Ruby vs Ruby on Rails, what’s the difference?

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Developers and business owners often refer to Ruby as a hidden gem of software development. The language doesn’t make mainstream headlines as often as Python, JavaScript, Java, or even PHP. However, developers and testers who know how to work with Ruby and Ruby on Rails agree that they are hugely underrated. 

But even though Ruby isn’t mainstream, still, it belongs to Tier 1 development languages and was ranked 8th most popular language by RedMonk. Hulu, Airbnb, and GitHub use Ruby on Rails for their web platforms. Our team uses both for the majority of our desktop and web projects – so naturally, we can’t introduce you to Ruby vs Ruby on Rails. 

What’s Ruby?

Ruby is a scripted language, which means, it communicates with other programming languages. It’s written in C and available Open Source and can be run on Mac, Windows, Linux, Unix, and other platforms. Because of its ability to integrate with other languages, Ruby is a universal choice for complex web projects: developers can make the entire project in Ruby or connect it to other languages. 

Efficient syntax

Ruby is efficient: a Ruby and Ruby on rails developer need less code to execute the same functionality, compared to other languages (here, a Japanese developer built a commercial product with 579 lines of code). With Ruby, a well-organized language where everything has an object and a class, it’s entirely possible. Plus, Ruby uses a lot more English words than little-known terms – see for yourself. 

Ruby is a small and efficient language that nevertheless allows executing complex functionality. Anytime, it can be connected to JS, Python, Java, and others – this is handy for complex platforms. 

Block-based code

When you write code for a particular process of the application, you don’t have to redefine action parameters and associated data every time the process is executed. You can enter the information once and put it in the block. Once the code is marked as a block, you can attach this block to many processes simultaneously. No need to retype everything. 

The benefit is clear: a developer doesn’t have to re-enter the entire parameter, just the name of the block. Interestingly, these block abstractions were quickly appreciated by other language teams: now Ruby-like blocks are introduced to Swift and JavaScript. 

Full code:

def show_discounts(prices)
  index = 0
  while index < prices.length
    amount_off = prices[index] / 3
    puts "Your discount: $#{amount_off}"
    index += 1

Abstracted code:

def calculate_tax(income)
  tax_rate = 0.2
  yield income * tax_rate

The last version of the code is much shorter, easier to maintain, and faster to run. Honestly, blocks should be introduced to more languages. 

Easy to write and navigate

Ruby allows using both operators unless and if – you can switch them depending on the context of the feature. The language allows using symbols like ? and ! – the question mark indicates true/false values and the exclamation mark attracts attention to irreversible actions, like if you want to delete a data entry or object. 

On top of that, Ruby’s methods support alias. You don’t have to duplicate the entire characteristics of the method, just mention its code name. And yeah, you don’t have to include brackets to run a method: 

Possible: write"/home/h3rald/test.txt") 
Also possible: "/home/h3rald/test.txt"

Ruby on Rails

Ruby on Rails is a web development framework that’s based on Ruby. Developers who know how to use Ruby, quickly pick up the Ruby on Rails framework – the syntax and code organization principles are almost identical. You can use Ruby on Rails Windows, iOS, Android and Linux. Ruby on Rails is used by many known sites, including GitHub and Twitter.

Ruby on Rails code efficiency

If you want to duplicate and reverse elements in Java web application, here’s how much code you’ll need.

import java.util.*;
import static java.util.Collections.reverseOrder;
import static;
public class MyClass {
    public static void main(String args[]) {
        List<Integer> list = Stream.of(A, B, C)
          .map(val -> val + B)

A Ruby on Rails developer can execute the same functionality with two lines of code: here’s a Ruby on Rails model.  

array =,2) { |x| x + 2 

In long-run, saving so much space in the code file improves code readability, simplifies maintenance, and of course, shortens the development time. Ruby on Rails developers can focus on the logic of the product instead of getting immersed in technicalities. 

Simple database management

The framework automatically records data migrations on the Ruby on Rails server and gathers data from all connected devices with a single command:

$ bundle rake db: setup

In recent Ruby on Rails versions, you don’t need an additional database client for data management.  

This single Ruby on Rails command is responsible for performing three key features:

  • Creating a migration database, if you don’t have one;
  • Starting and controlling the migration;
  • Protecting the original data from a seed file during its transfer between Ruby on Rails servers. 

You don’t need to write attributes and parameters for each data migration: the framework automatically defines these characteristics.

Differences between Ruby and Ruby on Rails

Ruby and Ruby on Rails are different instruments that work for the same goal: providing tools for simple, efficient, and lightweight desktop and web development. Ruby on Rails Javascript, PHP, and Python influences still introduce some changes to the syntax.

CharacteristicsRubyRuby on Rails
NatureA language A framework
OriginsBased on C programming language. Ruby on Rails’ language of operation isRuby
PurposeDesktop and web developmentWeb development
SupportRuby works with Windows, iOS, Linux, Android, UnixYou can access Ruby on Rails Windows, Android, iOS, Linux, and other versions
SimilaritiesRuby’s functionality was inspired by Smalltalk and PerlRuby on the Rails was inspired by Python’s web development framework, Django, as well as PHP’s Laravel
Design principlesRuby prioritizes interface design: the end desktop and web application is responsive, intuitive, easy to adapt and maintain. This principle is used by RoR, too.Ruby on Rails is based on principles Conversion over Configuration (the framework automatically defines the object’s attributes with no manual specification) and Don’t Repeat Yourself (RoR accomplishes more with fewer lines of code). 
Syntax similaritiesRuby’s structure can be compared to Python and Perl: these languages are also object-oriented, scripted, and dynamicRuby on the Rails resembles Elixir’s Phoenix: both are simple, highly stable, and scalable. 
Integration with other languages and toolsRuby is often used for desktop development together with C++ and JavaRuby on the Rails is combined with JavaScript, HTML, CSS, XML. 

Ruby is a general-purpose language: you can use it for web and desktop development. Ruby on Rails code’s strongest suit is undoubtedly in database-driven development, but it works for all kinds of projects: from small software-as-a-service to a large social media network, both independently or in Ruby on Rails Javascript, Ruby On Rails Python, or other combinations. 

Ruby on Rails experience at Syndicode

The Syndicode’s team loves building Ruby and Ruby on Rails applications. We use the language and framework to build software-as-a-service, web platforms, CRMs, social media sites, and management tools. We’ve brought Ruby-powered projects to marketing, logistics, e-commerce, fintech, healthcare, real estate, and other industries. 

With the Ruby on Rails framework, we can quickly launch MVPs and add new functionality, maintain the codebase over the years, and save time and money for a given project. It’s not the only tech stack that we use – we have expert Node.js, PHP, and React.js developers – but it’s our favorite one.

If you’d like to get Ruby on Rails and Ruby experts onboard of your project, get in touch with our team. We’ll take a look at your idea and offer the best tech stack for your vision. 

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