts engine
  mount Guts::Engine => "/guts"

This will now prepend our new route to the engine and map /guts/types/explode to our decorator action.

Lastly, create a view in app/views/guts/types/ called explode.html.erb with whatever you wish to display! This is the basics of extending a controller.

Models #

As in controllers, create a file in app/decorators/models/guts/ such as type_modal_decorator.rb

Add in the following code using class_eval from Ruby:

Guts::Type.class_eval do
  # Override title setter
  def title=(title)
    self[:title] = "Tricked ya! New Title!"

  # Adds a new method to the model
  def title_with_bang

Views #

As stated above for the controller example, since Rails looks in the main app for views first, you simply need to match the correct path.

If your engine’s view for CoolController#jumps is app/views/{engine}/cool/jumps.html.erb you will duplicate this in your main Rails apps by creating a file in app/views/{engine}/cool/jumps.html.erb. You can then enter anything you need into that view and will be overridden.

A good tip I used in my CMS engine was to utilize yields. I placed named yields in many parts of my engine views so they can be utilized by a Rails app by calling content_for in their views.

Although the Rails Guide covers all this, I thought seeing a real-world example would help. Happy coding!