SchemaPlus is an ActiveRecord extension that provides enhanced capabilities for schema definition and querying, including: enhanced and more DRY index capabilities, support and automation for foreign key constraints, and support for views.

For added rails DRYness see also the gems schema_associations and schema_validations

Gem Version Build Status Dependency Status


SchemaPlus supports all combinations of:

  • Rails 3.2, 4.0, and 4.1 (currently 4.1.0beta3)
  • PostgreSQL, MySQL (using mysql2 gem; mysql gem only supported with Rails 3.2), or SQLite3 (using sqlite3 >= 3.7.7 which has foreign key support)
  • MRI Ruby 1.9.3, 2.0.0, or 2.1.0

And also supports:

  • jruby with Rails 3.2 and PostgreSQL or MySQL


Install from via

$ gem install "schema_plus"

or in a Gemfile

gem "schema_plus"


This README lists the major features, with examples of use. For full details see the RDoc documentation.


With standard Rails 3 migrations, you specify indexes separately from the table definition:

# Standard Rails approach...
create_table :parts do |t|
  t.string :name
  t.string :product_code

add_index :parts, :name     # index repeats table and column names and is defined separately
add_index :parts, :product_code, unique: true

But with SchemaPlus you can specify your indexes when you define each column, with options as desired

# More DRY way...
create_table :parts do |t|
  t.string :name,           index: true
  t.string :product_code,   index: { unique: true }

The options hash can include an index name:

t.string :product_code,     index: { unique: true, name: "my_index_name" }

You can also create multi-column indexes, for example:

t.string :first_name
t.string :last_name,        index: { with: :first_name }

t.string :country_code
t.string :area_code
t.string :local_number      index: { with: [:country_code, :area_code], unique: true }

And you can specify index orders:

t.string :first_name
t.string :last_name,        index: { with: :first_name, order: { first_name: :desc, last_name: :asc}}

As a convenient shorthand, the :unique option can be specified as

t.string :product_code,   index: :unique

which is equivalent to

t.string :product_code,   index: { unique: true }

If you're using PostgreSQL, SchemaPlus provides support for conditions, expressions, index methods, and case-insensitive indexes:

t.string :last_name,  index: { conditions: 'deleted_at IS NULL' }
t.string :last_name,  index: { expression: 'upper(last_name)' }
t.string :last_name,  index: { kind: 'hash' }
t.string :last_name,  index: { case_sensitive: false }        # shorthand for expression: 'lower(last_name)'

These features are available also in ActiveRecord::Migration.add_index. See doc for SchemaPlus::ActiveRecord::ConnectionAdapters::PostgresqlAdapter and SchemaPlus::ActiveRecord::ConnectionAdapters::IndexDefinition

When you query column information using ActiveRecord::Base#columns, SchemaPlus analogously provides index information relevant to each column: which indexes reference the column, whether the column must be unique, etc. See doc for SchemaPlus::ActiveRecord::ConnectionAdapters::Column.

SchemaPlus also tidies some index-related behavior:

  • Rails' various db adapters have inconsistent behavior regarding an attempt to create a duplicate index: some quietly ignore the attempt, some raise an error. SchemaPlus regularizes the behavor to ignore the attempt for all db adapters.

  • If you rename a table, indexes named using rails' automatic naming convention will be renamed correspondingly.

  • remove_index now accepts an :if_exists option to prevent errors from attempting to remove non-existent indexes.

Foreign Key Constraints

SchemaPlus adds support for foreign key constraints. In fact, for the common convention that you name a column with suffix _id to indicate that it's a foreign key, SchemaPlus automatically defines the appropriate constraint.

SchemaPlus also creates foreign key constraints for rails' t.references or t.belongs_to, which take the singular of the referenced table name and implicitly create the column suffixed with _id.

You can explicitly specify whether or not to generate a foreign key constraint, and specify or override automatic options, using the :foreign_key keyword

Here are some examples:

t.integer :author_id                              # automatically references table 'authors', key id
t.integer :parent_id                              # special name parent_id automatically references its own table (for tree nodes)
t.integer :author_id, foreign_key: true           # same as default automatic behavior
t.integer :author,    foreign_key: true           # non-conventional column name needs to force creation, table name is assumed to be 'authors'
t.integer :author_id, foreign_key: false          # don't create a constraint

t.integer :author_id, foreign_key: { references: :authors }        # same as automatic behavior
t.integer :author,    foreign_key: { reference: :authors}          # same default name
t.integer :author_id, foreign_key: { references: [:authors, :id] } # same as automatic behavior
t.integer :author_id, foreign_key: { references: :people }         # override table name
t.integer :author_id, foreign_key: { references: [:people, :ssn] } # override table name and key
t.integer :author_id, foreign_key: { references: nil }             # don't create a constraint
t.integer :author_id, foreign_key: { name: "my_fk" }               # override default generated constraint name
t.integer :author_id, foreign_key: { on_delete: :cascade }
t.integer :author_id, foreign_key: { on_update: :set_null }
t.integer :author_id, foreign_key: { deferrable: true }
t.integer :author_id, foreign_key: { deferrable: :initially_deferred }

Of course the options can be combined, e.g.

t.integer :author_id, foreign_key: { name: "my_fk", on_delete: :no_action }

As a shorthand, all options except :name can be specified without placing them in a hash, e.g.

t.integer :author_id, on_delete: :cascade
t.integer :author_id, references: nil

The foreign key behavior can be configured globally (see Config) or per-table (see create_table).

To examine your foreign key constraints, connection.foreign_keys returns a list of foreign key constraints defined for a given table, and connection.reverse_foreign_keys returns a list of foreign key constraints that reference a given table. See doc at SchemaPlus::ActiveRecord::ConnectionAdapters::ForeignKeyDefinition.

Foreign Key Issues

Foreign keys can cause issues for Rails utilities that delete or load data because referential integrity imposes a sequencing requirement that those utilities may not take into consideration. Monkey-patching may be required to address some of these issues. The Wiki article Making yaml_db work with foreign key constraints in PostgreSQL has some information that may be of assistance in resolving these issues.


SchemaPlus extends rails' drop_table method to accept these options:

drop_table :table_name                    # same as rails
drop_table :table_name, if_exists: true   # no error if table doesn't exist
drop_table :table_name, cascade: true     # delete dependencies

The :cascade option is particularly useful given foreign key constraints. For Postgresql it is implemented using DROP TABLE...CASCADE which deletes all dependencies. For MySQL, SchemaPlus implements the :cascade option to delete foreign key references, but does not delete any other dependencies. For Sqlite3, the :cascade option is ignored, but Sqlite3 always drops tables with cascade-like behavior.

SchemaPlus likewise extends create_table ... force: true to use :cascade


SchemaPlus provides support for creating and dropping views. In a migration, a view can be created using a rails relation or literal sql:

create_view :posts_commented_by_staff,  Post.joins(comment: user).where(users: {role: 'staff'}).uniq
create_view :uncommented_posts,        "SELECT * FROM posts LEFT OUTER JOIN comments ON comments.post_id = WHERE IS NULL"

And can be dropped:

drop_view :posts_commented_by_staff
drop_view :uncommented_posts

ActiveRecord works with views the same as with ordinary tables. That is, for the above views you can define

class PostCommentedByStaff < ActiveRecord::Base
  table_name = "posts_commented_by_staff"

class UncommentedPost < ActiveRecord::Base

Column Defaults: Expressions

SchemaPlus allows defaults to be set using expressions or constant values:

t.datetime :seen_at, default: { expr: 'NOW()' }
t.datetime :seen_at, default: { value: "2011-12-11 00:00:00" }

Note that in MySQL only the TIMESTAMP column data type accepts SQL column defaults and Rails uses DATETIME, so expressions can't be used with MySQL.

The standard syntax will still work as usual:

t.datetime :seen_at, default: "2011-12-11 00:00:00"

Also, as a convenience

t.datetime :seen_at, default: :now

resolves to:

NOW()                 # PostgreSQL
(DATETIME('now'))     # SQLite3
invalid               # MySQL

Column Defaults: Using

SchemaPlus introduces a constant ActiveRecord::DB_DEFAULT that you can use to explicitly instruct the database to use the column default value (or expression). For example:

Post.create(category: ActiveRecord::DB_DEFAULT)
post.update_attributes(category: ActiveRecord::DB_DEFAULT)

(Without ActiveRecord::DB_DEFAULT, you can update a value to NULL but not to its default value.)

Note that after updating, you would need to reload a record to replace ActiveRecord::DB_DEFAULT with the value assigned by the database.

Note also that Sqlite3 does not support ActiveRecord::DB_DEFAULT; attempting to use it will raise ActiveRecord::StatementInvalid

Schema Dump and Load (schema.rb)

When dumping schema.rb, SchemaPlus orders the views and tables in the schema dump alphabetically, but subject to the requirement that each table or view be defined before those that depend on it. This allows all foreign key constraints to be defined within the scope of the table definition. (Unless there are cyclical dependencies, in which case some foreign keys constraints must be defined later.)

Also, when dumping schema.rb, SchemaPlus dumps explicit foreign key definition statements rather than relying on the auto-creation behavior, for maximum clarity and for independence from global config. And correspondingly, when loading a schema, i.e. with the context of ActiveRecord::Schema.define, SchemaPlus ensures that auto creation of foreign key constraints is turned off regardless of the global setting. But if for some reason you are creating your schema.rb file by hand, and would like to take advantage of auto-creation of foreign key constraints, you can re-enable it:

ActiveRecord::Schema.define do
    SchemaPlus.config.foreign_keys.auto_create = true
    SchemaPlus.config.foreign_keys.auto_index = true

    create_table ...etc...

Release notes:

Master branch (to be released)

  • nothing currently waiting to be released


  • Bug fixes migration.add_references with polymophic: true (issue #145 and others)


  • Supports jruby & mysql, thanks to @rzenha
  • Works with MRI ruby & rails 4.1.0beta3
  • Run tests against MRI 2.1.0


  • Bug fix, dump unique index with expression (Issue #142)


  • Bug fix, remove_index with if_exists but no name
  • Sort indexes alphabetically when dumping, like rails does


  • Regression bug fix, non-option arguemnts to remove_index


  • Added :if_exists option for remove_index
  • Initial jruby support (rails 3.2, postgresql), due to efforts of @donv
  • Preliminatry groundwork for rails 4.1, due to efforts of @tovodeverett
  • Bug fix for change_table
  • Bug fix for schema_dump postgresql non-btree indexes
  • Bug fix regarding expressions that cast non-string columns to strings in a lower()


  • Now works with rails 4, due to efforts of @tovodeverett
  • Test against MRI ruby 2.0.0, no longer test against 1.9.2


  • Now works with rails 3.2.13 (fixed railtie initialization)


  • Dependency constraint to rails 3.2.12 max, since schema_plus doesn't currently work with 3.2.13.rc2


  • Add support for drop_table :cascade => true. Note that until now, :cascade was implicitly true. So this change might break existing code that relied on the incorrect implicit cascade behavior.
  • Add support for :deferrable => :initially_deferred (thanks to @bhavinkamani)
  • Works with PostGIS (thanks to @pete)
  • Bug fix: Circular Reference/Stack Level Too Deep in Column#to_json. Thanks to @robdimarco for tracking down the problem
  • Bug fix: More robust handling of foreign keys with schema namespaces


  • README cleanups (thanks to @denispeplin)
  • Now raises ArgumentError if index has both :case_sensitive => false and an :expression
  • Now creates consistent default name for foreign key constraints
  • Bug fix: respect :length keyword for index (thanks to @teleological)
  • Bug fix: renaming table with multiple foreign key constraints (thanks to @teleological)
  • Bug fix: don't dump :case_sensitive => false for index with an expression that includes "lower(name)".
  • Bug fix: Properly dump multi-column case-insensitive indexes


  • No longer support rails < 3.2 and ruby < 1.9
  • New feature: specify foreign key constraints using :foreign_key => { ... }, motivated in particular to support :name (suggested by @daniele-m)
  • New feature: create view using ActiveRecord relation
  • New feature: ActiveRecord::DB_DEFAULT (suggested by @zaadjis)
  • New feature: renaming a table renames its indexes and constraints correspondingly.
  • Bug fix for postgres :kind index attribute (thanks to @eugenebolshakov)
  • Sort fks in dump for stability (thanks to @zephyr-dev)
  • Bug fix: change_column should maintain foreign key constraints even when config.foreign_keys.auto_create is false
  • Bug fix: quote default expressions in schema dump (thanks to @jonleighton)
  • Bug fix: when removing a foreign key constraint, remove its auto-generated index.
  • Bug fix: SchemaDumper.ignore_tables needs to support regexps (suggested by @mtalcott)
  • Bug fix: More robust handling of Postgresql schema_search path (suggested by @mtalcott)
  • Bug fix: Only get index, view, and foreign key information from current schema (thanks to @bhavinkamani)

Earlier releases

  • 0.4.1 - Bug fix: don't attempt foreign key creation for t.belongs_to ... :polymorphic => true
  • 0.4.0 - Add :force for create_view (suggested by @greglazarev). cleanups by @betelgeuse
  • 0.3.4 - Bug fix: regression causing :default => false to be ignored
  • 0.3.3 - Bug fix: properly handle boolean defaults in mysql
  • 0.3.2 - Bug fix: make sure rake db:schema:load initializes schema_plus
  • 0.3.1 - Bug fix for PostgreSQL schema dump after change_column_default(... nil)
  • 0.3.0 - Add :default => expressions (Thanks to Luke Saunders). support rails 3.2 and ruby 1.9.3
  • 0.2.1 - Suppress duplicate add_indexes. compatibility with rails 3.2.0.rc2


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