litany against fear

coding with spice ¤ by nick quaranto

Loading custom code in Rails

published 22 Sep 2008

This is a question I’ve seen asked (including by myself) in #rubyonrails on Freenode quite a few times, and I figured I’d settle it once and for all. There’s a few different ways to get custom code loaded into your Rails app. The first solution to this is understanding how code gets loaded with Ruby in the first place, which I usually get confused with. Let’s do a little recap about your different options that Ruby and Rails provides:

  • load: Loads and executes the Ruby program in the file filename.
  • require: Ruby tries to load the library, returning true if successful.
  • require_dependency: Reloads source files on each request when in development mode, so changes are reflected on the next request.
  • require_or_load: There doesn’t seem to be much documentation on this, but it doesn’t seem as safe and it may result in your code being loaded twice. Review the code here before you use it.

So, the most ideal keyword to use is require_dependency, since it will reload code during development mode when you make changes. Otherwise, you’ll have to constantly restart your development server/console, and that just sucks. Plus, it’ll work perfectly in production mode and only load the files once.

So, where’s the best place to put the files with your custom code? Well, there’s a few folders that are on the Rails load path in the first place: app, lib, vendor and mock paths (source) you need to add different folders to the load path, that’s more than possible. In your config/environment.rb, add whatever folder you want in the config.load_paths variable. For instance,

config.load_paths += %W( custom )

This will load the custom directory (RAILS_ROOT/custom) to the load path so you can use those files. The problem with files you put in these directories is that they may be in the load path, but you’ll have to require the custom files you want in each class that you’ll want to use them. The solution to this is to get the file required for the entire Rails environment, which is a lot easier than you’d think.

Let’s say we want to load some extensions to String for your app. Being a forward thinking developer, you’ve created a new folder in lib, called core_ext, where you can put other ruby files in the future if you need to. So in lib/core_ext/string.rb you’ve dumped for example:

class String
  def slugify
    self.gsub(/[^a-z0-9]+/i, '-').chomp('-')

The folder config/initializers contains files that run once when your Rails environment is getting set up. Create a new file in that folder and this will run through your custom folder and make sure that the files are required properly.

module CoreExtensions
  def require_core_ext
    Dir["#{RAILS_ROOT}/lib/core_ext/*.rb"].each do |f|
      require_dependency f
Object.instance_eval { include CoreExtensions }

So now, you can call require_core_ext in whatever class you want, and it will reload all of your custom code if you’re in development mode or if you’re in production, it will only load your custom classes when the file is first loaded. Now you can call String#slugify all you want, and if you make changes to the method in lib/core_ext it will be reflected when you refresh the page.

If you’ve got any other examples of how you bring in custom code, let me know, as I’d love to find out.

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