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CanCan is an authorization library for Ruby on Rails which restricts what resources a given user is allowed to access. All permissions are defined in a single location (the Ability class) and not duplicated across controllers, views, and database queries.


This repo is a continuation of the dead CanCan project. Our mission is to keep CanCan alive and moving forward, with maintenance fixes and new features. Pull Requests are welcome!

I am currently focusing on the 1.x branch for the immediate future, making sure it is up to date as well as ensuring compatibility with Rails 4+. I will take a look into the 2.x branch and try to see what improvements, reorganizations and redesigns Ryan was attempting and go forward from there.

Any help is greatly appreciated, feel free to submit pull-requests or open issues.


In Rails 3 and 4, add this to your Gemfile and run the bundle install command.

gem 'cancancan', '~> 1.10'

In Rails 2, add this to your environment.rb file.

config.gem "cancancan"

Alternatively, you can install it as a plugin.

rails plugin install git://

Getting Started

CanCanCan expects a current_user method to exist in the controller. First, set up some authentication (such as Authlogic or Devise). See Changing Defaults if you need different behavior.

1. Define Abilities

User permissions are defined in an Ability class. CanCan 1.5 includes a Rails 3 and 4 generator for creating this class.

rails g cancan:ability

In Rails 2.3, just add a new class in app/models/ability.rb with the following contents:

class Ability
  include CanCan::Ability

  def initialize(user)

See Defining Abilities for details.

2. Check Abilities & Authorization

The current user's permissions can then be checked using the can? and cannot? methods in the view and controller.

<% if can? :update, @article %>
  <%= link_to "Edit", edit_article_path(@article) %>
<% end %>

See Checking Abilities for more information

The authorize! method in the controller will raise an exception if the user is not able to perform the given action.

def show
  @article = Article.find(params[:id])
  authorize! :read, @article

Setting this for every action can be tedious, therefore the load_and_authorize_resource method is provided to automatically authorize all actions in a RESTful style resource controller. It will use a before filter to load the resource into an instance variable and authorize it for every action.

class ArticlesController < ApplicationController

  def show
    # @article is already loaded and authorized

See Authorizing Controller Actions for more information.

Strong Parameters

When using strong_parameters or Rails 4+, you have to sanitize inputs before saving the record, in actions such as :create and :update.

By default, CanCan will try to sanitize the input on :create and :update routes by seeing if your controller will respond to the following methods (in order):

  • create_params or update_params (depending on the action you are performing)
  • <model_name>_params such as article_params (this is the default convention in rails for naming your param method)
  • resource_params (a generically named method you could specify in each controller)

Additionally, load_and_authorize_resource can now take a param_method option to specify a custom method in the controller to run to sanitize input.

You can associate the param_method option with a symbol corresponding to the name of a method that will get called:

class ArticlesController < ApplicationController
  load_and_authorize_resource param_method: :my_sanitizer

  def create
      # hurray
      render :new


  def my_sanitizer

You can also use a string that will be evaluated in the context of the controller using instance_eval and needs to contain valid Ruby code. This does come in handy when using a PermittedParams class as suggested in Railscast 371:

load_and_authorize_resource param_method: 'permitted_params.article'

Finally, it's possible to associate param_method with a Proc object which will be called with the controller as the only argument:

load_and_authorize_resource param_method: { |c| c.params.require(:article).permit(:name) }

See Strong Parameters for more information.

3. Handle Unauthorized Access

If the user authorization fails, a CanCan::AccessDenied exception will be raised. You can catch this and modify its behavior in the ApplicationController.

class ApplicationController < ActionController::Base
  rescue_from CanCan::AccessDenied do |exception|
    redirect_to root_url, :alert => exception.message

See Exception Handling for more information.

4. Lock It Down

If you want to ensure authorization happens on every action in your application, add check_authorization to your ApplicationController.

class ApplicationController < ActionController::Base

This will raise an exception if authorization is not performed in an action. If you want to skip this add skip_authorization_check to a controller subclass. See Ensure Authorization for more information.

Wiki Docs

Questions or Problems?

If you have any issues with CanCan which you cannot find the solution to in the documentation or our mailing list:, please add an issue on GitHub or fork the project and send a pull request.


Cancancan uses appraisals to test the code base against multiple versions of rails, as well as the different model adapters.

When first developing, you may need to run bundle install and then appraisal install, to install the different sets.

You can then run all appraisal files (like CI does), with appraisal rake or just run a specific set appraisal activerecord_3.0 rake.

See the CONTRIBUTING and spec/README for more information.

Special Thanks

CanCan was inspired by declarative_authorization and aegis. Also many thanks to the CanCan contributors. See the CHANGELOG for the full list.