Improvements for Ruby's IRB console, for example, colored output, and a lot of debugging and introspection methods. Unlike with PRY, you are still in your normal IRB. It is designed to work out-of-the-box so there is no reason to not use it!


$ gem install irbtools

Extra Requirements

Linux: Clipboard support requires xclip or xsel: sudo apt-get install xclip

Windows: ANSI colors can be enabled via ansicon

Mac OS: The g gem makes use of growl


IRB executes code in ~/.irbrc on start-up. If the file does not exist, yet, just create a new one. Add the following:

require 'irbtools'

See further below, if you want to customize which libraries should be loaded on IRB start-up.

With Bundler

To integrate irbtools into a Rails console (or any project that uses bundler), add irbtools to your Gemfile:

gem 'irbtools', require: 'binding.repl'

Thanks to help from the binding.repl gem, you can start IRB (with irbtools) directly from your code:



Another way to activate irbtools in bundler projects is to add a debundle hack at the beginning of your ~/.irbrc file.

This is irbtools Light

When installing irbtools, some gems will not be installed to ensure Windows OS support, for example, the bond gem for better auto-completion or the looksee gem for method/class introspection. These are packaged as irbtools-more. To use irbtools-more, you will need to change your .irbrc to:

require 'irbtools/more'

and/or edit your Gemfile to

gem 'irbtools-more', require: 'binding.repl'

Included Gems and Libraries

IRB Improvements

  • Colorization: wirb

  • IRB tweaks: fancy_irb

  • Custom views for specific objects: hirb

  • (irbtools-more) Better IRB tab-completion: bond

Helpful Methods

Platform Information

  • Query current Ruby version: ruby_version

  • Query current Ruby engine: ruby_engine

  • Query current operating system: os

  • Global information by the interpreter behind one Info constant: ruby_info


  • Improved lookup path inspection: method_locator

  • Displays a method's source: method_source

  • Adds a ri doc method to Object: [ori

  • Finds the methods that turned a value into another value: methodfinder

  • Syntax highlighting: coderay

  • irbtools-more Awesome lookup path inspection: looksee

  • irbtools-more Useful “did you mean?” suggestions in stack-traces: did_you_mean

Code Organization

  • Command/task framework similar to rake and thor: boson

  • Shortcuts for your favorite methods, saved in personal yaml file: alias

Irbtools Methods

From every_day_irb


Returns an array with the directory's content


Shortcut for


Shortcut for require library.to_s (allows concise syntax like rq:mathn)


Shortcut for load library.to_s + '.rb'


Little hack for rerequiring a library (it's really hack and not reliable, but works in most cases)


Restarts IRB


Clears the terminal (system "clear")


Returns all issued commands as a string

From irbtools in conjunction with the libraries


Improves the cd that is already provided by fileutils (try cd '-')


Displays RubyVersion


Displays RubyEngine


OS information


Aggregates information about your Ruby environment


Shortcut for Clipboard.copy


Shortcut for Clipboard.paste


Copies the session_history to the clipboard


Copies this session's results to the clipboard


Shortcut for using the methodfinder


Shortcut for using the pager from hirb


Syntax highlights a ruby string using coderay


Syntax highlights a ruby file using coderay

From the libraries (puplic Object methods, renamed/patched)


Patching the ri provided by ori to also allow default ri syntax on toplevel


Shortcut for displaying the method source using method_source and coderay


Shortcut for the method_locator


Alternative method name to trigger the looksee gem (irbtools-more)

Advanced tweaking

Customize libraries to load

It is possible to modify, which libraries to load:

# Don't require 'irbtools', but:
require 'irbtools/configure'
# Here you can modify the libraries using the methods below

If you do not want to load the default set of irbtools gems, you will have to use require 'irbtools/minimal' instead of configure.

You can use the following methods:

  • Irbtools.add_library(lib, options_hash, &block)

  • Irbtools.remove_library(lib)

The options_hash defines the way in which irbtools loads the library. The following options are possible

(no options)/:start

The library is required on startup before doing anything else (before displaying the prompt)

:thread => identifier

After loading everything else, the library is required in a thread (while continuing loading). You can choose any identifier, but if you take the same one for multiple libraries, they will be loaded in the same thread (in the order that you define)

:late => true

The library is required just before showing the prompt (note: loading threads might still be in process)

:late_thread => identifier

Same as :thread, but after loading late libraries.

:sub_session => true

The library is loaded every time a sub-session starts (using IRB.conf[:IRB_RC]). In ripl, ripl-after_rc is used.

:autoload => :Constant

Use Ruby's autoload feature. It loads the library as soon as the constant is encountered.

You can pass a block as third argument, which gets executed after the library has completed loading (except for :autoload, in which case the code will be executed directly on startup). You can modify the callbacks by using Irbtools.add_library_callback and Irbtools.replace_library_callback.

When adding a new library, you should firstly consider some way to load it via :autoload. If this is not possible, try loading via :thread. If that is not possible either, you will need to fallback to the default loading mechanism.

Troubleshooting: Unicode causes wrong display widths?

If you use double-width unicode characterss, you will need to paste the following snippet to your .irbrc file.

Irbtools.replace_library_callback :fancy_irb do
  FancyIrb.start east_asian_width: true

This setting is deactivated by default, because of performance issues.

Hint: Faster start-up

You can get an about a second faster start-up time by changing the loading methods for wirb and fancy_irb to :thread (drawback: the hash rocket will not be used for the first result):

require 'irbtools/configure'
Irbtools.remove_library :paint
Irbtools.remove_library :fancy_irb
Irbtools.add_library :paint, :late => true do Wirb.load_schema :classic_paint if defined? Wirb end
Irbtools.add_library :fancy_irb, :thread => -1 do FancyIrb.start end

Welcome Message

The welcome message can be customized with Irbtools.welcome_message=

Web Console

irbtools works well together with the amazing web-console!


Copyright © 2010-2015 Jan Lelis <> released under the MIT license.