So far, it\’s RoR

Ruby on Rails, PostgreSQL, SVN, etc….

Basics of layouts and nested layouts in Rails

Posted by Chirag Patel on August 2, 2007

Layout basics

Here’s Duane Johnson’s concise explanation of how layouts generally work in Rails. To summarize this blog article, layouts occur at 2 levels (applciation-wide or controller-wide) by default:

  • The entire Rails application (all views of all controllers) will use this layout:


  • All views within a single controller will use this layout. For example, the layout for weclome_controller.rb will use this layout. Notice, the ‘_controller’ is left off for the layout:


  • Use this code if you want to use a different layout than one of the two default layouts described above. This code will go in the action (index, in this case) corresponding to the view (index.rhtml)

def index

render :layout => ‘alternative_layout’

When using Rails layouts, the final page is rendered by using <%= yield %> in the layout. With <%= yield %>, the view is placed inside the layout during runtime. For example, the application-wide layout application.rhtml could contain the following:

<title>Layout Example</title>
    <%= yield %>

The view (e.g. index.rhtml) for weclome_controller.rb could look something like this:

<b> Hello World </b>

This would render the following final .html page when you enter http://localhost:3000/welcome in your browser:

<title>Layout Example</title>
    <b> Hello World </b>

Nested Layouts

To create nested layouts (master layout > sublayout > view), I found the following 2 options

  1. Using partials and qualifying methods as described in Matt McCray’s blog. Matt’s got an example Rails app that you can download and try. Also here’s a more visual layout of the code that he explains:
    • Matt McCray’s Nested Layouts
  2. Using the nested-layout plugin

I prefer the first method because its pretty simple and uses inherit Rails methods instead of a plugin that could end up being more maintenance and possibly inflexible later on.

Last, here’s a really good write-up for web designers transitioning to Rails (includes basics about MVC, rhtml, ERB, etc)


5 Responses to “Basics of layouts and nested layouts in Rails”

  1. Asyraf said

    Hi Chirag,

    Thanks for the explanation on Rails layouts! It really helped me manage my layouts!

    For the nested layouts, instead of defining a method in controllers to return the controller names, I used a built-in controller method called controller_name to refer to each controller’s partial.

    I explained this further in my blog: under “Nested layouts in Rails”

  2. […] layouts, Matt McCray’s idea of using yield in sub-templates (a comparation of these two is here), and finally there is Cells, which seems too be much closer to the idea of “mapping” […]

  3. […] to build some rudimentary headers and footers into your site using rails layouts. It’s a full app now, even though it’s only for prototyping. You can now add some more […]

  4. Jason said

    Looks like an old post but is very much appreciated by me. I knew there had to be a better way to do this than with a plugin. I just could not find a simple way as I’m still fairly new to RoR. Thanks much Chirag

  5. xv15 said

    Thank you!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: