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Five Essentials For Your Ruby Toolbox

These are the five must-have tools and libraries that any professional Ruby developer needs to have in his or her toolbox.

uby, the dynamic, interpreted programming language that adopts a pure object-oriented approach, has been gaining popularity among programmers. While many of Ruby's new converts are primarily developing Web applications, Ruby has a great history (much of it in Japan) as a separate language in its own right. Only recently are developers in the West beginning to understand the significant advantages Ruby has over other scripting languages such as Perl and Python, or even more established enterprise-level languages such as Java.

If you are one of those who recently boarded the Ruby bandwagon, you may not be sure which of the many available Ruby tools and libraries are most helpful to your development. This article looks at five essential tools and libraries that Ruby developers should have in their arsenal to be able to get the most out of the language.

1. RubyGems
In general, RubyGems provides a standard way to publish, distribute, and install Ruby libraries. It allows library developers to package their products so that installation becomes a one-line process. The resulting packages are simply called "gems." Likewise, RubyGems makes it easy for developers to get up and running with a whole swath of libraries quickly.

Like many packaging and installation systems for other languages (and even operating systems), RubyGems will detect dependencies and install them before installing the desired library, making it a no-brainer process to get a certain library running.

RubyGems currently isn't a standard part of the Ruby installation, but it likely will be in the future. For now, you have to download it separately, but the process is extremely simple. You need only open an archive and run a single Ruby file inside.

Beyond basic installation of most third-party Ruby libraries, RubyGems also makes managing the libraries installed on your computer simple. It provides a basic command line interface for uninstalling and upgrading libraries. You can even use this interface to install multiple versions of the same library on a single machine, enabling you then to address these separately (specifically by version, if necessary) by applications. This makes RubyGems even more powerful than, say, the popular CPAN system for Perl.

The primary reference and documentation site for RubyGems is rubygems.org.

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