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The Ruby Programming Language

Cover of The Ruby Programming Language by Yukihiro Matsumoto... Published by O'Reilly Media, Inc.
  1. The Ruby Programming Language
    1. SPECIAL OFFER: Upgrade this ebook with O’Reilly
    2. A Note Regarding Supplemental Files
    3. Preface
      1. Acknowledgments
      2. Conventions Used in This Book
      3. Using Code Examples
      4. How to Contact Us
      5. Safari® Enabled
    4. 1. Introduction
      1. A Tour of Ruby
      2. Try Ruby
      3. About This Book
      4. A Sudoku Solver in Ruby
    5. 2. The Structure and Execution of Ruby Programs
      1. Lexical Structure
      2. Syntactic Structure
      3. File Structure
      4. Program Encoding
      5. Program Execution
    6. 3. Datatypes and Objects
      1. Numbers
      2. Text
      3. Arrays
      4. Hashes
      5. Ranges
      6. Symbols
      7. True, False, and Nil
      8. Objects
    7. 4. Expressions and Operators
      1. Literals and Keyword Literals
      2. Variable References
      3. Constant References
      4. Method Invocations
      5. Assignments
      6. Operators
    8. 5. Statements and Control Structures
      1. Conditionals
      2. Loops
      3. Iterators and Enumerable Objects
      4. Blocks
      5. Altering Control Flow
      6. Exceptions and Exception Handling
      7. BEGIN and END
      8. Threads, Fibers, and Continuations
    9. 6. Methods, Procs, Lambdas, and Closures
      1. Defining Simple Methods
      2. Method Names
      3. Methods and Parentheses
      4. Method Arguments
      5. Procs and Lambdas
      6. Closures
      7. Method Objects
      8. Functional Programming
    10. 7. Classes and Modules
      1. Defining a Simple Class
      2. Method Visibility: Public, Protected, Private
      3. Subclassing and Inheritance
      4. Object Creation and Initialization
      5. Modules
      6. Loading and Requiring Modules
      7. Singleton Methods and the Eigenclass
      8. Method Lookup
      9. Constant Lookup
    11. 8. Reflection and Metaprogramming
      1. Types, Classes, and Modules
      2. Evaluating Strings and Blocks
      3. Variables and Constants
      4. Methods
      5. Hooks
      6. Tracing
      7. ObjectSpace and GC
      8. Custom Control Structures
      9. Missing Methods and Missing Constants
      10. Dynamically Creating Methods
      11. Alias Chaining
      12. Domain-Specific Languages
    12. 9. The Ruby Platform
      1. Strings
      2. Regular Expressions
      3. Numbers and Math
      4. Dates and Times
      5. Collections
      6. Files and Directories
      7. Input/Output
      8. Networking
      9. Threads and Concurrency
    13. 10. The Ruby Environment
      1. Invoking the Ruby Interpreter
      2. The Top-Level Environment
      3. Practical Extraction and Reporting Shortcuts
      4. Calling the OS
      5. Security
    14. Index
    15. About the Authors
    16. Colophon
    17. SPECIAL OFFER: Upgrade this ebook with O’Reilly


Ruby is a very pure object-oriented language: all values are objects, and there is no distinction between primitive types and object types as there are in many other languages. In Ruby, all objects inherit from a class named Object and share the methods defined by that class. This section explains the common features of all objects in Ruby. It is dense in parts, but it’s required reading; the information here is fundamental.

Object References

When we work with objects in Ruby, we are really working with object references. It is not the object itself we manipulate but a reference to it.[*] When we assign a value to a variable, we are not copying an object “into” that variable; we are merely storing a reference to an object into that variable. Some code makes this clear:

s = "Ruby" # Create a String object. Store a reference to it in s.
t = s      # Copy the reference to t. s and t both refer to the same object.
t[-1] = "" # Modify the object through the reference in t.
print s    # Access the modified object through s. Prints "Rub". 
t = "Java" # t now refers to a different object.
print s,t  # Prints "RubJava".

When you pass an object to a method in Ruby, it is an object reference that is passed to the method. It is not the object itself, and it is not a reference to the reference to the object. Another way to say this is that method arguments are passed by value rather than by reference, but that the values passed are object references.

Because object references are passed to methods, ...

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