Spree is a full featured e-commerce platform written for the Ruby on Rails framework. It is designed to make programming commerce applications easier by making several assumptions about what most developers needs to get started. Spree is a production ready store that can be used “out of the box”, but more importantly, it is also a developer tool that can be used as a solid foundation for a more sophisticated application than what is generally possible with traditional open source offerings.
Spree is 100% open source. It is licensed under the very permissive New BSD License. You are free to use the software as you see fit, at no charge. Perhaps more important than the cost, Spree is a true open source community. Spree has hundreds of contributors who have used and improved it while building their own e-commerce solutions.
The goal of the project is to build a complete open source commerce solution for Ruby on Rails. At the start of this project, the Rails commerce space was immature and lacking serious solutions for developers with complex business needs. In the past, Rails has suffered from “small project mentality.” Most open source projects in Rails are maintained by a single individual and tend to be limited in scope. Spree seeks to create a large and healthy open source community that developers of other languages have come to expect.
The founder of Spree was motivated to start the project after failing to find an existing community in the Rails space dedicated to this vision. In addition, he was motivated by unsuccessful efforts to use other open source solutions in other programming languages, including (but not limited to) the Magento and OSCommerce platforms. These solutions were deemed to be unsatisfactory when challenged with even the simplest practical cases of use.
David Heinemeier Hansson (the creator of Rails) is well known for saying that Rails is “opinionated software.” Spree continues this fine tradition of adopting a few strong (possibly controversial) opinions which drive its development.
No solution can possibly solve everyone’s needs perfectly. There are simply too many ways in which people do business for us to tailor to each individual need. Rather than come up short (like so many projects before it did), Spree’s approach is to simply accept this and not even try. Instead Spree tries to focus on solving 90% of the bulk that most commerce projects face. The remaining 10% will need to be addressed by the end developer familiar with the client’s exact business requirements.
Rails developers are the target audience for this application - not business owners. No serious company would ever try to run an online store by just paying some fool on Craig’s List to install OSCommerce for them. Serious businesses have complicated needs that require paying one or more software professionals to solve them. Spree seeks to be the platform that developers use as the foundation for their project rather than having to start from scratch or settle for less with other software.
Most business owners will not be satisfied with the generic templates offered by other platforms. Why should they? They want their website to look just like the other professional sites they see on the web. Most businesses have very specific shipping and taxation rules as well. Spree needs to be flexible enough to accommodate most situations. Sensible defaults should be provided with an eye towards allowing further customization.
This is perhaps the most important principle behind the design philosophy. We need to stay focused on core functionality (the 90% that everybody needs.) For this reason it is not appropriate for Spree to attempt to become a Content Management System (CMS). There are already some pretty good Rails based CMS projects out there such as Radiant. CMS is definitely important but it is a big enough task to warrant its own project. Spree will definitely be looking at ways to integrate with existing CMS platforms, we just won’t be attempting to reinvent the CMS concept.
This guide is designed for beginners who want to get started with a Spree application from scratch. It assumes a basic working knowledge of Ruby on Rails. To get the most out of this guide, you need to have some prerequisites installed:
- The Ruby language
- The RubyGems packaging system
- The Ruby on Rails gem
- A working installation of SQLite (preferred), MySQL, or PostgreSQL
The SQLite database system is the default for development, since it is relatively easy to set up compared to MySQL or PostgreSQL. For a production system, we would recommend MySQL or PostgreSQL. Once you’ve decided, You might consider using this in development as well, to reduce risk of database specific bugs.
It is highly recommended that you familiarize yourself with Ruby on Rails before diving into Spree. You will find it much easier to follow what’s going on with a Spree application if you understand basic Ruby syntax.
There are many excellent online resources for learning Ruby on Rails, including:
There are also some good free resources on the internet for learning Ruby, including:
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