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State Machines

State Machines adds support for creating state machines for attributes on any Ruby class.

Please note that multiple integrations are available for Active Model, Active Record, Mongoid and more in the State Machines organisation. If you want to save state in your database, you need one of these additional integrations.

Installation

Add this line to your application's Gemfile:

gem 'state_machines'

And then execute:

$ bundle

Or install it yourself as:

$ gem install state_machines

Usage

Example

Below is an example of many of the features offered by this plugin, including:

  • Initial states
  • Namespaced states
  • Transition callbacks
  • Conditional transitions
  • State-driven instance behavior
  • Customized state values
  • Parallel events
  • Path analysis

Class definition:

class Vehicle
  attr_accessor :seatbelt_on, :time_used, :auto_shop_busy

  state_machine :state, initial: :parked do
    before_transition parked: any - :parked, do: :put_on_seatbelt

    after_transition on: :crash, do: :tow
    after_transition on: :repair, do: :fix
    after_transition any => :parked do |vehicle, transition|
      vehicle.seatbelt_on = false
    end

    after_failure on: :ignite, do: :log_start_failure

    around_transition do |vehicle, transition, block|
      start = Time.now
      block.call
      vehicle.time_used += Time.now - start
    end

    event :park do
      transition [:idling, :first_gear] => :parked
    end

    event :ignite do
      transition stalled: same, parked: :idling
    end

    event :idle do
      transition first_gear: :idling
    end

    event :shift_up do
      transition idling: :first_gear, first_gear: :second_gear, second_gear: :third_gear
    end

    event :shift_down do
      transition third_gear: :second_gear, second_gear: :first_gear
    end

    event :crash do
      transition all - [:parked, :stalled] => :stalled, if: ->(vehicle) {!vehicle.passed_inspection?}
    end

    event :repair do
      # The first transition that matches the state and passes its conditions
      # will be used
      transition stalled: :parked, unless: :auto_shop_busy
      transition stalled: same
    end

    state :parked do
      def speed
        0
      end
    end

    state :idling, :first_gear do
      def speed
        10
      end
    end

    state all - [:parked, :stalled, :idling] do
      def moving?
        true
      end
    end

    state :parked, :stalled, :idling do
      def moving?
        false
      end
    end
  end

  state_machine :alarm_state, initial: :active, namespace: :alarm' do
    event :enable do
      transition all => :active
    end

    event :disable do
      transition all => :off
    end

    state :active, :value => 1
    state :off, :value => 0
  end

  def initialize
    @seatbelt_on = false
    @time_used = 0
    @auto_shop_busy = true
    super() # NOTE: This *must* be called, otherwise states won't get initialized
  end

  def put_on_seatbelt
    @seatbelt_on = true
  end

  def passed_inspection?
    false
  end

  def tow
    # tow the vehicle
  end

  def fix
    # get the vehicle fixed by a mechanic
  end

  def log_start_failure
    # log a failed attempt to start the vehicle
  end
end

Note the comment made on the initialize method in the class. In order for state machine attributes to be properly initialized, super() must be called. See StateMachines:MacroMethods for more information about this.

Using the above class as an example, you can interact with the state machine like so:

vehicle = Vehicle.new           # => #<Vehicle:0xb7cf4eac @state="parked", @seatbelt_on=false>
vehicle.state                   # => "parked"
vehicle.state_name              # => :parked
vehicle.human_state_name        # => "parked"
vehicle.parked?                 # => true
vehicle.can_ignite?             # => true
vehicle.ignite_transition       # => #<StateMachines:Transition attribute=:state event=:ignite from="parked" from_name=:parked to="idling" to_name=:idling>
vehicle.state_events            # => [:ignite]
vehicle.state_transitions       # => [#<StateMachines:Transition attribute=:state event=:ignite from="parked" from_name=:parked to="idling" to_name=:idling>]
vehicle.speed                   # => 0
vehicle.moving?                 # => false

vehicle.ignite                  # => true
vehicle.parked?                 # => false
vehicle.idling?                 # => true
vehicle.speed                   # => 10
vehicle                         # => #<Vehicle:0xb7cf4eac @state="idling", @seatbelt_on=true>

vehicle.shift_up                # => true
vehicle.speed                   # => 10
vehicle.moving?                 # => true
vehicle                         # => #<Vehicle:0xb7cf4eac @state="first_gear", @seatbelt_on=true>

# A generic event helper is available to fire without going through the event's instance method
vehicle.fire_state_event(:shift_up) # => true

# Call state-driven behavior that's undefined for the state raises a NoMethodError
vehicle.speed                   # => NoMethodError: super: no superclass method `speed' for #<Vehicle:0xb7cf4eac>
vehicle                         # => #<Vehicle:0xb7cf4eac @state="second_gear", @seatbelt_on=true>

# The bang (!) operator can raise exceptions if the event fails
vehicle.park!                   # => StateMachines:InvalidTransition: Cannot transition state via :park from :second_gear

# Generic state predicates can raise exceptions if the value does not exist
vehicle.state?(:parked)         # => false
vehicle.state?(:invalid)        # => IndexError: :invalid is an invalid name

# Namespaced machines have uniquely-generated methods
vehicle.alarm_state             # => 1
vehicle.alarm_state_name        # => :active

vehicle.can_disable_alarm?      # => true
vehicle.disable_alarm           # => true
vehicle.alarm_state             # => 0
vehicle.alarm_state_name        # => :off
vehicle.can_enable_alarm?       # => true

vehicle.alarm_off?              # => true
vehicle.alarm_active?           # => false

# Events can be fired in parallel
vehicle.fire_events(:shift_down, :enable_alarm) # => true
vehicle.state_name                              # => :first_gear
vehicle.alarm_state_name                        # => :active

vehicle.fire_events!(:ignite, :enable_alarm)    # => StateMachines:InvalidParallelTransition: Cannot run events in parallel: ignite, enable_alarm

# Human-friendly names can be accessed for states/events
Vehicle.human_state_name(:first_gear)               # => "first gear"
Vehicle.human_alarm_state_name(:active)             # => "active"

Vehicle.human_state_event_name(:shift_down)         # => "shift down"
Vehicle.human_alarm_state_event_name(:enable)       # => "enable"

# States / events can also be references by the string version of their name
Vehicle.human_state_name('first_gear')              # => "first gear"
Vehicle.human_state_event_name('shift_down')        # => "shift down"

# Available transition paths can be analyzed for an object
vehicle.state_paths                                       # => [[#<StateMachines:Transition ...], [#<StateMachines:Transition ...], ...]
vehicle.state_paths.to_states                             # => [:parked, :idling, :first_gear, :stalled, :second_gear, :third_gear]
vehicle.state_paths.events                                # => [:park, :ignite, :shift_up, :idle, :crash, :repair, :shift_down]

# Find all paths that start and end on certain states
vehicle.state_paths(:from => :parked, :to => :first_gear) # => [[
                                                          #       #<StateMachines:Transition attribute=:state event=:ignite from="parked" ...>,
                                                          #       #<StateMachines:Transition attribute=:state event=:shift_up from="idling" ...>
                                                          #    ]]
# Skipping state_machine and writing to attributes directly
vehicle.state = "parked"
vehicle.state                   # => "parked"
vehicle.state_name              # => :parked

# *Note* that the following is not supported (see StateMachines:MacroMethods#state_machine):
# vehicle.state = :parked

Additional Topics

Explicit vs. Implicit Event Transitions

Every event defined for a state machine generates an instance method on the class that allows the event to be explicitly triggered. Most of the examples in the state_machine documentation use this technique. However, with some types of integrations, like ActiveRecord, you can also implicitly fire events by setting a special attribute on the instance.

Suppose you're using the ActiveRecord integration and the following model is defined:

class Vehicle < ActiveRecord::Base
  state_machine initial: :parked do
    event :ignite do
      transition parked: :idling
    end
  end
end

To trigger the ignite event, you would typically call the Vehicle#ignite method like so:

vehicle = Vehicle.create    # => #<Vehicle id=1 state="parked">
vehicle.ignite              # => true
vehicle.state               # => "idling"

This is referred to as an explicit event transition. The same behavior can also be achieved implicitly by setting the state event attribute and invoking the action associated with the state machine. For example:

vehicle = Vehicle.create        # => #<Vehicle id=1 state="parked">
vehicle.state_event = 'ignite'  # => 'ignite'
vehicle.save                    # => true
vehicle.state                   # => 'idling'
vehicle.state_event             # => nil

As you can see, the ignite event was automatically triggered when the save action was called. This is particularly useful if you want to allow users to drive the state transitions from a web API.

See each integration's API documentation for more information on the implicit approach.

Symbols vs. Strings

In all of the examples used throughout the documentation, you'll notice that states and events are almost always referenced as symbols. This isn't a requirement, but rather a suggested best practice.

You can very well define your state machine with Strings like so:

class Vehicle
  state_machine initial: 'parked' do
    event 'ignite' do
      transition 'parked' => 'idling'
    end

    # ...
  end
end

You could even use numbers as your state / event names. The important thing to keep in mind is that the type being used for referencing states / events in your machine definition must be consistent. If you're using Symbols, then all states / events must use Symbols. Otherwise you'll encounter the following error:

class Vehicle
  state_machine do
    event :ignite do
      transition parked: 'idling'
    end
  end
end

# => ArgumentError: "idling" state defined as String, :parked defined as Symbol; all states must be consistent

There is an exception to this rule. The consistency is only required within the definition itself. However, when the machine's helper methods are called with input from external sources, such as a web form, state_machine will map that input to a String / Symbol. For example:

class Vehicle
  state_machine initial: :parked do
    event :ignite do
      transition parked: :idling
    end
  end
end

v = Vehicle.new     # => #<Vehicle:0xb71da5f8 @state="parked">
v.state?('parked')  # => true
v.state?(:parked)   # => true

Note that none of this actually has to do with the type of the value that gets stored. By default, all state values are assumed to be string -- regardless of whether the state names are symbols or strings. If you want to store states as symbols instead you'll have to be explicit about it:

class Vehicle
  state_machine initial: :parked do
    event :ignite do
      transition parked: :idling
    end

    states.each do |state|
      self.state(state.name, :value => state.name.to_sym)
    end
  end
end

v = Vehicle.new     # => #<Vehicle:0xb71da5f8 @state=:parked>
v.state?('parked')  # => true
v.state?(:parked)   # => true

Syntax flexibility

Although state_machine introduces a simplified syntax, it still remains backwards compatible with previous versions and other state-related libraries by providing some flexibility around how transitions are defined. See below for an overview of these syntaxes.

Verbose syntax

In general, it's recommended that state machines use the implicit syntax for transitions. However, you can be a little more explicit and verbose about transitions by using the :from, :except_from, :to, and :except_to options.

For example, transitions and callbacks can be defined like so:

class Vehicle
  state_machine initial: :parked do
    before_transition from: :parked, except_to: :parked, do: :put_on_seatbelt
    after_transition to: :parked do |vehicle, transition|
      vehicle.seatbelt = 'off'
    end

    event :ignite do
      transition from: :parked, to: :idling
    end
  end
end

Transition context

Some flexibility is provided around the context in which transitions can be defined. In almost all examples throughout the documentation, transitions are defined within the context of an event. If you prefer to have state machines defined in the context of a state either out of preference or in order to easily migrate from a different library, you can do so as shown below:

class Vehicle
  state_machine initial: :parked do
    ...

    state :parked do
      transition to: :idling, :on => [:ignite, :shift_up], if: :seatbelt_on?

      def speed
        0
      end
    end

    state :first_gear do
      transition to: :second_gear, on: :shift_up

      def speed
        10
      end
    end

    state :idling, :first_gear do
      transition to: :parked, on: :park
    end
  end
end

In the above example, there's no need to specify the from state for each transition since it's inferred from the context.

You can also define transitions completely outside the context of a particular state / event. This may be useful in cases where you're building a state machine from a data store instead of part of the class definition. See the example below:

class Vehicle
  state_machine initial: :parked do
    ...

    transition parked: :idling, :on => [:ignite, :shift_up]
    transition first_gear: :second_gear, second_gear: :third_gear, on: :shift_up
    transition [:idling, :first_gear] => :parked, on: :park
    transition [:idling, :first_gear] => :parked, on: :park
    transition all - [:parked, :stalled]: :stalled, unless: :auto_shop_busy?
  end
end

Notice that in these alternative syntaxes:

  • You can continue to configure :if and :unless conditions
  • You can continue to define from states (when in the machine context) using the all, any, and same helper methods

Static / Dynamic definitions

In most cases, the definition of a state machine is static. That is to say, the states, events and possible transitions are known ahead of time even though they may depend on data that's only known at runtime. For example, certain transitions may only be available depending on an attribute on that object it's being run on. All of the documentation in this library define static machines like so:

class Vehicle
  state_machine :state, initial: :parked do
    event :park do
      transition [:idling, :first_gear] => :parked
    end

    ...
  end
end

However, there may be cases where the definition of a state machine is dynamic. This means that you don't know the possible states or events for a machine until runtime. For example, you may allow users in your application to manage the state machine of a project or task in your system. This means that the list of transitions (and their associated states / events) could be stored externally, such as in a database. In a case like this, you can define dynamically-generated state machines like so:

class Vehicle
  attr_accessor :state

  # Make sure the machine gets initialized so the initial state gets set properly
  def initialize(*)
    super
    machine
  end

  # Replace this with an external source (like a db)
  def transitions
    [
      {parked: :idling, on: :ignite},
      {idling: :first_gear, first_gear: :second_gear, on: :shift_up}
      # ...
    ]
  end

  # Create a state machine for this vehicle instance dynamically based on the
  # transitions defined from the source above
  def machine
    vehicle = self
    @machine ||= Machine.new(vehicle, initial: :parked, action: :save) do
      vehicle.transitions.each {|attrs| transition(attrs)}
    end
  end

  def save
    # Save the state change...
    true
  end
end

# Generic class for building machines
class Machine
  def self.new(object, *args, &block)
    machine_class = Class.new
    machine = machine_class.state_machine(*args, &block)
    attribute = machine.attribute
    action = machine.action

    # Delegate attributes
    machine_class.class_eval do
      define_method(:definition) { machine }
      define_method(attribute) { object.send(attribute) }
      define_method("#{attribute}=") {|value| object.send("#{attribute}=", value) }
      define_method(action) { object.send(action) } if action
    end

    machine_class.new
  end
end

vehicle = Vehicle.new                   # => #<Vehicle:0xb708412c @state="parked" ...>
vehicle.state                           # => "parked"
vehicle.machine.ignite                  # => true
vehicle.machine.state                   # => "idling
vehicle.state                           # => "idling"
vehicle.machine.state_transitions       # => [#<StateMachines:Transition ...>]
vehicle.machine.definition.states.keys  # => :first_gear, :second_gear, :parked, :idling

As you can see, state_machine provides enough flexibility for you to be able to create new machine definitions on the fly based on an external source of transitions.

Dependencies

Ruby versions officially supported and tested:

  • Ruby (MRI) 2.0.0+
  • JRuby
  • Rubinius

For graphing state machine:

For documenting state machines:

TODO

  • Add matchers/assertions for rspec and minitest

Contributing

  1. Fork it ( https://github.com/state-machines/state_machines/fork )
  2. Create your feature branch (git checkout -b my-new-feature)
  3. Commit your changes (git commit -am 'Add some feature')
  4. Push to the branch (git push origin my-new-feature)
  5. Create a new Pull Request