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Pry is a powerful alternative to the standard IRB shell for Ruby. It is written from scratch to provide a number of advanced features, including:

  • Source code browsing (including core C source with the pry-doc gem)
  • Documentation browsing
  • Live help system
  • Open methods in editors (edit Class#method)
  • Syntax highlighting
  • Command shell integration (start editors, run git, and rake from within Pry)
  • Gist integration
  • Navigation around state (cd, ls and friends)
  • Runtime invocation (use Pry as a developer console or debugger)
  • Exotic object support (BasicObject instances, IClasses, ...)
  • A Powerful and flexible command system
  • Ability to view and replay history
  • Many convenience commands inspired by IPython, Smalltalk and other advanced REPLs
  • A wide-range number of plugins that provide remote sessions, full debugging functionality, and more.

Pry also aims to be more than an IRB replacement; it is an attempt to bring REPL driven programming to the Ruby language. It is currently not as powerful as tools like SLIME for lisp, but that is the general direction Pry is heading.

Pry is also fairly flexible and allows significant user customization is trivial to set it to read from any object that has a readline method and write to any object that has a puts method - many other aspects of Pry are also configurable making it a good choice for implementing custom shells.

Pry comes with an executable so it can be invoked at the command line. Just enter pry to start. A .pryrc file in the user's home directory will be loaded if it exists. Type pry --help at the command line for more information.

Try gem install pry-doc for additional documentation on Ruby Core methods. The additional docs are accessed through the show-doc and show-method commands.


Nearly every piece of functionality in a Pry session is implemented as a command. Commands are not methods and must start at the beginning of a line, with no whitespace in between. Commands support a flexible syntax and allow 'options' in the same way as shell commands, for example the following Pry command will show a list of all private instance methods (in scope) that begin with 'pa'

pry(YARD::Parser::SourceParser):5> ls -Mp --grep ^pa
YARD::Parser::SourceParser#methods: parse  parser_class  parser_type  parser_type=  parser_type_for_filename

Pry allows us to pop in and out of different scopes (objects) using the cd command. This enables us to explore the run-time view of a program or library. To view which variables and methods are available within a particular scope we use the versatile ls command.

Here we will begin Pry at top-level, then Pry on a class and then on an instance variable inside that class:

pry(main)> class Hello
pry(main)*   @x = 20
pry(main)* end
=> 20
pry(main)> cd Hello
pry(Hello):1> ls -i
instance variables: @x
pry(Hello):1> cd @x
pry(20):2> self + 10
=> 30
pry(20):2> cd ..
pry(Hello):1> cd ..
pry(main)> cd ..

The number after the : in the pry prompt indicates the nesting level. To display more information about nesting, use the nesting command. E.g

pry("friend"):3> nesting
Nesting status:
0. main (Pry top level)
1. Hello
2. 100
3. "friend"
=> nil

We can then jump back to any of the previous nesting levels by using the jump-to command:

pry("friend"):3> jump-to 1
=> 100

Runtime invocation

Pry can be invoked in the middle of a running program. It opens a Pry session at the point it's called and makes all program state at that point available. It can be invoked on any object using the my_object.pry syntax or on the current binding (or any binding) using binding.pry. The Pry session will then begin within the scope of the object (or binding). When the session ends the program continues with any modifications you made to it.

This functionality can be used for such things as: debugging, implementing developer consoles and applying hot patches.


# test.rb
require 'pry'

class A
  def hello() puts "hello world!" end

a =

# start a REPL session

# program resumes here (after pry session)
puts "program resumes here."

Pry session:

pry(main)> a.hello
hello world!
=> nil
pry(main)> def a.goodbye
pry(main)*   puts "goodbye cruel world!"
pry(main)* end
=> nil
pry(main)> a.goodbye
goodbye cruel world!
=> nil
pry(main)> exit

program resumes here.

Command Shell Integration

A line of input that begins with a '.' will be forwarded to the command shell. This enables us to navigate the file system, spawn editors, and run git and rake directly from within Pry.

Further, we can use the shell-mode command to incorporate the present working directory into the Pry prompt and bring in (limited at this stage, sorry) file name completion. We can also interpolate Ruby code directly into the shell by using the normal #{} string interpolation syntax.

In the code below we're going to switch to shell-mode and edit the .pryrc file in the home directory. We'll then cat its contents and reload the file.

pry(main)> shell-mode
pry main:/home/john/ruby/projects/pry $ .cd ~
pry main:/home/john $ .emacsclient .pryrc
pry main:/home/john $ .cat .pryrc
def hello_world
  puts "hello world!"
pry main:/home/john $ load ".pryrc"
=> true
pry main:/home/john $ hello_world
hello world!

We can also interpolate Ruby code into the shell. In the example below we use the shell command cat on a random file from the current directory and count the number of lines in that file with wc:

pry main:/home/john $ .cat #{Dir['*.*'].sample} | wc -l

Code Browsing

You can browse method source code with the show-method command. Nearly all Ruby methods (and some C methods, with the pry-doc gem) can have their source viewed. Code that is longer than a page is sent through a pager (such as less), and all code is properly syntax highlighted (even C code).

The show-method command accepts two syntaxes, the typical ri Class#method syntax and also simply the name of a method that's in scope. You can optionally pass the -l option to show-method to include line numbers in the output.

In the following example we will enter the Pry class, list the instance methods beginning with 're' and display the source code for the rep method:

pry(main)> cd Pry
pry(Pry):1> ls -M --grep re
Pry#methods: re  readline  refresh  rep  repl  repl_epilogue  repl_prologue  retrieve_line
pry(Pry):1> show-method rep -l

From: /home/john/ruby/projects/pry/lib/pry/pry_instance.rb @ line 143:
Number of lines: 6

143: def rep(target=TOPLEVEL_BINDING)
144:   target = Pry.binding_for(target)
145:   result = re(target)
147:   show_result(result) if should_print?
148: end

Note that we can also view C methods (from Ruby Core) using the pry-doc plugin; we also show off the alternate syntax for show-method:

pry(main)> show-method Array#select

From: array.c in Ruby Core (C Method):
Number of lines: 15

static VALUE
rb_ary_select(VALUE ary)
    VALUE result;
    long i;

    RETURN_ENUMERATOR(ary, 0, 0);
    result = rb_ary_new2(RARRAY_LEN(ary));
    for (i = 0; i < RARRAY_LEN(ary); i++) {
        if (RTEST(rb_yield(RARRAY_PTR(ary)[i]))) {
            rb_ary_push(result, rb_ary_elt(ary, i));
    return result;

Documentation Browsing

One use-case for Pry is to explore a program at run-time by cd-ing in and out of objects and viewing and invoking methods. In the course of exploring it may be useful to read the documentation for a specific method that you come across. Like show-method the show-doc command supports two syntaxes - the normal ri syntax as well as accepting the name of any method that is currently in scope.

The Pry documentation system does not rely on pre-generated rdoc or ri, instead it grabs the comments directly above the method on demand. This results in speedier documentation retrieval and allows the Pry system to retrieve documentation for methods that would not be picked up by rdoc. Pry also has a basic understanding of both the rdoc and yard formats and will attempt to syntax highlight the documentation appropriately.

Nonetheless, the ri functionality is very good and has an advantage over Pry's system in that it allows documentation lookup for classes as well as methods. Pry therefore has good integration with ri through the ri command. The syntax for the command is exactly as it would be in command-line - so it is not necessary to quote strings.

In our example we will enter the Gem class and view the documentation for the try_activate method:

pry(main)> cd Gem
pry(Gem):1> show-doc try_activate

From: /Users/john/.rvm/rubies/ruby-1.9.2-p180/lib/ruby/site_ruby/1.9.1/rubygems.rb @ line 201:
Number of lines: 3

Try to activate a gem containing path. Returns true if
activation succeeded or wasn't needed because it was already
activated. Returns false if it can't find the path in a gem.

We can also use ri in the normal way:

pry(main) ri Array#each
----------------------------------------------------------- Array#each
     array.each {|item| block }   ->   array
     Calls _block_ once for each element in _self_, passing that element
     as a parameter.

        a = [ "a", "b", "c" ]
        a.each {|x| print x, " -- " }


        a -- b -- c --

Gist integration

If the gist gem is installed then method source or documentation can be gisted to github with the gist command. The gist command is capable of gisting almost any REPL content, including methods, documentation, input expressions, command source, and so on. In the example below we will gist the C source code for the Symbol#to_proc method to github:

pry(main)> gist -m Symbol#to_proc
Gist created at and added to clipboard.

You can see the actual gist generated here:

Edit methods

You can use edit Class#method or edit my_method (if the method is in scope) to open a method for editing directly in your favorite editor. Pry has knowledge of a few different editors and will attempt to open the file at the line the method is defined.

You can set the editor to use by assigning to the Pry.editor accessor. Pry.editor will default to $EDITOR or failing that will use nano as the backup default. The file that is edited will be automatically reloaded after exiting the editor - reloading can be suppressed by passing the --no-reload option to edit

In the example below we will set our default editor to "emacsclient" and open the Pry#repl method for editing:

pry(main)> Pry.editor = "emacsclient"
pry(main)> edit Pry#repl

Live Help System

Many other commands are available in Pry; to see the full list type help at the prompt. A short description of each command is provided with basic instructions for use; some commands have a more extensive help that can be accessed via typing command_name --help. A command will typically say in its description if the --help option is avaiable.

Use Pry as your Rails Console

The recommended way to use Pry as your Rails console is to add the pry-rails gem to your Gemfile. This replaces the default console with Pry, in addition to loading the Rails console helpers and adding some useful Rails-specific commands.

If you don't want to change your Gemfile, you can still run a Pry console in your app's environment using Pry's -r flag:

pry -r ./config/environment

Also check out the wiki for more information about integrating Pry with Rails.


  • Tab completion is currently a bit broken/limited this will have a major overhaul in a future version.

Syntax Highlighting

Syntax highlighting is on by default in Pry. If you want to change the colors, check out the pry-theme gem.

You can toggle the syntax highlighting on and off in a session by using the toggle-color command. Alternatively, you can turn it off permanently by putting the line Pry.color = false in your ~/.pryrc file.

Future Directions

Many new features are planned such as:

  • Increase modularity (rely more on plugin system)
  • Much improved documentation system, better support for YARD
  • Better support for code and method reloading and saving code
  • Extended and more sophisticated command system, allowing piping between commands and running commands in background


Problems or questions? file an issue at github


Pry is primarily the work of John Mair (banisterfiend), for full list of contributors see the CONTRIBUTORS file.