The Listen gem listens to file modifications and notifies you about the changes.
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The Listen gem listens to file modifications and notifies you about the changes.


  • Supports watching multiple directories from a single listener.
  • OS-specific adapters on MRI for Mac OS X 10.6+, Linux, *BSD and Windows, more info below.
  • Detects file modification, addition and removal.
  • Allows supplying regexp-patterns to ignore paths for better results.
  • File content checksum comparison for modifications made under the same second (OS X only).
  • Tested on MRI Ruby environments (1.9+ only) via Travis CI,

Please note that:

  • Specs suite on JRuby and Rubinius aren't reliable on Travis CI, but should work.
  • Windows and *BSD adapter aren't continuously and automaticaly tested.

Pending features

  • Non-recursive directory scanning. #111
  • Symlinks support. #25

Pull request or help is very welcome for these.


The simplest way to install Listen is to use Bundler.

  gem 'listen', '~> 2.0'


Call with either a single directory or multiple directories, then define the "changes" callback in a block.

listener ='dir/to/listen', 'dir/to/listen2') do |modified, added, removed|
  puts "modified absolute path: #{modified}"
  puts "added absolute path: #{added}"
  puts "removed absolute path: #{removed}"
listener.start # not blocking

Pause / unpause / stop

Listeners can also be easily paused/unpaused:

listener ='dir/path/to/listen') { |modified, added, removed| # ... }
listener.listen? # => true
listener.pause   # stop listening to changes
listener.paused? # => true
listener.unpause # start listening to changes again
listener.stop    # stop completely the listener

Ignore / ignore!

Listen ignores some directories and extensions by default (See DEFAULT_IGNORED_DIRECTORIES and DEFAULT_IGNORED_EXTENSIONS in Listen::Silencer), you can add ignoring patterns with the ignore option/method or overwrite default with ignore! option/method.

listener ='dir/path/to/listen', ignore: /\.txt/) { |modified, added, removed| # ... }
listener.ignore! /\.pkg/ # overwrite all patterns and only ignore pkg extension.
listener.ignore /\.rb/   # ignore rb extension in addition of pkg.

Note: Ignoring regexp patterns are evaluated against relative paths.


Listen catches all files (less the ignored once) by default, if you want to only listen to a specific type of file (ie: just rb extension) you should use the only option/method.

listener ='dir/path/to/listen', only: /\.rb$/) { |modified, added, removed| # ... }
listener.only /_spec\.rb$/ # overwrite all existing only patterns.

Note: Only regexp patterns are evaluated only against relative file paths.

Changes callback

Changes to the listened-to directories gets reported back to the user in a callback. The registered callback gets invoked, when there are changes, with three parameters: modified, added and removed paths, in that particular order. Paths are always returned in their absolute form.


listener ='path/to/app') do |modified, added, removed|
  # This block will be called when there are changes.

or ...

# Create a callback
callback = do |modified, added, removed|
  # This proc will be called when there are changes.
listener ='dir', &callback)


All the following options can be set through the after the directory path(s) params.

ignore: [%r{/foo/bar}, /\.pid$/, /\.coffee$/]   # Ignore a list of paths
                                                # default: See DEFAULT_IGNORED_DIRECTORIES and DEFAULT_IGNORED_EXTENSIONS in Listen::Silencer

ignore!: %r{/foo/bar}                           # Same as ignore options, but overwrite default ignored paths.

only: %r{.rb$}                                  # Only listen to specific files
                                                # default: none

latency: 0.5                                    # Set the delay (**in seconds**) between checking for changes
                                                # default: 0.25 sec (1.0 sec for polling)

wait_for_delay: 4                               # Set the delay (**in seconds**) between calls to the callback when changes exist
                                                # default: 0.10 sec

force_polling: true                             # Force the use of the polling adapter
                                                # default: none

polling_fallback_message: 'custom message'      # Set a custom polling fallback message (or disable it with false)
                                                # default: "Listen will be polling for changes. Learn more at"

debug: true                                     # Enable Celluloid logger
                                                # default: false

Listen adapters

The Listen gem has a set of adapters to notify it when there are changes. There are 4 OS-specific adapters to support Darwin, Linux, *BSD and Windows. These adapters are fast as they use some system-calls to implement the notifying function.

There is also a polling adapter which is a cross-platform adapter and it will work on any system. This adapter is slower than the rest of the adapters.

The Darwin and Linux adapters are dependencies of the Listen gem so they work out of the box. For other adapters a specific gem will have to be added to your Gemfile, please read below.

The Listen gem will choose the best adapter automatically, if present. If you want to force the use of the polling adapter, use the :force_polling option while initializing the listener.

On Windows

If your are on Windows, you can try to use the wdm instead of polling. Please add the following to your Gemfile:

require 'rbconfig'
gem 'wdm', '>= 0.1.0' if RbConfig::CONFIG['target_os'] =~ /mswin|mingw|cygwin/i


If your are on *BSD you can try to use the rb-kqueue instead of polling. Please add the following to your Gemfile:

require 'rbconfig'
gem 'rb-kqueue', '>= 0.2' if RbConfig::CONFIG['target_os'] =~ /freebsd/i


Sometimes OS-specific adapters don't work. :'( Here are some things you could try to avoid forcing polling.

  • Update your Dropbox client, if you have Dropbox installed.
  • Move or rename the listened directory.
  • Update/reboot your OS.
  • Increase latency.

If your application keeps using the polling-adapter and you can't figure out why, feel free to open an issue (and be sure to give all the details).


Pull requests are very welcome! Please try to follow these simple rules if applicable:

  • Please create a topic branch for every separate change you make.
  • Make sure your patches are well tested. All specs must pass on Travis CI.
  • Update the Yard documentation.
  • Update the README.
  • Please do not change the version number.

For questions please join us in our Google group or on #guard (