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Action Pack Request Parameters

In this eighth part of a series on the Action Pack library for Rails, you will learn how to handle request parameters and how to use the render method. This article is excerpted from chapter six of the book Beginning Rails: From Novice to Professional, written by Jeffery Allan Hardy, Cloves Carneiro Jr. and Hampton Catlin (Apress; ISBN: 1590596862).

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By: Apress Publishing
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April 21, 2011
  1. · Action Pack Request Parameters
  2. · Rendering Responses

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Action Pack Request Parameters
(Page 1 of 2 )

Processing Request Parameters

Request parameters—whether they originate from requests of the GETorPOSTvariety—are accessible via theparamshash. To be specific,paramsis really a method that returns aHashobject so you can access it using hash semantics. Hashes in Ruby aresimilar to arrays, but indexed by arbitrary keys, unlike arrays whichare indexed (and ordered) by number. (If you need a quick review of theHashobject, flip to Appendix A for a Ruby primer.)

The value of any request variable can be retrieved by its symbolized key. So, if there’s a variable calledidin the request parameters, you can access it withparams[:id]. Likewise, both the controller and the action name are also request parameters, stored in theparamshash by the routing component when it picked apart the request. You can get their values by usingparams[:controller]andparams[:action].

Just to drive this concept home, let’s look at a sample URL and display theparamshash that it would populate.


params #=> { :controller => 'users',
:action     => 'index',
:name       => 'arthur',
             :number     => '1037' }

Writing a Create Action

With an understanding of paramsunder your belt, let’s continue developing our controller. Thecreate action is the target of the formsubmission. As you saw in the error message you just triggered, you’llneed to write this action if you expect anything worthwhile to happen.Let’s do that now. Add the method shown in Listing 6-5 to youruserscontroller, just under thenewmethod:

Listing 6-5. Create Action Added to app/controllers/users_controller.rb

def create
@user = User.new(params[:user])
if @user.save
flash[:notice] = 'Thanks for signing up!'
redirect_to :controller => 'events', :action => 'index' 
    render :action => 'new'

Let’s walk through this. First, we initialize a newUser object with whatever attributes come in via theparams hash, storing it the@userinstance variable. Then we try to save it.

If the save is successful, we use a facility that Rails provides called theflashto set a message before redirecting to theindexaction on theevents controller. Theflashis a special kind of storage mechanismprovided by Rails for convenience. It encapsulates the pattern ofwanting to set a message on one action and have that message persist tothe next, only to disappear after that action is rendered. This isuseful for providing user feedback, as we’re doing here to say “Thanksfor signing up.” If you look back to your layout file inapp/views/layouts/application.rhtml, you’ll see where theflashmessage is displayed:

<p style="color: green"><%= flash[:notice] %></p>

Theflashmessage we set will be available to the controller and action we redirect to (theindexaction on theeventscontroller). Just likeparams, theflashisimplemented as a Ruby hash. You store values in it based on a key. Thekey can be anything you like, but here we’re using the symbol:notice, which is a Rails convention. When rendering aflashmessage that contains an error, we usually use the:errorkey.

If the save fails, we render thenewaction again so that any errors can be corrected.

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