Rails got Asset Pipeline and to take full advantage of it, Ruby developers have created gems for almost notable frontend libraries. After all, it’s pretty awesome to be able to live entirely in Ruby world without the need to manually add Javascript, Css files. But not all frontend projects are gemified and even it’s the case, there is no guarantee that those gems will be properly maintained. It’s the reason for me to start using bower in my project.

If you haven’t heard about bower, you must have been living under a rock. It’s now the de facto front-end package manager for the web. Almost (if not all) frontend libraries are now created to be compatible with bower (a bower package). Using bower, you can search, list, install, uninstall, update and manage dependencies for your projects.

To start using bower, you must install nodejs and install bower using npm. Another dependency, but believe me, it’s worth the effort.

$ brew install node
$ npm install -g bower

(If you want to play more with nodejs, I recommend you to try nvm and use it to manage your nodejs installations)

After that, create a .bowerrc file with the following contents at the root of the project folder to change default location for bower’s packages from ./bower_components to ./vendor/bower_components (you can choose another folder if you want):

  "directory": "vendor/assets/bower_components"

Then, use bower init to generate a bower.json for your project. Using this file, You can manage your project information and dependencies:

  "name": "Your App Name",
  "version": "0.0.1",
  "authors": [
    "Your Email"
  "description": "Description",
  "keywords": [
  "license": "MIT",
  "private": true,
  "ignore": [
  "dependencies": {
    "jquery": "*"

Then, you must add the bower’s package folder to Rails’ Asset Pipeline by editing the config/application.rb as following:

class Application < Rails::Application
  # Include Bower components in compiled assets
  config.assets.paths << Rails.root.join('vendor', 'assets', 'bower_components')

Now, bower is already at your command. You can search for packages, add them in dependencies section of bower.json file and bower install in your project’s root folder to install all of them. Alternatively, you can install each package separately as following:

$ bower search pace
Search results:

    pace git://github.com/HubSpot/pace.git
    suit-utils-space git://github.com/suitcss/utils-space.git
$ bower install pace --save # --save will save the dependency to bower.json file, use --save-dev for development dependency

To use bower packages, just add them to your asset manifest files like any other frontend library. For example:

# app/assets/javascripts/application.js
//= require pace/pace
# app/assets/stylesheets/application.css
*= require pace/themes/pace-theme-minimal.css

You can also list your installed bower packages, update or remove them

$ bower list
$ bower update
$ bower remove $package_name

In my personal opinion, bower is really a great tool, it helps manage frontend libraries much more easier. Combine with Rails’ Asset Pipeline, it makes a powerful tool to conquer any kind of frontend related projects.