While the Flatiron School’s Learn Verified program is amazing, a recent freelance project exposed me to some things that I had not seen before in the wild.  Here they are, and as Bob Saget used to say, “in random order”.

HAML
HAML is just like ERB in that it’s just a ruby markup language that pre-calculates all your values/variables in your template to yield an HTTP-ready HTML page.  HAML takes some getting used to, and I think it gives you a smidge less control than ERB, but DAMN if it doesn’t make the most readable templates I’ve ever seen.

Sortable
A beautiful vanilla-javascript library for creating drag-and-drop elements.  For this project, I had to figure out how to make it work with <table> elements and all associated children.  It was a bit tricky, and I would have used <div>s if I had started with a blank slate, but it worked out.

WebPack
This packs all your files into single, concatenated versions of the same type.  Rails usually does something similar, but after you spend more than 15-20 seconds adding javascript to your app/site, you’ll need something less restrictive.  Webpack bundles things up nicely.  You have to be careful when pushing to things like Heroku to make sure what gets bundled is what’s running, but other than that, I’d say it’s a win.

Foreman
Foreman is pretty much the software version of the construction site foreman.  The author has portals for over half a dozen different languages (Python, Java, Node, GO, et. al).  Foreman makes it easier to start/stop things in development more similar to production.

Pry-Remote
If you use its more popular and simpler ancestor Pry as much as I do, this is a *must-have* to enable the use of breakpoints in a production-esque development environment.

SendGrid
If you’ve ever wondered how “Thanks for signing up!” emails get sent, this one is for you.  There’s even a free plan where your first 12,000 emails are free!  There are many other tools like it, but this is just one.  You can even use it to set up ‘alert’ emails inside conditionals.  Coupled with Whenever, you can do some really useful stuff using emails.

MailCatcher
If you’re going to be sending emails, nobody wants their real inbox flooded with test emails.  MailCatcher is like Pry, but for email.  It sets up a simple SMTP server locally and a “dummy” email address that it sends email to.  You’ll be debugging emails for hours and only have to spend about a minute setting it up.

Sadly, the client had a strict NDA on the contract, so I can’t show off the code OR the finished product.  The changes implemented were a productivity tool for the managers of PurrInc, a  Chicago-based cat-sitting service website.  I am quite proud of how it turned out and would love to show it off if I were allowed.

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