This really is not intended to be a tutorial on Rails, but as with all of the O'Reilly cookbooks, it is a collection of solutions to common problems involving Rails. However the recipes in the early chapters are so basic, it in fact, serves two purposes. The early chapters gets the Rails novice up and running, and the later chapters serve up answers to many of the problems that Rails developers of all skill levels have. Therefore, the reader should already be experienced at web development, and be a Rails user of any level of experience including novice.
Other frameworks are often designed such that if you can make the leap of understanding their complexities, you can solve many problems. The core developers of the Rails framework differed in their approach and designed a framework that solves simple problems easily and very well. From that juncture, you can easily work up to more difficult problems. The following is the table of contents:
Chapter 1. Getting Started - Deals with the basics such as joining the Rails community, finding documentation, and installation.
Chapter 2. Rails Development - Recipes on setting up your environment, starting your first Rails applications, and generating Ruby documentation for your application.
Chapter 3. Active Record - 22 recipes on "Active Record", which is a persistent storage mechanism for interacting with a relational database.
Chapter 4. Action Controller - 16 recipes on "Action Controller", which receives requests and passes them on to a specific action.
Chapter 5. Action View - 16 recipes on dealing with the presentation details of your Rails application.
Chapter 6. RESTful Development - An odd little chapter of only 6 recipes about breaking down HTTP requests to a natural, human-language type structure where there are verbs and nouns. This chapter has an academic feel to it.
Chapter 7. Rails Application Testing - 24 recipes on the subject of testing from the perspective of test driven development. Covers Rake, Rcov, YAML fixtures, and CSV fixtures.
Chapter 9. Action Mailer - 6 recipes that show show the three different ways to retrieve email and forward it to the receive method of your mailer class.
Chapter 11. Security - A short but important chapter of only 5 recipes that include security best practices, SQL injection, and cross-site scripting (XSS).
Chapter 12. Performance - 8 recipes dealing with web application performance. Covered topics include measuring, benchmarking, and improving performance as well as dealing with cached content.
Chapter 13. Hosting and Deployment - 14 recipes on the deployment of your Rails application. This section contains quite a bit of information on Capistrano, the tool of choice for the automated rollout of Rails applications.
Chapter 14. Extending Rails with Plug-ins - How to find and install plug-ins for tasks Rails was not designed to handle. Talks about some specific plug-ins such as acts_as_versioned, acts_as_authenticated, and acts_as_taggable, including what problems each plug-in solves.
Chapter 15. Graphics - 7 recipes for dealing with tools for handling visual output. Topics include RMagick, which is an equivalent of image processing tool ImageMagick. Also described is how to generate PDF documents, Gruff, and accessing images via databases.