Tagged With   gem:name=activerecord , lib:name=irb , gem:name=console_update , gem:topic=database , post:type=tutorial , post:lang=ruby

Console Update With Your Editor

Rails’ script/console makes it easy to fetch, view and edit your database records. But can you edit those records as quickly as you edit code in your text editor? Riiight, like editing our database records in an editor is gonna happen? It already has.

While fleshing out my own bookmark manager, a console-based Rails app, I got tired of editing my database records through update_attribute and update_attributes. Yes, you can autocomplete and alias away method calls but it still didn’t feel fast enough for the massive amount of retagging and annotating I was doing. So I prayed to some deity and the console_update plugin was born. (I actually didn’t ‘pray’ but let’s not delve into semantics.)

Before I go into a long spiel about how it works you probably just want examples:

  bash> script/console
  #Set your editor if you don't have your environment variable EDITOR set.
  ConsoleUpdate.editor = 'insert flame war here'
  # Invoke the editor on your first url object.
  irb>> Url.first.console_update
  # In your editor you get a stringified version of your ActiveRecord objects.
  - name: http://funnyordie.com
    id: 1
    description: i swear i've seen this site somewhere before
  # Edit with your crazy editor-fu, save and exit. Your record is updated.
  # Perhaps we only want to edit the name column
  irb>> Url.first.console_update :only=>%w{name}
  # Perhaps we want to edit everything but the name column
  irb>> Url.first.console_update :except=>%w{name}  

So at this point, we’ve edited a record. It’s nice for those records that have long text fields. But what about multiple records?

  irb>> records = Url.all :limit=>10
  # Edit multiple records just like you would with one record.
  irb>> Url.console_update records
  # console_update takes the same options as above
  irb>> Url.console_update records, :only=>%w{name}
  # This is nice but why not just chain it to the end of a named_scope?
  irb>> ConsoleUpdate.enable_named_scope
  # Using the named_scope :tagged_with, fetches all urls tagged with sweetness and drops them in an editor.
  irb>> Url.tagged_with('sweetness').console_update

You may have noticed in the first set of examples that an edited file looked like YAML. That’s because it is. By default, ConsoleUpdate uses YAML as a filter, but console_update is format-agnostic. Prefer to see your database records in a different way? Roll your own!.

So now for the fascinating explanation of how console_update works! Well, maybe not that fascinating. Your database records are converted to an array of hashes. This array is converted by your preferred filter into a string. You edit the string as a temporary file in your preferred editor. You save the file, the file is converted back by the filter into an array of hashes, and the modified records are updated.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that ConsoleUpdate doesn’t care what columns/attributes you edit. So if you have any accessor methods which update associated objects when saved, your associated objects get updated as well. It has worked nicely for editing associated tags of my bookmarks. Play with it on Github or just install with gem install console_update.

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