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Devise (authentication) with Rails 4

By Jiazhen Xie on Apr 21, 2014
Devise (authentication) with Rails 4

As a Ruby developer, I always want to improve my skills and keep up the pace of the technical trend. Recently I’ve updated this site to use Ruby 2.0 and Rails 4 (I will write another blog for the upgrade). A couple days ago I started thinking it’s the time to use proper authentication system for this site.


My current authentication system was created from scratch, which I learned from Michael Hartl. It’s nice, help to understand the system as for the beginner (alternatively Zane’s RoR resources). However, it’s not nice for experienced rubyist, when we require agile development.

After a few researches from Ruby Toolbox, I decided to use devise as it’s the famous authentication system.


Here is the gem devise. I’m not gonna to repeat the Getting started section in their README, below will focus on my own experiences.


  • Installing the gem is easy, just add gem 'devise' to Gemfile.
  • Then user rails generator to initialise devise modules. Run rails generate devise:install
  • According to the guide information, would need to add config.action_mailer.default_url_options = { host: 'localhost', port: 3000 } to the config/environments/development.rb

Rebuild the database

As I said before, we already have user model, users controller and sessions controller. To avoid conflict, I destroyed them before moving on. So I did

rails destroy model user
rails destroy controller users
rails destroy controller sessions

The codes should be clean now. To rebuild the database do

rake db:drop
rake db:create
rake db:migrate

Make sure have the backup of database

Create devise

OK, good to setup devise. Do rails generate devise user. Then do rake db:migrate. Next.. Yes, we have devise setup! Visit localhost:3000/users/sign_up and should be able to create users.

if you have warning like can't mass-assign protected attributes, it’s strong parameters error. In my case, I need to remove the protected_attributes gem!

Customise devise

We now have devise for our authentication. But the routes do not look nice. As the famous gem, devise provides all the custom configurations. We edit the config/routes.rb, replace devise_for :users by

devise_for :users, path: '', 
     path_names: { sign_in: "signin", sign_out: "signout", sign_up: "signup" }, 
     only: :sessions

We now can use localhost:3000/signin for logging in.

The views do not look good. Therefore to customise it, we do rails g devise:views users -v sessions. Just for login. Don’t forget the edit config.scoped_views = true in config/initializers/devise.rb so that it uses the custom views.


After finishing these, please update the BDD tests. As a ruby developer, we always want to have tests cover the features.


Devise is strong and easy to use gem, allowing developer to implement the authentication system in short time. This is also why I love ruby, rails ;-)

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