# Gem Usage

# Installing ruby gems

This guide assumes you already have Ruby installed. If you're using Ruby < 1.9 you'll have to manually install RubyGems (opens new window) as it won't be included natively (opens new window).

To install a ruby gem, enter the command:

gem install [gemname]

If you are working on a project with a list of gem dependencies, then these will be listed in a file named Gemfile. To install a new gem in the project, add the following line of code in the Gemfile:

gem 'gemname'

This Gemfile is used by the Bundler gem (opens new window) to install dependencies your project requires, this does however mean that you'll have to install Bundler first by running (if you haven't already):

gem install bundler

Save the file, and then run the command:

bundle install

# Specifying versions

The version number can be specified on the command live, with the -v flag, such as:

gem install gemname -v 3.14

When specifying version numbers in a Gemfile, you have several options available:

  • No version specified (gem 'gemname') -- Will install the latest version which is compatible with other gems in the Gemfile.
  • Exact version specified (gem 'gemname', '3.14') -- Will only attempt to install version 3.14 (and fail if this is incompatible with other gems in the Gemfile).
  • Optimistic minimum version number (gem 'gemname', '>=3.14') -- Will only attempt to install the latest version which is compatible with other gems in the Gemfile, and fails if no version greater than or equal to 3.14 is compatible. The operator > can also be used.
  • Pessimistic minimum version number (gem 'gemname', '~>3.14') -- This is functionally equivalent to using gem 'gemname', '>=3.14', '<4'. In other words, only the number after the final period is permitted to increase.

As a best practice: You might want to use one of the Ruby version management libraries like rbenv (opens new window) or rvm (opens new window). Through these libraries, you can install different versions of Ruby runtimes and gems accordingly. So, when working in a project, this will be especially handy because most of the projects are coded against a known Ruby version.

# Gem installation from github/filesystem

You can install a gem from github or filesystem. If the gem has been checked out from git or somehow already on the file system, you could install it using

gem install --local path_to_gem/filename.gem

Installing gem from github. Download the sources from github

mkdir newgem
cd newgem
git clone https://urltogem.git

Build the gem

gem build GEMNAME.gemspec
gem install gemname-version.gem

# Checking if a required gem is installed from within code

To check if a required gem is installed, from within your code, you can use the following (using nokogiri as an example):

  found_gem = Gem::Specification.find_by_name('nokogiri')
  require 'nokogiri'
  <the rest of your code>
rescue Gem::LoadError

However, this can be further extended to a function that can be used in setting up functionality within your code.

def gem_installed?(gem_name)
  found_gem = false
    found_gem = Gem::Specification.find_by_name(gem_name)
  rescue Gem::LoadError
     return false
    return true

Now you can check if the required gem is installed, and print an error message.

if gem_installed?('nokogiri')
  require 'nokogiri'
  printf "nokogiri gem required\n"
  exit 1


if gem_installed?('nokogiri')
  require 'nokogiri'
  require 'REXML'

# Using a Gemfile and Bundler

A Gemfile is the standard way to organize dependencies in your application. A basic Gemfile will look like this:

You can specify the versions of the gem you want as follows:

You can also pull gems straight from a git repo:

You can also group gems depending on what they are used for. For example:

You can specify which platform certain gems should run on if you application needs to be able to run on multiple platforms. For example:

To install all the gems from a Gemfile do:

# Bundler/inline (bundler v1.10 and later)

Sometimes you need to make a script for someone but you are not sure what he has on his machine. Is there everything that your script needs? Not to worry. Bundler has a great function called in line.

It provides a gemfile method and before the script is run it downloads and requires all the necessary gems. A little example:

require 'bundler/inline' #require only what you need

#Start the bundler and in it use the syntax you are already familiar with
gemfile(true) do 
  source 'https://rubygems.org'
        gem 'nokogiri', '~>'
        gem 'ruby-graphviz'