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Generate Link Previews in Rails with Microlink

stevepolitodesign profile image Steve Polito ・6 min read

In this tutorial I'll show you how to leverage the Microlink API to generate link previews in Ruby on Rails.

demo

Step 1: Application Set Up

  1. rails new rails-microlink-example -d=postgresql --webpacker=stimulus
  2. rails db:create
  3. rails db:migrate

Step 2: Create Link Scaffold

  1. rails g scaffold link url:string
  2. Prevent null values at the database level.
class CreateLinks < ActiveRecord::Migration[6.1]
  def change
    create_table :links do |t|
      t.string :url, null: false

      t.timestamps
    end
  end
end
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  1. rails db:migrate
  2. Add validations.
class Link < ApplicationRecord
    validates :url, presence: true
end
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Step 3. Add meta_data column to links table

  1. rails add_meta_data_to_link meta_data:jsonb
  2. rails db:migrate
  3. Use ActiveRecord::Store to serialize data saved to the meta_data column. We can call these accessors anything we want to, but we'll use the sames names that at returned from the Microlink response
class Link < ApplicationRecord
    store :meta_data, accessors: [ :description, :image, :title  ], coder: JSON
    validates :url, presence: true
end
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We could create a separate column for each accessor, but using ActiveRecord::Store allows for greater flexibly and keeps the database simple.

  1. Update link_params to include values from the meta_data column.
class LinksController < ApplicationController
 ...
 private
    ...
    def link_params
      params.require(:link).permit(:url, :description, :image, :title)
    end
end
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Step 4: Install and configure Microlink

  1. yarn add @microlink/mql
  2. touch app/javascript/controllers/microlink_controller.js
import { Controller } from "stimulus"
import mql from "@microlink/mql"

export default class extends Controller {
}
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If you were you run rails s and view the console, you would see the following error:

Uncaught TypeError

  1. Update babel.config.js by adding sourceType: "unambiguous".
module.exports = function(api) {
  ...  
  return {
    sourceType: "unambiguous",
    presets: [
        ...
    ].filter(Boolean),
    ...
  }
}
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I found this solution be searching for the error and came across these resources:

Step 5: Save API Response to Hidden Fields

  1. Update the markup in app/views/links/_form.html.erb.
<%= form_with(model: link, data: { controller: "microlink" }) do |form| %>
  ...
  <div class="field">
    <%= form.label :url %>
    <%= form.url_field :url, data: { microlink_target: "input", action: "change->microlink#handleChange" } %>
  </div>

  <%= form.hidden_field :description, data: { microlink_target: "descriptionInput" } %>
  <%= form.hidden_field :image, data: { microlink_target: "imageInput" } %>
  <%= form.hidden_field :title, data: { microlink_target: "titleInput" } %>
  ...
<% end %>
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  1. Build handleChange method in app/javascript/controllers/microlink_controller.js.
import { Controller } from "stimulus"
import mql from "@microlink/mql"

export default class extends Controller {
    static targets = [ "input", "descriptionInput", "imageInput", "titleInput" ]

    async handleChange() {
        const { status, data } = await mql(this.inputTarget.value)
        if(status == "success") {
            this.setFormData(data);
        }
    }

    setFormData(data) {
        this.descriptionInputTarget.value   = data?.description ? data?.description : null;
        this.imageInputTarget.value         = data?.image?.url ? data?.image?.url : null;
        this.titleInputTarget.value         = data?.title ? data?.title : null;
    }
}
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Now when a user enters a URL, the hidden fields will be set with the response from the Microlink API.

Hidden fields will be set with the response from the Microlink API

Step 6: Render Link Preview

  1. Create a app/views/links/_preview.html.erb partial.
<div data-microlink-target="output" style="<%= @link.persisted? ? nil : 'display: none;' %>">
    <img src="<%= @link.persisted? ? @link.image : nil %>"/>
    <div>
        <h5><%= @link.persisted? ? @link.title : nil %></h5>
        <p><%= @link.persisted? ? @link.description : nil %></p>
    </div>
</div>
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  1. Add the partial to app/views/links/_form.html.erb.
<%= form_with(model: link, data: { controller: "microlink" }) do |form| %>
  ...
  <%= render "preview" %>  
<% end %>
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  1. Add the partial to app/views/links/show.html.erb.
<p id="notice"><%= notice %></p>

<p>
  <strong>Url:</strong>
  <%= @link.url %>
</p>

<%= link_to @link.url, target: "_blank" do %>
  <%= render "preview" %>
<% end %>

<%= link_to 'Edit', edit_link_path(@link) %> |
<%= link_to 'Back', links_path %>
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  1. Build the renderPreview method in app/javascript/controllers/microlink_controller.js.
import { Controller } from "stimulus"
import mql from "@microlink/mql"

export default class extends Controller {
    static targets = [ "input", "descriptionInput", "imageInput", "titleInput", "output" ]

    connect() {
        this.previewDescription = this.outputTarget.querySelector("p");
        this.previewImage       = this.outputTarget.querySelector("img");
        this.previewTitle       = this.outputTarget.querySelector("h5");
    }

    async handleChange() {
        const { status, data } = await mql(this.inputTarget.value)
        if(status == "success") {
            this.setFormData(data);
            this.renderPreview(data);
        }
    }

    renderPreview(data) {
        this.previewDescription.innerHTML = data?.description ? data.description : null;
        data?.image?.url ? this.previewImage.setAttribute("src", data.image.url) : null;
        this.previewTitle.innerHTML = data?.title ? data.title : null;
        this.outputTarget.style.display = "block";
    }

    setFormData(data) {
        this.descriptionInputTarget.value   = data?.description ? data.description : null;
        this.imageInputTarget.value         = data?.image?.url ? data.image.url : null;
        this.titleInputTarget.value         = data?.title ? data.title : null;
    }
}
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At this point you should be able to render a link preview.

Rendering a link preview.

Step 7: Attaching the Preview Image to the Link

Right now we're not actually attaching the image to the Link but rather we're saving the absolute URL to the image. This means that over time those images could break, since we have no control over them. One solution is to download the image and attach it to the Link using Active Storage.

  1. Run rails active_storage:install and rails db:migrate to install Active Storage.
  2. Add has_one_attached :thumbnail to Link Model.
class Link < ApplicationRecord
    store :meta_data, accessors: [ :description, :image, :title  ], coder: JSON
    validates :url, presence: true
    has_one_attached :thumbnail
end
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  1. Run bundle add down to install the down gem. This will make downloading the remote image returned from the Microlink API easier than by doing it with native Ruby.
  2. Run rails g job microlink_image_attacher to generate an Active Job. We'll use this Job to download and attach the image returned from the Microlink API.
require "down"

class MicrolinkImageAttacherJob < ApplicationJob
  queue_as :default
  discard_on Down::InvalidUrl

  def perform(link)
    if link.image.present?
      tempfile = Down.download(link.image)
      link.thumbnail.attach(io: tempfile, filename: tempfile.original_filename) 
    end
  end
end
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We add discard_on Down::InvalidUrl to discard any job that returns a Down::InvalidUrl exception. This can happen is the Microlink API returns a base64 image.

  1. Perform MicrolinkImageAttacherJob when a Link is saved.
class LinksController < ApplicationController
  ...
  def create
    @link = Link.new(link_params)

    respond_to do |format|
      if @link.save
        MicrolinkImageAttacherJob.perform_now(@link)
        ...
      else
        ...
      end
    end
  end

end
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You could call perform_later instead of perform_now.

  1. Render attached thumbnail in app/views/links/_preview.html.erb.
<div data-microlink-target="output" style="<%= @link.persisted? ? nil : 'display: none;' %>">
    <img src="<%= @link.thumbnail.attached? ? url_for(@link.thumbnail) : nil %>"/>
    <div>
        <h5><%= @link.persisted? ? @link.title : nil %></h5>
        <p><%= @link.persisted? ? @link.description : nil %></p>
    </div>
</div> 
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Now when you save a link that returns an image, it will be saved in Active Storage.

Step 8: Handling Errors and Improving the UX

Now that we have our happy path complete, we should improve the UX to account for any errors. Most notably, when someone enters an invalid URL or if the Microlink API returns an error.

  1. Add markup for rendering a message to app/views/links/_form.html.erb.
<%= form_with(model: link, data: { controller: "microlink" }) do |form| %>
  ...
  <div class="field">
    <%= form.label :url %>
    <%= form.url_field :url, data: { microlink_target: "input", action: "change->microlink#handleChange" } %>
    <span data-microlink-target="message"></span>
  </div>
  ...
  <%= render "preview" %>
<% end %>
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  1. Update app/javascript/controllers/microlink_controller.js to handle errors and render messages.
import { Controller } from "stimulus"
import mql from "@microlink/mql"

export default class extends Controller {
    static targets = [ "input", "descriptionInput", "imageInput", "titleInput", "output", "message" ]

    connect() {
        this.previewDescription = this.outputTarget.querySelector("p");
        this.previewImage       = this.outputTarget.querySelector("img");
        this.previewTitle       = this.outputTarget.querySelector("h5");
    }

    async handleChange() {
        this.messageTarget.innerText = null;
        this.clearFormData();
        this.clearPreview();
        if (this.inputTarget.value != "") {
            try {
                const { status, data } = await mql(this.inputTarget.value)
                this.messageTarget.innerText = "Fetching link preview...";
                if(status == "success") {
                    this.setFormData(data);
                    this.renderPreview(data);
                    this.messageTarget.innerText = null;
                } else {
                    this.messageTarget.innerText = "There was an error fetching the link preview.";
                }
            } catch(e) {
                this.messageTarget.innerText = e;
            }
        }
    }

    clearFormData() {
        this.descriptionInputTarget.value   = null;
        this.imageInputTarget.value         = null;
        this.titleInputTarget.value         = null;
    }

    clearPreview() {
        this.previewDescription.innerHTML   = null;
        this.previewImage.setAttribute("src", "");
        this.previewTitle.innerHTML         = null;
        this.outputTarget.style.display     = "none";
    }

    renderPreview(data) {
        this.previewDescription.innerHTML = data?.description ? data.description : null;
        data?.image?.url ? this.previewImage.setAttribute("src", data.image.url) : null;
        this.previewTitle.innerHTML = data?.title ? data.title : null;
        this.outputTarget.style.display = "block";
    }

    setFormData(data) {
        this.descriptionInputTarget.value   = data?.description ? data.description : null;
        this.imageInputTarget.value         = data?.image?.url ? data.image.url : null;
        this.titleInputTarget.value         = data?.title ? data.title : null;
    }
}
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handling errors.

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