jQuery Rails App

With Rails, I’ve been working a lot on dealing with the back end through ActiveRecord and using Rails templates with form helpers. However, modern web applications focus on spontaneous interaction, meaning single page apps with no page reloads. There are a variety of front end frameworks - like Angular, which I will be working with later - that many of the websites we use every day are built with. However, it’s possible to create interactive applications solely with jQuery - a JavaScript library that most websites leverage in one way or another.

For this project, I wanted to create a simple note taking application kind of like Google Keep where the user can create and display notes without reloading the page. This creates a smoother, more natural user experience that I achieved with a jQuery front end.

Rails Back End

Before focusing on user interaction, I organized the back end using Rails controllers and models. I used Devise to set up a user model and authentication since notes wouldn’t be public - they needed to be limited to an individual user. After that, I used rails generate resource to generate the files for notes and tags. The controllers are set up similarly to those in my last Rails project, with the exception of needing to account for the AJAX requests that would be coming from the jQuery front end.

AJAX stands for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML, but most of the time it’s used with JavaScript as XML has become deprecated in favor of JSON - JavaScript Object Notation.

Here is an example of an action in the notes controller handling both HTML and JSON requests:

def show
  @note = Note.find(params[:id])
  respond_to do |format|
   format.html { render :show }
   format.json { render json: @note }

With respond_to, we’re able to handle requests for different formats. If we have a link that makes an HTML request for a note, we render the note template. However, if we get a request for JSON, we render the note in serialized JSON format.

What is serialization and how does Rails do it? There are a variety of ways, but I used ActiveModel Serializers which implicitly turns @note into JSON data.

You can take a look at my controllers here. Once the back end is set up, we can move on.

jQuery Front End

There’s a lot of code that went into seemingly basic functionality such as creating new notes, displaying notes based on a tag, and pagination without reloading. I’ll go over some of it briefly.

This portion of code attaches an event listener to the new tag form and processes the request to create a new form:

function attachListeners(){
  //create new tag
  $('form#new_tag').submit(function(event) {
    event.preventDefault(); //prevent form from submitting the default way and reloading page

    var name = $('#tag_name').val();

    if (validator.validateTag(name)) {
      var values = $(this).serialize();
      var posting = $.post('/tags', values);

      posting.done(function(data) {
        $('form #tag_name').val(''); //clear form input


event.preventDefault() is necessary in order to prevent the default behavior of the form, which is to submit and reload the page. Anything with a $ is shorthand for jQuery, so it’s invoking a jQuery object or function. var name = $('#tag_name').val() gets the tag name value from the text input of the form and sets it to a variable. It validates it client side with a custom Validator class and if the data passes, it processes the request.

var values = $(this).serialize() serializes the data in the form via jQuery and prepares it to be sent. var posting = $.post('/tags', values) makes a jQuery POST request to the tags controller with the data from the form that has been serialized. Once the posting is finished, we set a .done callback to clear the form input field and then call the loadTags() function.

function loadTags(){
    var tags = response;

    $('div#tags').html(''); //clear tags

    for(var i = 0; i < tags.length; i++){


Here, we make a jQuery .getJSON request to ask for JSON data from our tags controller. Since we set it up with a respond_to earlier, the controller uses ActiveModel Serializers to send the tag model as serialized JSON data to jQuery. Yes, this is a lot of serialization back and forth, but it’s necessary if we want two way AJAX communication between our front and back ends.

We get our tags as JSON data and iterate through it to generate the HTML necessary to display each tag. From there, we call the addTagListeners() function to add click events to each tag, so when we click on a tag it will then make another AJAX request to get all the notes associated with the clicked tag.

There’s a lot more to it, but this gives a good sense of the basics of the project. You can take a look at the JavaScript portion of the project here and explore some of the additional functionality yourself.

You can see the source code for the whole project here on Github.

Mitul Mistry

Mitul Mistry
I’m Mitul Mistry, a full-stack developer and designer. Contact me here: MitulMistryDev@gmail.com

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