User model

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In this chapter, we are going to create some users to whom we can assign our tasks. Here is a list of things we need in this feature:

  • We need a new entity called "User". Every user must have a valid display name that doesn't exceed 35 characters.

  • We won't be building UI for creating or editing user details. We can deal with that later. For now, we can add a few users using Rails console.

Technical design

Let us break down the requirement into smaller sub-tasks and explain our way of approach in a bit more technical way:

  • We need to create a new model User. We need a single column, name. Columns like created_at and updated_at are by default part of every single table.

  • We will be validating the field name for presence and maximum length.

  • We will add a new column in our tasks table called assigned_user_id to reference the user to whom this task is assigned.

Creating migration

Let's generate a migration so that we have a table named users:

1bundle exec rails generate migration CreateUser

It will create the following file:

1Running via Spring preloader in process 30090
2      invoke  active_record
3      create    db/migrate/20190209145206_create_user.rb

The generated migration file should look like this:

1class CreateUser < ActiveRecord::Migration[7.0]
2  def change
3    create_table :users do |t|
4    end
5  end

Let's add name field with type string into the migration file:

1class CreateUser < ActiveRecord::Migration[7.0]
2  def change
3    create_table :users do |t|
4      t.string :name, null: false
5      t.timestamps
6    end
7  end

Execute migration files:

1bundle exec rails db:migrate

Adding a User model

Let's create a User model:

1touch app/models/user.rb

As discussed earlier, we will be validating name for presence and maximum length. Let us first declare a constant for the maximum length in our User model and use that constant in the length validation.

Note that, the value for maximum length in this case is in accordance with the W3C standards for maximum length of a name. As a matter of fact, all values for maximum lengths used in the model validations in this book are in line with the standards laid down by W3C.

Update the following lines within the user.rb file:

1class User < ApplicationRecord
4  validates :name, presence: true, length: { maximum: MAX_NAME_LENGTH }

Adding users

We need to have some users in our database to assign them tasks.

To create these users, launch Rails console:

1bundle exec rails console

Now let's create two users:

1User.create!(name: 'Oliver Smith')
2User.create!(name: 'Sam Smith')

Connecting User and Task

Now we have created the User model but there is no relationship between User and Task models as of now.

To identify to whom a task is assigned we need to create a new column in the tasks table. We will call this column assigned_user_id since it will store user id of the person to whom the task is assigned.

Let's create a migration to add column assigned_user_id to the tasks table:

1bundle exec rails generate migration AddAssignedUserIdToTasks assigned_user_id:integer

Change the content of the migration script to this:

1class AddAssignedUserIdToTasks < ActiveRecord::Migration[7.0]
2  def change
3    add_column :tasks, :assigned_user_id, :integer
4  end

The code for the change method will be auto-populated when we run the above command. Reason being, the name of our migration is AddAssignedUserIdToTask, which is of the form add_column_name_to_table_name column_name:type.

Rails will infer the column name and table name from the migration name itself and generate the code for that, even respecting that types passed in.

Cool right? That's one among the many Rails magic that you will be seeing throughout this book!

Now, we'll add a foreign key constraint to the tasks table. This will let the database know that the assigned_user_id column is related to the id column of the users table.

Adding a foreign key constraint will also ensure that an error is raised when assigned_user_id is updated with a value that is not present in the id column of the users table. This makes the application fail-fast against corrupted relations between records.

Run this command to generate migration script:

1bundle exec rails g migration AddForeignKeyToTask

Add following line to migrated file:

1class AddForeignKeyToTask < ActiveRecord::Migration[7.0]
2  def change
3    add_foreign_key :tasks, :users, column: :assigned_user_id
4  end

The syntax for add_foreign_key is as following.

add_foreign_key(from_table, to_table, options = {}) where from_table is the table with the key column, to_table contains the referenced primary key. The third parameter is a hash of options. We can use this field to supply additional configurations to the constraint definition.

In this case, we can supply the name of the referencing column (specifically, user_id).

Execute migration files:

1bundle exec rails db:migrate

In the next chapter we will learn about associations and add appropriate associations in User and task model to establish a relationship between them.

Now let's commit these changes:

1git add -A
2git commit -m "Added a user model"