Those who maintain Ruby on Rails have released a new version of their popular open source web application development framework, one that features a number of improvements to help developers build applications more quickly.

The chief improvement in Ruby on Rails 3.2 is in how the software works in dev, or development, mode. "The new faster dev mode in particular is a major step up over 3.1," said Ruby on Rails creator David Heinemeier Hansson.

Most notably, each time a new program is altered and then tested, dev mode will only reload the classes of that program that have actually been changed, rather than reload all the classes the program uses. "The difference is dramatic on a larger application," Heinemeier said.

This is also the first version to feature a tagged logger, which is handy for where Ruby on Rails is used to run multiple applications, or to run an application for multiple users. With this script, an administrator can filter log files just to see activity with a specific application or user.

Other new features include a new way to annotate database queries, which can aid in debugging, and a new routing engine called Journey, designed to speed completion of web browser requests.

At least 226,000 websites use this set of Ruby on Rails, according to the BuiltWith Trends Pro analysis service. In the most recent Tiobe survey of languages, released in January, Ruby use seems to have slipped slightly, as the HTML5-friendly JavaScript gained more favour for web applications.

But one Ruby on Rails adherent is online discount service LivingSocial, which uses it for the majority of its online services.

"Ruby on Rails is interesting because it gets out of your way," said Aaron Batalion, LivingSocial chief technology officer and cofounder. Hansson's architectural philosophy of convention-over-configuration meant that many routine tasks of app building, such as connecting to a database, were streamlined by the framework.

When Batalion and his partners started building the LivingSocial platform in 2007, the company tried using Java Enterprise Edition but got weighed down by the complexity of the platform. They were able to quickly build prototypes with Ruby on Rails, though. "We wanted to focus on the actual products we were building and less on the engineering," Batalion said.