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Write beautiful and expressive ActiveRecord scopes without SQL

SexyScopes is a gem that adds syntactic sugar for creating ActiveRecord scopes in Ruby instead of SQL. This allows for more expressive, less error-prone and database independent conditions.

WARNING: This gem requires Ruby >= 1.9.2 and ActiveRecord >= 3.1.

Usage & Examples

Let's define a Product model with this schema:

# price     :integer
# category  :string
# draft     :boolean
class Product < ActiveRecord::Base

Now take a look at the following scope:

scope :visible, -> { where('category IS NOT NULL AND draft = ? AND price > 0', false) }

Hum, lots of SQL, not very Ruby-esque...

With SexyScopes

scope :visible, -> { where((category != nil) & (draft == false) & (price > 0)) }

Much better! Looks like magic? It's not.

category, draft and price in this context are methods representing your model's columns. They respond to Ruby operators (like <, ==, etc.) and can be combined with logical operators (& and |) to express complex predicates.

Let's take a look at another example with these relations:

# rating:  integer
class Post < ActiveRecord::Base
  has_many :comments

# post_id:  integer
# rating:   integer
class Comment < ActiveRecord::Base
  belongs_to :post

Now let's find posts having comments with a rating greater than a given rating in a controller action:

Without SexyScopes

@posts = Post.joins(:comments).where('rating > ?', params[:rating])
# ActiveRecord::StatementInvalid: ambiguous column name: rating

Because both Post and Comment have a rating column, you have to give the table name explicitly:

@posts = Post.joins(:comments).where('comments.rating > ?', params[:rating])

Not very DRY, is it?

With SexyScopes

@posts = Post.joins(:comments).where Comment.rating > params[:rating]

Here you have it, clear as day, still protected from SQL injection.


Add this line to your application's Gemfile:

gem 'sexy_scopes'

And then execute:


Or install it yourself as:

gem install sexy_scopes

Then require it in your application code:

require 'sexy_scopes'

How does it work ?

SexyScopes is essentially a wrapper around Arel attribute nodes.

It introduces a ActiveRecord::Base.attribute(name) class method returning an Arel::Attribute object, which represent a table column with the given name, that is extended to support Ruby operators.

For convenience, SexyScopes dynamically resolves methods whose name is an existing table column: i.e. Product.price is a shortcut for Product.attribute(:price).

Please note that this mechanism won't override any of the existing ActiveRecord::Base class methods, so if you have a column named name for instance, you'll have to use Product.attribute(:name) instead of (which would be in this case the class actual name, "Product").

Here is a complete list of operators, and their Arel::Attribute equivalents:

  • Predicates:

    • ==: eq
    • =~: matches
    • !~: does_not_match
    • >=: gteq
    • > : gt
    • < : lt
    • <=: lteq
    • !=: not_eq
  • Logical operators:

    • &: and
    • |: or
    • ~: not

Regular Expressions

Did you know that most RDBMS come with pretty good support for regular expressions?

One reason they're quite unpopular in Rails applications is that their syntax is really different amongst databases implementations. Let's say you're using SQLite3 in development, and PostgreSQL in testing/production, well that's quite a good reason not to use database-specific code, isn't it?

Once again, SexyScopes comes to the rescue: The =~ and !~ operators when called with a regular expression will generate the SQL you don't want to know about.

predicate = User.username =~ /^john\b(.*\b)?doe$/i

# In development, using SQLite3:
# => "users"."username" REGEXP '^john\b(.*\b)?doe$'

# In testing/production, using PostgreSQL
# => "users"."username" ~* '^john\b(.*\b)?doe$'

Now let's suppose that you want to give your admin a powerful regexp based search upon usernames, here's how you could do it:

class Admin::UsersController
  def index
    @users = User.where(User.username =~ Regexp.compile(params[:query]))
    respond_with @users

Let's see what happens in our production logs (SQL included) when they try this new feature:

Started GET "/admin/users?query=bob%7Calice" for xx.xx.xx.xx at 2014-03-31 16:00:50 +0200
  Processing by Admin::UsersController#index as HTML
  Parameters: {"query"=>"bob|alice"}
  User Load (0.1ms)  SELECT "users".* FROM "users"  WHERE ("users"."username" ~ 'bob|alice')

The proper SQL is generated, protected from SQL injection BTW, and from now on you have reusable code for both you development and your production environment.

Advanced Examples

# radius:  integer
class Circle < ActiveRecord::Base
  # Attributes can be coerced in arithmetic operations
  def self.perimeter
    2 * Math::PI * radius

  def self.area
    Math::PI * radius * radius

Circle.where Circle.perimeter > 42
# SQL: SELECT `circles`.* FROM `circles`  WHERE (6.283185307179586 * `circles`.`radius` > 42)
Circle.where Circle.area < 42
# SQL: SELECT `circles`.* FROM `circles`  WHERE (3.141592653589793 * `circles`.`radius` * `circles`.`radius` < 42)

class Product < ActiveRecord::Base
  predicate = (attribute(:name) == nil) & shoes shirts ))
  puts predicate.to_sql
  # `products`.`name` IS NULL AND NOT (`products`.`category` IN ('shoes', 'shirts'))

  # SQL: SELECT `products`.* FROM `products` WHERE `products`.`name` IS NULL AND
  #      NOT (`products`.`category` IN ('shoes', 'shirts'))


Report bugs or suggest features using GitHub issues.

  1. Fork it
  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 new Pull Request


  • Document the sql_literal method and how it can be used to create complex subqueries
  • Handle associations (i.e. Post.comments == Comment.joins(:posts) ?)

SexyScopes is released under the MIT License.

Copyright (c) 2010-2014 Samuel Lebeau, See LICENSE for details.