📨 The RailsNotes NewsletterRead now

Published on
← Blog

Procfile.dev, bin/dev, and Rails 7 — how they work, why they're great.


If you've never heard of bin/dev and Procfile.dev, this is the article for you! I hope you're sitting down, because I'm about to rock your (Ruby on Rails development) world.

Even if you are familiar with bin/dev and use it regularly, I hope I'll be able to teach you something new.

And if foreman and bin/dev are too basic for you, check out Overmind 🪬, a better bin/dev for your Procfile.

Table of Contents

Running bin/dev for the first time can feel like magic. Booting all your processes from a single command, in a single terminal window, is super handy. Plus, the integration with Procfile.dev makes it easy to add new processes as needed.

Rails 7 introduced a lot of great new things, but honestly, the bin/dev script is what I notice the most when I'm developing a new Rails 7 app.

You might be familiar with bin/dev and Procfile.dev (and it's OK if you have no idea what these are!). If you've ever created a Ruby on Rails 7 app with the --css= flag or the --js= flag, you would have already seen them. A Rails Procfile.dev might look like this —

web: bin/rails server -p 3000
css: bin/rails tailwindcss:watch

This Procfile.dev file (along with the foreman gem under the hood) will run the rails server and tailwindcss:watch commands at the same time — and all we have to do is run bin/dev. The bin/dev script isn't complicated (it's only 8 lines!), but it makes running multiple processes a lot easier, and in my opinion is pretty great.

This article isn't very long, but I wanted to give you some insight into how bin/dev and our Procfile.dev work together, and unravel some of the "magic".

I also want to show how we can adjust our Procfile.dev file to add new processes, and later on I'll show you some neat foreman commands.

bin/dev, foreman, and Procfile.dev — how do they work together?

Running bin/dev for the first time can feel like magic — but what's actually happening?

We can open up the Rails bin/dev script and look inside. You might be surprised to learn that bin/dev is just an 8-line shell script (longer with my annotations) —

#!/usr/bin/env sh

# install foreman if needed — https://github.com/ddollar/foreman
if ! gem list foreman -i --silent; then
  echo "Installing foreman..."
  gem install foreman

# run foreman and point it to our Procfile.dev, and pass through any arguments we've added
# learn more from the foreman docs — https://ddollar.github.io/foreman/
exec foreman start -f Procfile.dev "$@"

All bin/dev is doing is installing the foreman gem if we don't already have it, then using foreman to start the Procfile.dev in our Rails app.

From the foreman GitHub repository

Foreman is a manager for Procfile-based applications. It aims to abstract away the details of the Procfile format, and allow you to either run your application directly or export it to some other process management format.

Essentially, foreman will automatically run the different processes defined in our Procfile.dev file for us.

Naturally, then, we might want to look into our Procfile.dev.

If you create a Ruby on Rails app with the --css=tailwind flag, you would have a Procfile.dev like this —

web: bin/rails server -p 3000
css: bin/rails tailwindcss:watch

If instead, you created your Ruby on Rails app with the --js=webpack flag, you would have a Procfile.dev like this —

web: unset PORT && env RUBY_DEBUG_OPEN=true bin/rails server
js: yarn build --watch

Our Procfile.dev is used to specify different processes:. A process: can be any sort of script or command you want to run. We can add more processes if we want, or remove some if we need.

I want to show you how we can adjust our Procfile.dev to add more running processes to our Rails development environment— we're going to add Redis and a Sidekiq worker to our Procfile.dev.

Running Redis and a Sidekiq worker locally

One handy addition I make to most of my Procfile.dev files is to add a redis: and a sidekiq: process. This lets me run a Sidekiq worker locally when I'm developing my Ruby on Rails apps.

web: bin/rails server -p 3000
css: bin/rails tailwindcss:watch
redis: redis-server
sidekiq: bundle exec sidekiq -C config/sidekiq.yml

As you can see, we use a redis: process to start running redis-server, which will run Redis locally. Then, we spin up a sidekiq: process (also commonly called worker:) to run our job queue (Sidekiq uses Redis to manage its queue)

Running bin/dev will start up all 4 processes for us —


20:01:00 web.1     | started with pid 50367
20:01:00 css.1     | started with pid 50368
20:01:00 redis.1   | started with pid 50369
20:01:00 sidekiq.1 | started with pid 50370

bin/dev and our Procfile.dev (and foreman behind the scenes) make it much easier to run these extra processes (the alternative would be opening up two new terminal windows and running Redis and Sidekiq separately). Our Procfile.dev also makes it clear what development dependencies our Ruby on Rails app has, and does the work of running them for us.

If you wanted to use docker-compose to run Redis, rather than running redis-server directly, you can do that instead by creating a docker-compose.yml file like this —

version: "3"
    image: redis:7.0-alpine
      - 6379:6379

And then adjust the Procfile.dev in your Ruby on Rails app to start Redis using your docker-compose.yml file —

redis: docker-compose up redis

Some foreman and bin/dev tricks

Disabling a specific process in your Procfile

You might have noticed our bin/dev script runs this command — exec foreman start -f Procfile.dev "$@".

Note the "$@". This lets bin/dev grab any arguments we give it, so it can pass them back to foreman. foreman supports disabling a process, and we can achieve the same thing with bin/dev like —

./bin/dev sidekiq=0,all=1

20:08:18 web.1     | started with pid 50530
20:08:18 css.1     | started with pid 50531
20:08:18 redis.1   | started with pid 50532
# no sidekiq running

This syntax lets you easily disable services that you don't want to run.

See the foreman docs for more — https://ddollar.github.io/foreman/

Per-process environment variables

This example comes straight from the foreman wiki, and shows how we can set environment variables for individual processes —

worker_1: env QUEUE=1 rake worker
worker_2: env QUEUE=2 rake worker

Here, we run workers on two different queues by exporting different environment variables for them.

Check your Procfile.dev for errors

We can run foreman check in our Ruby on Rails project to check that our Procfile.dev is valid. By default, foreman looks for a Procfile, not a Procfile.dev, so we can use the -f flag to specify our Procfile.dev

foreman check -f Procfile.dev
valid procfile detected (web, css, redis, sidekiq)


I hope you found this article useful!

If you couldn't already tell, I'm a massive fan of bin/dev and Procfile.dev — they make it seamless to spin up the development environment for a new Ruby on Rails 7 app.

Personally, I find the Rails Procfile most handy when my apps get more complex, and I want to start running redis: and sidekiq: alongside my main Rails app.

Join 511+ Ruby on Rails lovers

Join 511+ Ruby on Rails lovers and get our weekly newsletter, no spam. Just interesting Rails articles, from here and around the web.