Ruby is a popular general-purpose object-oriented programming (OOP) language that focuses on simplicity and productivity. You can use Ruby in many fields of computer science, including web development and data analysis.
When compared to other programming languages, like C or Java, Ruby is more user-friendly and easier to learn because Ruby has intuitive and English-like syntax. Even if you’ve never written a line of code in your life, you might understand what a basic Ruby program does thanks to its simple syntax. Ruby is a great candidate if you’re looking to learn your first programming language.
What Is the Ruby Programming Language Used For?
- Web development
- Static site generation
- DevOps and automation
- Web servers
- Web scraping
When Do I Use the Ruby Programming Language?
Ruby is a multi-purpose programming language used in many subfields of software development. Here are the most notable Ruby use cases.
One of the main reasons Ruby is such a popular programming language is thanks to the Ruby on Rails framework that revolutionized web development.
Before the Rails framework popped up in 2005, developers spent too much time writing repetitive boilerplate code to build web apps. The Rails framework changed this because it comes with everything a developer needs to build a scalable website. You can run a simple command to generate boilerplate code, build a database model or generate a proper file structure. These types of automations let developers focus more on coding a web app’s logic rather than spending time on low-value work.
Static Site Generation
When you visit a typical web page, the website uses server-side code that generates the HTML content it serves to your browser. This means there’s no HTML file behind the URL you visit. This type of HTML generation is usually not the fastest way to serve web files to clients. It’s more effective to use a state website generator like Jekyll, one of the most popular static site generators, which is written in Ruby.
A static website generator uses code to generate all the web pages at once. Those pages will then live on a server and once you visit the site, you get a static HTML file. This makes websites efficient, secure and easy to deploy. A static website generator is ideal for websites whose content doesn’t change that often.
DevOps and Automation
Ruby is a popular programming language in DevOps, automation and website deployment.
Consider the popular web app deployment platform Heroku. This platform gained popularity because it allows for testing, deploying and staging web applications without DevOps engineers. Originally, Heroku only supported the Ruby programming language.
Vagrant, a popular virtual machine management system, is also written in Ruby. With Vagrant, developers can run operating system-specific software on any operating system. For example, a developer can turn a Linux-only service into a Mac-executable format.
Ruby is a popular programming language for building web servers. The popular web application servers Passenger and Puma both support Ruby. These web application servers process HTTP requests, manage processes and resources, and allow for monitoring and diagnosing problems.
Ruby is a great language for data processing, thanks in part to the language’s readable syntax. Ruby also has several other powerful built-in functions, such as map, reduce and select. These functions are great for easy data processing, cleaning and filtering.
Ruby comes with packages, such as Vessel, that make parsing web data easy. With Vessel, you can write Ruby scripts that crawl and download web pages in a breeze. To then parse the crawled HTML content, you can use another popular Ruby library, Nokogiri. With this library, you can prepare the crawled data for new HTML or XML objects or to perform data analysis, such as building a machine learning model based on crawled data.
Ruby vs. Python: Which Is Better?
Ruby is a great multi-purpose programming language and more popular among web developers, whereas Python is the de facto general-purpose language today.
Ruby and Python each have intuitive syntaxes that almost read like English. Thanks to each language’s easy syntax and large user base, Ruby and Python are both great languages for any first-time programmer to learn.
One of the main differences between Ruby and Python is in the usability. Ruby is a programming language mainly used in web development. With Ruby and the leading Ruby framework, Ruby on Rails, you can build modern web applications at scale. Besides, there are many developers in Ruby communities, such as on StackOverflow.
On the other hand, Python is a multi-purpose programming language and has use cases in all corners of the IT industry. You can use Python in data science, game development, web development, scripting and more. Needless to say, Python has a large community of developers in each of these subfields. No matter what you’re looking for, you’re guaranteed to have a Python package or framework and a large developer base at your disposal. Let’s say you want to do financial modeling with Python. Unsurprisingly, there are lots of packages of pre-written code for streamlined financial modeling.