Skip to content


Switch branches/tags

Name already in use

A tag already exists with the provided branch name. Many Git commands accept both tag and branch names, so creating this branch may cause unexpected behavior. Are you sure you want to create this branch?

Latest commit


Git stats


Failed to load latest commit information.
Latest commit message
Commit time

Rails Devise Roles Rails Devise Roles

Rails 5.0 example application that provides user management, authentication, and simple role-based authorization. The application uses:

Use this example application as a starter app for your own web applications.

For a complete explanation of the code, see the tutorial:

Other tutorials may be helpful:

You can build this application in only a few minutes using the Rails Composer tool, choosing either a Bootstrap or Foundation front-end framework, as well as many other options, such as Haml or Slim.

Join RailsApps

From the RailsApps Project

The RailsApps open source project offers starter applications and tutorials for Rails developers. Generate the applications with the Rails Composer tool.

All the code is explained in the Capstone Rails Tutorials. You can purchase the Capstone Rails Tutorials to support the project.

If You Are New to Rails

If you’re new to Rails, see What is Ruby on Rails?, the book Learn Ruby on Rails, and recommendations for a Rails tutorial.

What Is Implemented — and What Is Not

This application extends the rails-devise example application to add role-based authorization using Active Record Enum. The rails-devise example application provides:

  • Home page
  • Navigation bar
  • Sign up (create account)
  • Login
  • “Forgot password?” feature
  • “Remember me” (stay logged in) feature
  • Edit account (edit user profile)
  • List of users

This rails-devise-roles example application adds authorization, showing how to implement user roles, and limit access to pages based on user role. With this application:

  • an admin can see a list of users
  • an admin can change a user’s role
  • an ordinary user can’t see a list of users
  • an ordinary user can’t change their role
  • an ordinary user can’t see (or edit) another user’s profile
  • an ordinary user can see (and edit) their own user profile

After examining the example application, you’ll be able to implement access control in your own applications.


The application requires a database. The example application uses SQLite with Rails ActiveRecord. You can easily substitute PostgreSQL, MySQL, or other databases.

Front-end Framework

The example application (here in the GitHub repository) integrates Bootstrap for a navigation bar and flash messages. The rails_layout gem is included so you can switch to the Foundation front-end framework.

Similar Examples and Tutorials

This is one in a series of Rails example apps and tutorials from the RailsApps Project. See a list of additional Rails examples, tutorials, and starter apps. Related example applications may be useful:

Accounts You Will Need

Devise provides a “Forgot Password?” feature that resets a password and sends instructions to the user. You’ll need an email service provider to send email from the application. You can use Gmail during development. You can get a free Gmail account if you don’t already have one. For production, Gmail is not robust. Use transactional email services, such as Mandrill, to send email in production. See the article Send Email with Rails for more information.

We provide instructions to deploy the application to Heroku which provides Rails application hosting. It costs nothing to set up a Heroku account and deploy as many applications as you want. To deploy an app to Heroku, you must have a Heroku account. Visit Heroku to set up an account.


Before generating your application, you will need:

  • The Ruby language – version 2.3.1
  • The Rails gem – version 5.0

See the article Installing Rails for instructions about setting up Rails and your development environment.

Getting the Application


You have several options for getting the code on your own machine. You can fork, clone, or generate.


If you’d like to add features (or bug fixes) to improve the example application, you can fork the GitHub repo and make pull requests. Your code contributions are welcome!


If you want to copy and customize the app with changes that are only useful for your own project, you can clone the GitHub repo. You’ll need to search-and-replace the project name throughout the application. You probably should generate the app instead (see below). To clone:

$ git clone git://

You’ll need git on your machine. See Rails and Git.


If you want to use the project as a starter application, use the Rails Composer tool to generate a new version of the example app. You’ll be able to give it your own project name when you generate the app. Generating the application gives you additional options.

To build the example application, Rails 5.0 must be installed in your development environment. Run the command:

$ rails new rails-devise-roles -m

The $ character indicates a shell prompt; don’t include it when you run the command.

This creates a new Rails app named rails-devise-roles on your computer. You can use a different name if you wish.

You’ll see a prompt:

option  Build a starter application?
    1)  Build a RailsApps example application
    2)  Contributed applications
    3)  Custom application

Enter “1” to select Build a RailsApps example application. You’ll see a prompt:

option  Choose a starter application.
    1)  learn-rails
    2)  rails-bootstrap
    3)  rails-foundation
    4)  rails-mailinglist-activejob
    5)  rails-omniauth
    6)  rails-devise
    7)  rails-devise-roles
    8)  rails-devise-pundit
    9)  rails-signup-download
   10)  rails-stripe-checkout

Choose rails-devise-roles. The Rails Composer tool may give you other options (other applications may have been added since these notes were written).

The application generator template will ask you for additional preferences:

  option  Web server for development?
      1)  WEBrick (default)
      2)  Thin
      3)  Unicorn
      4)  Puma
      5)  Phusion Passenger (Apache/Nginx)
      6)  Phusion Passenger (Standalone)
  option  Web server for production?
      1)  Same as development
      2)  Thin
      3)  Unicorn
      4)  Puma
      5)  Phusion Passenger (Apache/Nginx)
      6)  Phusion Passenger (Standalone)
  option  Database used in development?
      1)  SQLite
      2)  PostgreSQL
      3)  MySQL
  option  Template engine?
      1)  ERB
      2)  Haml
      3)  Slim
  option  Test framework?
      1)  None
      2)  RSpec with Capybara
  option  Front-end framework?
      1)  None
      2)  Twitter Bootstrap 3.3
      3)  Twitter Bootstrap 2.3
      4)  Zurb Foundation 5.5
      5)  Zurb Foundation 4.0
      6)  Simple CSS
   setup  The Devise 'forgot password' feature requires email.
  option  Add support for sending email?
      1)  None
      2)  Gmail
      3)  SMTP
      4)  SendGrid
      5)  Mandrill
  option  Devise modules?
      1)  Devise with default modules
      2)  Devise with Confirmable module
     3)  Devise with Confirmable and Invitable modules
  option  Use a form builder gem?
      1)  None
      2)  SimpleForm
  option  Install page-view analytics?
      1)  None
      2)  Google Analytics
  extras  Set a robots.txt file to ban spiders? (y/n)
  extras  Create a GitHub repository? (y/n)
  extras  Use or create a project-specific rvm gemset? (y/n)

Web Servers

If you plan to deploy to Heroku, select Unicorn as your production webserver. Unicorn is recommended by Heroku.


Use SQLite for development on Mac or Linux, unless you already have PostgreSQL installed locally. Use PostgreSQL if you plan to deploy to Heroku. You can easily change the database later if you select SQLite to start.

Template Engine

The example application uses the default “ERB” Rails template engine. Optionally, you can use another template engine, such as Haml or Slim. See instructions for Haml and Rails.


The example application includes tests for RSpec with Capybara.

Front-end Framework

The example in the GitHub repository was built with the Bootstrap 3 front-end framework. Use Zurb Foundation 5 if you like. Choosing either Bootstrap or Foundation will automatically install views with attractive styling.


Choose Gmail for development if you already have a Gmail account. Choose SendGrid or Mandrill for production if your site will be heavily used.

Devise Modules

The example in the GitHub repository uses Devise with default modules.

Other Choices

Set a robots.txt file to ban spiders if you want to keep your new site out of Google search results.

If you choose to create a GitHub repository, the generator will prompt you for a GitHub username and password.

It is a good idea to use RVM, the Ruby Version Manager, and create a project-specific rvm gemset (not available on Windows). See Installing Rails.


If you get an error “OpenSSL certificate verify failed” or “Gem::RemoteFetcher::FetchError: SSL_connect” see the article OpenSSL errors and Rails.

Edit the README

If you’re storing the app in a GitHub repository, please edit the README files to add a description of the app and your contact info. If you don’t change the README, people will think I am the author of your version of the application.

Getting Started

See the article Installing Rails to make sure your development environment is prepared properly.


I recommend using rvm, the Ruby Version Manager, to create a project-specific gemset for the application. If you generate the application with the Rails Composer tool, you can create a project-specific gemset.


Here are the gems used by the application:

  • Devise for authentication and user management

These gems make development easier:

Your choice of front-end framework:

Install the Required Gems

If you used the Rails Composer tool to generate the example app, the application template script has already run the bundle install command.

If not, you should run the bundle install command to install the required gems on your computer:

$ bundle install

You can check which gems are installed on your computer with:

$ gem list

Keep in mind that you have installed these gems locally. When you deploy the app to another server, the same gems (and versions) must be available.

Front-end Framework

If you generate the application using the Rails Composer tool, you have the option to install either Bootstrap or Foundation. The folder app/views/devise/ will contain attractive view files that override the views provided in the Devise gem.

Changing the Front-end Framework

The version of the application in the repository includes Bootstrap. If you wish to install Foundation instead, use the rails_layout gem to generate new files. First add a gem to the Gemfile:

gem 'foundation-rails'

Use Bundler to install the gem:

$ bundle install

To create layout files for use with Zurb Foundation 5.5:

$ rails generate layout:install foundation5

The “layout:devise” Command

Devise provides a utility command rails generate devise:views. The Devise command creates view files for signup, login, and related features. However, the views generated by Devise lack CSS styling.

Use the RailsLayout gem to generate Devise views with styling for Bootstrap or Foundation.

  • $ rails generate layout:devise bootstrap3
  • $ rails generate layout:devise foundation5

The command will create these files:

  • app/views/devise/sessions/new.html.erb
  • app/views/devise/passwords/new.html.erb
  • app/views/devise/registrations/edit.html.erb
  • app/views/devise/registrations/new.html.erb

Additionally, the command will update a file to append Sass mixins to accommodate Bootstrap or Foundation:

  • app/assets/stylesheets/framework_and_overrides.css.scss

The Sass mixins allow any view to be used with either Bootstrap or Foundation (so we don’t have to maintain separate views for each front-end framework).

Configuration File

To consolidate configuration settings in a single location, we store credentials in the config/secrets.yml file. To keep your credentials private, use Unix environment variables to set your credentials. See the article Rails Environment Variables for more information.

Add your credentials to the file config/secrets.yml:

# Make sure the secrets in this file are kept private
# if you're sharing your code publicly.

  admin_name: First User
  admin_password: changeme
  email_provider_username: <%= ENV["GMAIL_USERNAME"] %>
  email_provider_password: <%= ENV["GMAIL_PASSWORD"] %>
  secret_key_base: very_long_random_string

  secret_key_base: very_long_random_string

# Do not keep production secrets in the repository,
# instead read values from the environment.
  admin_name: <%= ENV["ADMIN_NAME"] %>
  admin_email: <%= ENV["ADMIN_EMAIL"] %>
  admin_password: <%= ENV["ADMIN_PASSWORD"] %>
  email_provider_username: <%= ENV["GMAIL_USERNAME"] %>
  email_provider_password: <%= ENV["GMAIL_PASSWORD"] %>
  domain_name: <%= ENV["DOMAIN_NAME"] %>
  secret_key_base: <%= ENV["SECRET_KEY_BASE"] %>

All configuration values in the config/secrets.yml file are available anywhere in the application as variables. For example, Rails.application.secrets.email_provider_username will return the string set in the Unix environment variable GMAIL_USERNAME.

For the Gmail username and password, enter the credentials you use to log in to Gmail when you check your inbox. See the article Send Email with Rails if you are using Google two factor authentication.

The values for admin_email and admin_password are used when the database is seeded. You will be able to log in to the application with these credentials. Note that it’s not necessary to personalize the config/secrets.yml file before you deploy your app. You can deploy the app with an example user and then use the application’s “Edit Account” feature to change email address and password after you log in. Use this feature to log in as an administrator and change the email and password to your own.

The variable domain_name is used for sending email. You can use in development. If you already have a custom domain name you’ll use when you deploy the application, you can set domain_name. If you deploy the application to Heroku, you’ll set domain_name with the unique name you’ve given your application on Heroku. You’ll have to wait until you deploy to know the name you’ll use on Heroku.

If you don’t want to use Unix environment variables, you can set each value directly in the config/secrets.yml file. The file must be in your git repository when you deploy to Heroku. However, you shouldn’t save the file to a public GitHub repository where other people can see your credentials.


Roles are defined in the app/models/User.rb file (the User model).

class User < ActiveRecord::Base
  enum role: [:user, :vip, :admin]
  after_initialize :set_default_role, :if => :new_record?

  def set_default_role
    self.role ||= :user

  # Include default devise modules. Others available are:
  # :confirmable, :lockable, :timeoutable and :omniauthable
  devise :database_authenticatable, :registerable,
         :recoverable, :rememberable, :trackable, :validatable

You can change the available roles by changing the array [:user, :vip, :admin].

The application uses the ActiveRecord enum method to manage roles. ActiveRecord provides convenient methods to query the role attribute:

user.admin! # sets the role to "admin"
user.admin? # => true
user.role  # => "admin"

See documentation for ActiveRecord::Enum for details.

Database Seed File

The db/seeds.rb file initializes the database with default values.

# This file should contain all the record creation needed to seed the database with its default values.
# The data can then be loaded with the rails db:seed (or created alongside the db with db:setup).
# Examples:
#   cities = City.create([{ name: 'Chicago' }, { name: 'Copenhagen' }])
#   Mayor.create(name: 'Emanuel', city: cities.first)
user =

CreateAdminService is a service object that obtains admin_email and admin_password values from the config/secrets.yml file. You can examine the file app/services/create_admin_service.rb to see how a new user is created.

Set the Database

If you’ve used the Rails Composer tool to generate the application, the database is already set up with rails db:migrate and rails db:seed.

If you’ve cloned the repo, prepare the database and add the default user to the database by running the commands:

$ rails db:migrate
$ rails db:seed

Use rails db:reset if you want to empty and reseed the database.

Change your Application’s Secret Token

If you’ve used the Rails Composer tool to generate the application, the application’s secret token will be unique, just as with any Rails application generated with the rails new command.

However, if you’ve cloned the application directly from GitHub, it is crucial that you change the application’s secret token before deploying your application in production mode. Otherwise, people could change their session information, and potentially access your site without permission. Your secret token should be at least 30 characters long and completely random.

Get a unique secret token:

rails secret

Edit the config/secrets.yml file to change the secret token.

Test the App

You can check that your application runs properly by entering the command:

$ rails server

To see your application in action, open a browser window and navigate to http://localhost:3000/.

You should see a home page with a navigation bar.

You should be able to click the navigation links for “Sign in” and “Sign up.”

Sign in with the credentials in the config/secrets.yml file. You’ll see a new navigation link for “Users.” Click the “Users” link and you’ll see a list of users (initially, just yourself). Log out and create a new account with the “Sign up” navigation link.

Sign in with a new account. Try clicking the “Users” link and you’ll be denied access (you are not an admin). Sign out.

Sign in with the first account (the admin account). Click the “Users” link. You’ll see both users. Change the role for the second user.

You’ve seen a simple demonstration of access control.

Stop the server with Control-C. If you test the app by starting the web server and then leave the server running while you install new gems, you’ll have to restart the server to see any changes. The same is true for changes to configuration files in the config folder. This can be confusing to new Rails developers because you can change files in the app folders without restarting the server. Stop the server each time after testing and you will avoid this issue.

RSpec Test Suite

The application contains a suite of RSpec tests. To run:

$ rspec

Deploy to Heroku

Heroku provides low cost, easily configured Rails application hosting.

From the Command Line

You can deploy from the command line.

$ git push origin master

If you’ve set configuration values in the config/secrets.yml file, you’ll need to set them as Heroku environment variables. You can set Heroku environment variables directly with heroku config:add. For example:

$ heroku config:add ADMIN_NAME='First User'
$ heroku config:add ADMIN_EMAIL='' ADMIN_PASSWORD='changeme'
$ heroku config:add GMAIL_USERNAME='' GMAIL_PASSWORD='secret'
$ heroku config:add DOMAIN_NAME=''

See the Tutorial for Rails on Heroku for details.


Problems? Check the issues.


Please create a GitHub issue if you identify any problems or have suggestions for improvements.

Where to Get Help

Your best source for help with problems is Stack Overflow. Your issue may have been encountered and addressed by others.

Use the tag “railsapps” on Stack Overflow for extra attention.


If you make improvements to this application, please share with others.

Send the author a message, create an issue, or fork the project and submit a pull request.

If you add functionality to this application, create an alternative implementation, or build an application that is similar, please contact me and I’ll add a note to the README so that others can find your work.


Daniel Kehoe implemented the application and wrote the tutorial.

Is the app useful to you? Follow the project on Twitter: @rails_apps
and tweet some praise. I’d love to know you were helped out by what I’ve put together.

MIT License

MIT License

Copyright ©2014-16 Daniel Kehoe

Useful Links

Getting Started Articles Tutorials
Ruby on Rails Analytics for Rails Rails Bootstrap
What is Ruby on Rails? Heroku and Rails Rails Foundation
Learn Ruby on Rails JavaScript and Rails RSpec Tutorial
Rails Tutorial Rails Environment Variables Rails Devise Tutorial
Ruby on Rails Tutorial for Beginners Git and GitHub with Rails Devise RSpec
Install Ruby on Rails Send Email with Rails Devise Bootstrap
Install Ruby on Rails – Mac OS X Haml and Rails Rails Membership Site with Stripe
Install Ruby on Rails – Ubuntu Rails Application Layout Rails Subscription Site with Recurly
Ruby on Rails – HTML5 Boilerplate for Rails Startup Prelaunch Signup Application
Update Rails Example Gemfiles for Rails
Rails Composer Rails Application Templates
Rails Examples Rails Product Planning
Rails Starter Apps Rails Project Management


Rails 5.0 starter app with Devise and simple role-based authorization.






No releases published


No packages published