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Skip the console with Rails Runner


If you're getting RSI from typing rails console all day, I've got something to show you — rails runner. The rails runner command is a handy Rails command to run commands inside our Rails console, directly from our terminal!

Be prepared for your productivity to... marginally increase at best 😅 Jokes aside, rails runner is super handy, and I wish I'd known about it sooner.

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If you're sick of typing rails console all day, or just want to learn about a cool Rails command, I've got something cool for you. It's the rails runner command.

rails runner lets us run commands from inside the context of our Rails apps, without having to open up the rails console. This is a massive timesaver!

rails runner has an extra trick up its sleeve though — we can use it to run scripts! This is great for longer jobs or complex production changes.

In this article, I'll walk you through everything you need to know about rails runner, including —

  • running single commands
  • running long scripts
  • running in a specific Rails environment with the -e flag

Let's go!

Run single commands with rails runner

From the official Ruby on Rails documentation —

bin/rails runner ... runs Ruby code in the context of Rails non-interactively.

Essentially, with rails runner, we can run commands directly inside the Rails console, from the terminal —

# inside our regular teminal
> rails runner "puts"

The alternative would be, of course, opening up the Rails console —

❯ rails console
Loading development environment (Rails 7.0.6)
irb(main):001:0> puts
=> nil
irb(main):002:0> exit

With rails runner, we cut out entering the rails console entirely! This is a big time saver.

Your rails runner commands also stay in your terminal history, making them easy to find later (rather than losing them to the rails console).

Any output, like logging or puts statements, should show up as you'd expect.

Note: like most bin/rails commands, rails runner has a handy shorthand — rails r.

Run scripts with rails runner script.rb

The rails runner command is great for short commands. But what about more complex tasks?

We could create a rake task, or load() a script from inside our rails console, but rails runner gives us an easier option.

We can pass rails runner a script directly, by calling rails runner path/to/script.rb. When we do this, rails runner will run our script, in the context of our Rails app (as if it were inside the rails console).

Here's an example.

Say we have a script (below), to run on the production instance of our Ruby on Rails app, to update old Post records.

We don't want to run it in the rails console directly — the code is too complex. Instead, we can create a script, then run it with rails runner.

Note: It's best practice to store one-off scripts like this inside lib/.

# We'll run this script with "rails runner script"

# Get all posts older than 30 days
posts = Post.where('created_at < ?', 30.days.ago)
puts "Found #{posts.count} posts older than 30 days."

# Iterate over each post
posts.each do |post|
  if post.likes > 100
    post.update(category: "top-article")

puts "Finished processing posts."

Since the script is inside the lib directory, we can run it with —

rails runner lib/archive_posts.rb

No need to create a rake task, or load the script from the rails console. How easy is that!

Run commands in different environments with rails runner -e

Before you run a script in production, you probably want to test it locally first.

We can do that with rails runner -e. The -e flag lets us specify an environment to run our command or script.

Rails in production mode is configured differently to development mode (different gem sets, compiled static assets, etc.), so this is a good way to catch any bugs before your script fails in production.

As an example, to locally test our archive_posts.rb script (above), we might run —

# Run our script on our LOCAL MACHINE, but with PRODUCTION settings
rails runner -e production lib/archive_posts.rb


I hope you found that useful! I learned about rails runner yesterday and couldn't believe I hadn't heard of it sooner.

It's super useful — it's nice to skip the rails console and this is the main way I use it. Running scripts with rails runner script is a handy bonus too!

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