What do you do when a simple API is needed as soon as possible? Maybe your new awesome iOS-application is ready for alpha-test, but due to the lack of API it has only harcoded data? Perhaps you have just written an amazing front-end framework and need the endpoints to investigate it properly? How do we make the back-end strong and stable in such cases?

For API we usually use rails-base-api. Without preparation it includes some of useful gems such as rails-api, active_model_serializers and many convinient tools for testing. Also it truncates unused functionality for rails since you don’t need the entire middleware stack. For instance, the template generation. Thus, the whole application is a bit more lightweight and faster. So you don’t have to figure out which configuration you should use to create your API. Everything you need to do is type bin/setup and start bringing to bear your api-endpoints. Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it?

However, often API endpoints are not enough for live projects.

Obviously, a live application has to provide an interface to work with information from the database. To save time I’ll be looking at one of the popular options available - ActiveAdmin. ActiveAdmin is a gem that gives you a very good-looking backend panel for your application.

Unfortunately, we are not gonna be able to simply add the gem "activeadmin" to our Gemfile, because rails-base-api doesn’t have some crucial parts for serve HTML resources. The set of certain actions needs to be accomplished to connect gem activeadmin. Let me share with you some of them that work. The method described below suits for versions of ruby "2.2.2" and rails "4.2.3". I hope you find it useful.

Firstly, update your Gemfile by adding two gems:

gem "activeadmin", github: "activeadmin"
gem "sass-rails"

Then install gems and initialize active_admin:

rails g active_admin:install

Now let’s rename application_controller.rb to base_api_controller.rb. Now it’s basis for api-controllers. ApplicationController shoud be used for ActiveAdmin main controller and, consequently, must be inherited from ActionController::Base instead of ActionController::API:

class ApplicationController < ActionController::Base

To create first admin_user:

rake db:migrate
rake db:seed

We need to use a number of other middlewares that are not built in rails-api by default. For that purposes add these lines to application.rb:

# to support the flash mechanism in ActionController.
config.middleware.use ActionDispatch::Flash
# add encrypted cookies. It requires for the authentication with devise.
config.middleware.use ActionDispatch::Cookies
config.middleware.use ActionDispatch::Session::CookieStore

Voila! It’s ready to roll. From this point be free to use activeadmin documentation for the interface customization.

Now we are happy owners of a a solid administrative interface, ready to begin entering information. No need to hook up with full rails stack. As a bonus we get a few hours saved by not pouring additional effort into creating a similar UI. Enjoy!