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WDI SM intro to active record

ActiveRecord Methods and Finders


  • Query a model using AR methods
  • Instantiate and create a new instance of a model
  • Edit a model's attributes
  • Destroy a model


  • Write a model that inherits from ActiveRecord
  • Instantiate a new instance of a class
  • Describe the structure of SQL tables, rows and columns

Intro (15 mins)

So now that you've looked at what SQL can do, and you've created Ruby classes from scratch, and even models that combine the two using ActiveRecord – it's time to see all the convenience and power that this library gives you. Today we're CRUDing.

You'll notice you have some starter code waiting for you. As much as we love torturing you by making you build everything from scratch yourself, we're giving you a starter app today that's pretty similar to what you learned in the last module, so you can focus on these concepts.

If you struggled with models and migrations or feel like what we have here isn't something you can do on your own just yet, that's okay – you just need to practice tonight.

Our example app today is for a pizza shop – Luigi's Pizza Bazaar. We'll be making pizza. With code. Take 5 minutes and familiarize yourself with what you have in the starter folder.

Don't forget to bundle install, rake db:create, and rake db:migrate

Investigate Starter Code (5 mins)

5 minute investigatory break. Play some pizza music.

Note: Today we're using tux, which gives us an interactive shell just like IRB, but customized to include our Sinatra application. Certainly not the only kid on the block, but it'll prove useful to mess around with our code in an IRB-like setting.

Create - Codealong (10 mins)

One of the top four coolest parts of CRUD, create is when we use our model like a blueprint to make instances of the model. This is where we start filling up our database with rows of new records. Exciting stuff, so let's do this.

Let's jump cd into our pizza app and jump into our tux shell. Now, we've made new instances before. Who remembers?

p1 =
#<Pizza id: nil, name: nil, sauce: nil, cheese: nil, mushrooms: nil, extra_toppings: nil, created_at: nil, updated_at: nil>

That's cool, but not much good when it's all empty. Let's overwrite p1 with a pizza that has more substance.

p1 = Pizza.create(name: "Art Lover", sauce: "red sauce", cheese: true, mushrooms: false, extra_toppings: "artichokes, chopped garlic")

DID YOU SEE THAT? ActiveRecord just took our ruby method (.create) and converted it to SQL for us! It saved it to our table as a new row, with all those attributes – all we had to do was pass it a hash.

Just so you know, ActiveRecord also gives us setter methods for each of our attributes, so we could just as easily say p1.cheese = false. Then we'd just have to save it wit

Create - Independent Practice (5 minutes)

Take five minutes to create at least three more pizzas. Make them with different options – try passing in just some of our attributes, trying using setter methods and .save. Get a handful of records in your database, we'll use them in the next section.

Read - Codealong (15 minutes)

Sweet, now that we have some pizzas in our database, how do we find them again?

Well, let's start easy:


While technically it comes back as an "ActiveRecord Relation", it's a thin layer on top of an array, and so you could easily loop through all your pizzas and do something with each one.

What else falls under "read"?

How about finding one particular pizza? We hinted earlier this week at this, but ActiveRecord automatically gives each row an 'id' column and auto-increments ids for us. Which means that a) you should never define an id for a record, let the library do it, and b) every record has it's own unique id.

So what if we want to find Pizza #3?


Easy as that. There are a few other easy methods you might want to know exist –


The Real Querying - Where

Now, before we can move on to the UD in CRUD, there's a big READ we need to learn about: querying. Querying, by definition, is just a way to ask questions of our database.

Like, "Find me any pizzas where there's no cheese":

Pizza.where(cheese: false)

Or, "Find me any pizzas where there's cheese and the sauce is called 'marinara'":

Pizza.where(cheese:false, sauce: 'marinara')

Both of those get you back an array, because a where query is asking for any records it finds. You could combine this with .first, .last, a .each loop, or whatever you need.

The Real Querying - Find

While where returns you an array, find returns you one item – or a 'not found' error.

# ActiveRecord::RecordNotFound: Couldn't find Pizza with 'id'=794

Ruby's errors are actually super helpful if you read them. But let's see some that work. Obviously we just learned:


But how about something more interesting:

Pizza.find_by(cheese: true)

Now, this is interesting – it does return one, and not an array. It returns the first that it finds. If we try this, we'll see there's more than one:

Pizza.where(cheese: true).count # => 3

So be mindful of when you're using where and when you're using find. Both are super useful, you just have to know the difference.

Read - Independent Practice (5 minutes)

Take five minutes again just to practice finding and querying the pizzas you've created. Try different queries, querying multiple fields, finding based on different attributes and ids. Just see what happens for a couple minutes.

Update - Codealong (10 minutes)

Now, the wonderful act of updating a record we know exists. Let's start by grabbing one and throwing it in a variable.

p = Pizza.last

Updating is easy, and we can do it in two ways, similar to our new/create earlier. The verbose way: = "The Anchove Explosion"
p.extra_toppings = "Anchovies, anchovies, anchovies"

Or, we could wrap it up in a convenient single command, passing in a hash of what we want to change:

p.update_attributes(name: "The Anchovy Explosion", extra_toppings: "Anchovies, anchovies, anchovies")

Both will do the trick, and there's no significant difference between them.

Update - Independent Practice (5 minutes)

Now, take five minutes to practice updating on your own. Use both methods, see which you prefer. Try changing multiple attributes and one attribute.

Destroy - Codealong (10 minutes)

Finally, the most devastating operation, destroying. Hopefully this one's not too surprising, because there's not much else you can do besides get rid of something:


That'll get rid of it from our database, forever.

Now, you might be tempted to call this 'delete' instead of 'destroy' – in ActiveRecord, that distinction matters. We aren't going to get too deep into it, you're welcome to research it on your own, but the difference is this:

  • Destroy, the one you will want 99.99% of the time, gets rid of a record, and calls callbacks
  • Delete, which you'll probably not need to use, gets rid of a record, and doesn't call callbacks

Similar to the concept of JavaScript's callbacks, ActiveRecord lets us run methods if we want to when certain events happen. That's a little too deep for right now, but with a little research, you can find out plenty about it.

If you're having trouble grasping the difference, just remember: use '.destroy'.

Conclusion (5 mins)

  • What are two ways to create a new instance of a model? Can you imagine when one might be more convenient than the other?
  • What are the two ways you can update a model? Can you imagine when one might be more convenient than the other?
  • What's the difference between what you get back when querying with where and find?
  • How do you find a certain instance of a model?
  • How do you delete a model from the database?
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