Creating Gems with Mr Bones

Ruby users are really lucky to have Rubygems. Outside of Perl’s CPAN, I can’t think of an easier distribution system for language-specific libraries. Creating gems for distribution, though, takes a little more knowledge. Creating them by hand is workable, but quickly becomes a chore.

Luckily, there are several tools to help you build your own gems. hoe and newgem are the best-known, and have a lot of good qualities. However, hoe adds itself as a dependency to your gem, and newgem has become a very large tool, one that I find unwieldy when I want to create and deploy a gem quickly.

My favorite tool is Mr Bones by Tim Pease. It’s lightweight, featureful, and does not add dependencies to your project. To create a project with it, you just run bones <my_project_name> on the command line, and a skeleton is built for you, complete with a lib directory for your code, a bin directory for your tools, and a test directory. The configuration is in a Rakefile, and it’s clear and concise. Here’s the configuration for my recent project, a Ruby client for the FriendFeed API:

load 'tasks/setup.rb' ensure_in_path 'lib' require 'friend-feed' task :default => 'test' PROJ.name = 'friend-feed' PROJ.authors = 'Clinton R. Nixon' PROJ.email = 'crnixon@gmail.com' PROJ.url = 'friend-feed.rubyforge.org' PROJ.rubyforge_name = 'friend-feed' PROJ.dependencies = ['json'] PROJ.version = FriendFeed::VERSION PROJ.exclude = %w(.git pkg) 

Mr Bones has the standard set of features you’d expect: you can use it to package up gems and tarfiles of your library, as well as release it on RubyForge and deploy your documentation there. Its killer feature, though, is its ability to freeze its skeleton in your home directory. When you run bones --freeze, a directory named .mrbones is copied into your home directory. You can edit the files in there to make a skeleton for your gems that works the way you work, and from then on, when you run bones to create a new gem, it will use your personal gem skeleton. You can unfreeze Mr Bones by running bones --unfreeze and your skeleton will be backed up, and the default skeleton will be used again.

For a tool to create RubyGems that focuses on usability, I highly recommend Mr Bones. If you know of another tool we should check out, let us know in the comments!

Clinton R. Dreisbach

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