Recent good notes

RSS feed
November 5, 2009
10 thanks

define_method with parameters

Just to be clear, you can do this:

define_method(:my_method) do |foo, bar| # or even |*args|
  # do something

This means same as:

def my_method(foo, bar)
  # do something

If you want to define method with parameters that have default values, you need to get a bit more creative and do something like this:

define_method(:my_method) do |foo, bar|
  bar ||= {}
  # do something
November 5, 2009 - (>= v2.1.0)
7 thanks

Named scope better than conditions

In modern versions of Rails, in most cases a named_scope is a better alternative to using :conditions on your has_many relations. Compare:

class User
  has_many :published_posts, :conditions => {:published => true}


class Post
  named_scope :published, :conditions => {:published => true}
class User
  has_many :posts

It’s better because the Post’s logic (“am I published?”) should not be coupled within User class. This makes it easier to refactor: e.g. if you wanted to refactor the boolean :published field into a :status field with more available values, you would not have to modify User class. Having to modify User when you refactor some implementation detail of Post class is clearly a code smell.

This also applies to :order, :group, :having and similar options.

October 30, 2009
7 thanks

How FormBuilders work

What, you were expecting documentation? :)

An excellent survey of how FormBuilders work is here:


October 30, 2009
3 thanks

Map-like Manipulation of Hash Values

Let’s say you want to multiply all values of the following hash by 2:

hash = { :a => 1, :b => 2, :c => 3 }

You can’t use map to do so:

hash.map {|k, v| v*2 }   # => [6, 2, 4]

However, with merge you can:

hash.merge(hash) {|k,v| v*2 }   => {:c=>6, :a=>2, :b=>4}

(The above is Ruby 1.8, in Ruby 1.9 the order is preserved.)

October 28, 2009
7 thanks


The opposite of this is #blank?

October 27, 2009
4 thanks


The opposite of this is #present?

October 22, 2009 - (>= v2.1.0)
4 thanks

Update statement won't include all attributes with ActiveRecord::Dirty

With the addition of ActiveRecord::Dirty, the update statement will only feature changed columns, as opposed to the comment of railsmonk below.

October 20, 2009
3 thanks

See Dir#glob

See glob for more usage information and comments.

October 15, 2009
4 thanks

Have check_box checked by default

In addition to comment below, you can make a column with default value so in your forms it will be enabled by default and behave correctly with validation errors unlike :checked => true

in your migration

add_column :accounts, :ssl_enabled, :boolean, :default => 1
October 7, 2009
4 thanks


Here’s a small helper for doing the “opposite” of this method:

class Hash
  def without(*keys)
    cpy = self.dup
    keys.each { |key| cpy.delete(key) }

h = { :a => 1, :b => 2, :c => 3 }
h.without(:a)      #=> { :b => 2, :c => 3 }
h.without(:a, :c)  #=> { :b => 2 }
October 7, 2009 - (>= v2.3.2)
3 thanks

Streaming XML with Builder

To generate larger XMLs, it’s a good idea to a) stream the XML and b) use Active Record batch finders.

Here’s one way of doing it:

def my_action
  @items = Enumerable::Enumerator.new(
    :batch_size => 500)

  respond_to do |format|
    format.xml do
      render :text => lambda { |response, output|
        extend ApplicationHelper

        xml = Builder::XmlMarkup.new(
          :target => StreamingOutputWrapper.new(output),
          :indent => 2)
        eval(default_template.source, binding, default_template.path)

The Builder template does not need to be modified.

October 2, 2009
5 thanks

form_tag with named route and html class

<% form_tag position_user_card_path(@user, card), :method => :put, :class => ‘position-form’ do %>

September 14, 2009
6 thanks

Pluralize Without Count

Helper method that returns the word without the count.


def pluralize_without_count(count, noun, text = nil)
  if count != 0
    count == 1 ? "#{noun}#{text}" : "#{noun.pluralize}#{text}"

Example usage:


<%= pluralize_without_count(item.categories.count, 'Category', ':') %>
September 9, 2009
3 thanks

Will discard any order option

order_by(:created_at).find_each == FAIL!!!

class ActiveRecord::Base
  # normal find_each does not use given order but uses id asc
  def self.find_each_with_order(options={})
    raise "offset is not yet supported" if options[:offset]

    page = 1
    limit = options[:limit] || 1000

    loop do
      offset = (page-1) * limit
      batch = find(:all, options.merge(:limit=>limit, :offset=>offset))
      page += 1

      batch.each{|x| yield x }

      break if batch.size < limit
August 20, 2009
4 thanks


@tadman - or simply defining:

class Symbol
  def to_proc
    proc { |obj, *args| obj.send(self, *args) }
August 18, 2009
3 thanks

Auto-submitting select tag

If you want your form to be submitted when user selects something, use:

:onchange => "this.form.submit();"

For example:

select_tag "people", "<option>David</option>", :onchange => "this.form.submit();"
August 13, 2009
3 thanks

With multiple parameters


   :url => some_remote_function_path, 
   :with => "'key1='+$('elem_id').value +'&key2='+$('elem_id').value+ '&this_elem_value='+value"
August 13, 2009 - (>= v2.3.2)
3 thanks

with_exclusive_scope example by Ramon broken in latest Rails

The example Ramon gave works within the model itself, i.e.

class Article
  def closed
    with_exclusive_scope { find(:all) }

However, from what I can see, this approach does not work within a controller. You may be wanting to use

Article.with_exclusive_scope { find(:all) }  #=> "SELECT * FROM 'articles'

But it will error out about find(:all) not existing on ArticlesController. To get around this, you must now do

Article.with_exclusive_scope { Article.find(:all) }  #=> "SELECT * FROM 'articles'

In otherwards, find(:all) isn’t being executed in the scope of the model, but in the controller in which its called.

Took me a minute or two to find out, so I thought I’d let others know.

August 7, 2009
7 thanks

Join multiple tables

It’s easy to join multiple tables too. In this case we have:

class Article
  belongs_to :feed

class Feed
  has_many :articles
  belongs_to :source

class Source
  has_many :feeds
  # t.bool :visible

You can search articles and specify a condition on the sources table.

  :conditions => { :feeds => { :sources => { :visible => true }}}, 
  :joins => [:feed => :source],
August 7, 2009
3 thanks


This method only returns a cache manager object of sorts, to see what you can do with it, see ActiveSupport::Cache::Store.

August 6, 2009
4 thanks

Documentation bug

When adding the :target option, the documentation states that you should user :href_options like so:

auto_link(post_body, :href_options => { :target => '_blank' })

However, I could only get it to work using :html instead:

auto_link(post_body, :html => { :target => '_blank' })

I’m using Rails 2.2.2, but I believe that this also happens for more recent version .

July 28, 2009
8 thanks

Return True

As is the case with the before_validation and before_save callbacks, returning false will break the callback chain. For example, the expire_cache_id method will not run if Rails.cache.expire returns false (as it will if the key is not cached with memcache).

Returning False Example (Bad)

after_save :expire_cache_by_name
after_save :expire_cache_by_id

def expire_cache_by_name

def expire_cache_by_id

Returning True Example (Good)

def expire_cache_by_name
  return true

def expire_cache_by_id
  return true
July 27, 2009 - (>= v2.2.1)
3 thanks

Overriding default validation messages

Before Rails 2.2 you could globally customize the default validation error messages by changing AR::Base.default_error_messages. The messages have now been moved to i18n, so to customize them in 2.2 and up, just create a locales/ folder in your config/ folder, copy activerecord/lib/active_record/locale/en.yml (in Rails source) to config/locales/en.yml, and then change the strings inside. As szeryf indicated below, the strings of interest are activerecord.errors.messages.

July 23, 2009 - (v1.0.0 - v2.3.2)
7 thanks

Format meaning

%a - The abbreviated weekday name (“Sun”)

%A - The full weekday name (“Sunday”)

%b - The abbreviated month name (“Jan”)

%B - The full month name (“January”)

%c - The preferred local date and time representation

%d - Day of the month (01..31)

%H - Hour of the day, 24-hour clock (00..23)

%I - Hour of the day, 12-hour clock (01..12)

%j - Day of the year (001..366)

%m - Month of the year (01..12)

%M - Minute of the hour (00..59)

%p - Meridian indicator (“AM” or “PM”)

%S - Second of the minute (00..60)

%U - Week number of the current year, starting with the first Sunday as the first day of the first week (00..53)

%W - Week number of the current year, starting with the first Monday as the firstday of the first week (00..53)

%w - Day of the week (Sunday is 0, 0..6)

%x - Preferred representation for the date alone, no time

%X - Preferred representation for the time alone, no date

%y - Year without a century (00..99)

%Y - Year with century

%Z - Time zone name

%% - Literal “%” character

July 8, 2009 - (<= v1_8_7_72)
5 thanks

Using block version in Ruby < 1.8.7

The block usage was added in 1.8.7, so to get the same functionality in an earlier version of Ruby, you need to utilize the find method.

Here is a quick example:

match = list.find { |l| l.owner == myself }
match_index = list.index(match)

If you do some gymnastics, you can have it on one line without extra variables:

match_index = list.index(list.find { |l| l.owner == myself })
July 7, 2009 - (<= v2.3.2)
5 thanks


Available options are (none of these exists by default):

* :limit - Requests a maximum column length. This is number of characters for :string and :text columns and number of bytes for :binary and :integer columns.
* :default - The column‘s default value. Use nil for NULL.
* :null - Allows or disallows NULL values in the column. This option could have been named :null_allowed.
* :precision - Specifies the precision for a :decimal column.
* :scale - Specifies the scale for a :decimal column.
July 1, 2009
4 thanks


User = Struct.new(:name, :phone)

marc = User.new(“Marc”, “555-5555”)

June 30, 2009
3 thanks

Be careful with name of attribute writer

If restricting access to attributes you normally get code like

attr_accessible :foo,  

When using these nested attributes you end up with code like

attr_accessible :foo, :bar_attributes

Its very easy to leave of the _attributes suffix e.g

attr_accessible :foo, :bar

which will cause you all sorts of problems

June 22, 2009
3 thanks

Optional local assigns

When you have a partial with optional local assigns, for instance:

<%= render :partial => 'articles/preview' %>
<%= render :partial => 'articles/preview', :locals => { :show_call_out => true } %>

And you don’t want the partial to break when the local isn’t assigned, you can reference it through the local_assigns local variable instead of through the template binding:

<% if local_assigns[:show_call_out] %>
  <em><%= format @article.call_out %></em>
<% end %>
June 18, 2009
3 thanks

Not really deprecated

This isn’t really deprecated, it’s just relocated to ActiveRecord::AttributeMethods#read_attribute