Understanding Active Record Associations

In Ruby on Rails, associating models is quite trivial but does come with some conventions you will need to be familiar with as you build progressive web apps with the framework. This post is my attempt to get you to understand Active Record Associations within the Ruby on Rails framework.

Consider this walk-through a quick overview of the associations you might make use of in a rails application. These associations are a convenient way to get data to relate all the way down to the database layer. Every relationship happens within the model layer of the rails app. You can extend associations even further if need be depending on your own apps needs.

belongs_to

# belongs_to

# app/models/book.rb
class Book < ApplicationRecord
  belongs_to :author

  # must be singular
  # Sets up a 1:1 connection with another model - Author in this case
  # Books associated to author via `author_id` on books table
end

has_many

# has_many

# app/models/author.rb
class Author < ApplicationRecord
  has_many :books

  # naming is plural
  # indicates a one-to-many association
  # an author can have many books in this example
  # books associated via `author_id`
end

has_one

# has_one

class Supplier < ApplicationRecord
  has_one :account

  # only contains one instance of another model
  # Supplier will only ever have a single account in this example
  # Account associate via `supplier_id`
end

has_many through

# has_many :through

# sets up a many-to-many association using another model

# app/models/physician.rb
class Physician < ApplicationRecord
  has_many :appointments
  has_many :patients, through: :appointments
end


# app/models/appoinment.rb
# the appointments table would have both a `physician_id` and `patient_id` column
class Appointment < ApplicationRecord
  belongs_to :physician
  belongs_to :patient
end


# app/models/patient.rb
class Patient < ApplicationRecord
  has_many :appointments
  has_many :physicians, through: :appointments
end

has_one through

# has one through

# sets up a one-to-one connection with another model but can proceed through a third model

# app/models/supplier.rb

class Supplier < ApplicationRecord
  has_one :account
  has_one :account_history, through: :account
end

# app/models/account.rb

# suppliers reference `supplier_id`
class Account < ApplicationRecord
  belongs_to :supplier
  has_one :account_history
end

# app/models/account_history.rb

# account_histores referenced by `account_id`
class AccountHistory < ApplicationRecord
  belongs_to :account
end

Has and belongs to many

# Has and Belongs to many (has_and_belongs_to_many - HABTM)

# A direct many-to-many connection with another model without a third intervening model. You'll need to create a simple join table to use this type of association. It's limiting in terms of advanced querying so use with caution.

# The naming convention of the join table would take the name of both models and become plural so

# assemblies_parts is the new table name which contains an `assembly_id` and `part_id` only.

# app/models/assembly.rb
class Assembly < ApplicationRecord
  has_and_belongs_to_many :parts
end

# app/models/part.rb
class Part < ApplicationRecord
  has_and_belongs_to_many :assemblies
end

Polymorphic

# polymorphic
# With polymorphic associations, a model can belong to more than one other model, on a single association.

# app/models/picture.rb
# pictures table has both `imageable_id`, and `imageable_type`
class Picture < ApplicationRecord
  belongs_to :imageable, polymorphic: true
end

# app/models/employee.rb
class Employee < ApplicationRecord
  has_many :pictures, as: :imageable
end

# app/models/product.rb
class Product < ApplicationRecord
  has_many :pictures, as: :imageable
end

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