A super quick Ruby primer for Python and PHP programmers

Recently, I’ve been looking at learning Ruby, but couldn’t find a tutorial that didn’t take me for a complete idiot. As you might expect, Ruby has a pretty standard way of adding two and two, setting variables and whatnot.

Instead of wasting your time with the obvious stuff, let me walk you through Ruby like a grown up.

The interactive shell

To open an interactive shell, type irb in your terminal. This is equivalent to python or php -a.

A simple Ruby class

Here’s a simple, well-commented Ruby class:

In Ruby, docs are above their block and not under them as in
Python. RDoc is the standard documentation format.

By the way, this is a block comment. It starts with =begin
and ends with =end. Notice how =end must be on its own line.
class Husky < Dog  # A husky is a dog. Also: single inheritance
  # initialize() is the ruby constructor
  def initialize(name = 'Fido')
      @name = name

  # no parameters? no parenthesis.
  # this returns nil, the Ruby equivalent of null/None
  def say_name
    # Quotes work as in PHP:
    # * single-quoted strings are returned as-is
    # * double-quoted strings are interpolated
    puts 'Hello!'
    puts "My name is #{@name}"
    # @name refers to the instance variable name.
    # it's equivalent to Python's self or PHP's this

  # you don't need to use 'return' in Ruby. just use the variable
  def name_tag
    name_tag = "%s, Dog, %d years old" % [
    ] # 'Steve, Dog, 4 years old'

    name_tag  # Returns name_tag

  # this is a static method
  # call it with Husky.bark, not mydog.bark
  def Husky.bark
    puts 'Woof!' # puts works like print in Python
    print 'I am' # print works like echo
    print 'a dog' # it doesn't add a line break at the end

You can then use your class like this:

steve = Husky.new('Steve') # Steve the Husky
steve.say_name() # Parenthesis are optional


Operators in Ruby are pretty standard. The only oddity is the power operator: 3**2 is equivalent to 3^2 in many languages. We use and and or for comparison, not && and ||.


Ruby lists are pretty simple:

list = ['one', 'two', 3, 'four']
list[0]  # 'one'
list.length  # 4
list[-1]  # 'four'

Associative arrays (we call them hashes) work a bit like in PHP:

billy = {
  'first_name' => 'Billy',
  'last_name' => 'Kidd',
  'age' => 12,
billy['age']  # 12

You can iterate over them in a syntax you might be familiar with:

for element in my_list

for key, value in my_hash

If, while and others

Ruby uses if, elsif and else. There is no need to put the conditions between parenthesis, just like in Python. Each block is closed by end.

Other details

By convention, Ruby uses two spaces for indentation.

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