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Restarts an app when the filesystem changes. Uses growl and FSEventStream if on OS X.


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Rerun launches your program, then watches the filesystem. If a relevant file changes, then it restarts your program.

Rerun works for both long-running processes (e.g. apps) and short-running ones (e.g. tests). It's basically a no-frills command-line alternative to Guard, Shotgun, Autotest, etc. that doesn't require config files and works on any command, not just Ruby programs.

Rerun's advantage is its simple design. Since it uses exec and the standard Unix SIGINT and SIGKILL signals, you're sure the restarted app is really acting just like it was when you ran it from the command line the first time.

By default it watches files ending in: rb,js,coffee,css,scss,sass,erb,html,haml,ru,yml,slim,md,feature,c,h. Use the --pattern option if you want to change this.

As of version 0.7.0, we use the Listen gem, which tries to use your OS's built-in facilities for monitoring the filesystem, so CPU use is very light.

UPDATE: Now Rerun does work on Windows! Caveats:

  • not well-tested
  • you need to press Enter after keypress input
  • you may need to install the wdm gem manually: gem install wdm
  • You may see this persistent INFO error message; to remove it, use--no-notify:
    • INFO: Could not find files for the given pattern(s)


    gem install rerun

("sudo" may be required on older systems, but try it without sudo first.)

If you are using RVM you might want to put this in your global gemset so it's available to all your apps. (There really should be a better way to distinguish gems-as-libraries from gems-as-tools.)

    rvm @global do gem install rerun

The Listen gem looks for certain platform-dependent gems, and will complain if they're not available. Unfortunately, Rubygems doesn't understand optional dependencies very well, so you may have to install extra gems (and/or put them in your Gemfile) to make Rerun work more smoothly on your system. (Learn more at

On Mac OS X, use

    gem install rb-fsevent

On Windows, use

    gem install wdm

On *BSD, use

    gem install rb-kqueue

Installation via Gemfile / Bundler

If you are using rerun inside an existing Ruby application (like a Rails or Sinatra app), you can add it to your Gemfile:

group :development, :test do
  gem "rerun"

Using a Gemfile is also an easy way to use the pre-release branch, which may have bugfixes or features you want:

group :development, :test do
  gem "rerun", git: ""

When using a Gemfile, install with bundle install or bundle update, and run using bundle exec rerun, to guarantee you are using the rerun version specified in the Gemfile, and not a different version in a system-wide gemset.


    rerun [options] [--] cmd

For example, if you're running a Sinatra app whose main file is app.rb:

    rerun ruby app.rb

If the first part of the command is a .rb filename, then ruby is optional, so the above can also be accomplished like this:

    rerun app.rb

Rails doesn't automatically notice all config file changes, so you can force it to restart when you change a config file like this:

    rerun --dir config rails s

Or if you're using Thin to run a Rack app that's configured in but you want it on port 4000 and in debug mode, and only want to watch the app and web subdirectories:

    rerun --dir app,web -- thin start --debug --port=4000 -R

The -- is to separate rerun options from cmd options. You can also use a quoted string for the command, e.g.

    rerun --dir app "thin start --debug --port=4000 -R"

Rackup can also be used to launch a Rack server, so let's try that:

    rerun -- rackup --port 4000

Want to mimic autotest? Try

    rerun -x rake


    rerun -cx rspec

And if you're using Spork with Rails, you need to restart your spork server whenever certain Rails environment files change, so why not put this in your Rakefile...

desc "run spork (via rerun)"
task :spork do
  sh "rerun --pattern '{Gemfile,Gemfile.lock,spec/spec_helper.rb,.rspec,spec/factories/**,config/environment.rb,config/environments/test.rb,config/initializers/*.rb,lib/**/*.rb}' -- spork"

and start using rake spork to launch your spork server?

(If you're using Guard instead of Rerun, check out guard-spork for a similar solution.)

How about regenerating your HTML files after every change to your Erector widgets?

    rerun -x erector --to-html my_site.rb

Use Heroku Cedar? rerun is now compatible with foreman. Run all your Procfile processes locally and restart them all when necessary.

    rerun foreman start


These options can be specified on the command line and/or inside a .rerun config file (see below).

--dir directory (or directories) to watch (default = "."). Separate multiple paths with ',' and/or use multiple -d options.

--pattern glob to match inside directory. This uses the Ruby Dir glob style -- see for details. By default it watches files ending in: rb,js,coffee,css,scss,sass,erb,html,haml,ru,yml,slim,md,feature,c,h. On top of this, it also ignores dotfiles, .tmp files, and some other files and directories (like .git and log). Run rerun --help to see the actual list.

--ignore pattern file glob to ignore (can be set many times). To ignore a directory, you must append '/*' e.g. --ignore 'coverage/*'.

--[no-]ignore-dotfiles By default, on top of --pattern and --ignore, we ignore any changes to files and dirs starting with a dot. Setting --no-ignore-dotfiles allows you to monitor a relevant file like .env, but you may also have to explicitly --ignore more dotfiles and dotdirs.

--signal (or -s) use specified signal(s) (instead of the default TERM,INT,KILL) to terminate the previous process. You can use a comma-delimited list if you want to try a signal, wait up to 5 seconds for the process to die, then try again with a different signal, and so on. This may be useful for forcing the respective process to terminate as quickly as possible. (--signal KILL is the equivalent of kill -9)

--wait sec (or -w) after asking the process to terminate, wait this long (in seconds) before either aborting, or trying the next signal in series. Default: 2 sec

--restart (or -r) expect process to restart itself, using signal HUP by default (e.g. -r -s INT will send a INT and then resume watching for changes)

--exit (or -x) expect the program to exit. With this option, rerun checks the return value; without it, rerun checks that the launched process is still running.

--clear (or -c) clear the screen before each run

--background (or -b) disable on-the-fly commands, allowing the process to be backgrounded

--notify NOTIFIER use growl or osx or notify-send for notifications (see below)

--no-notify disable notifications

--name set the app name (for display)

--force-polling use polling instead of a native filesystem scan (useful for Vagrant)

--quiet silences most messages

--verbose enables even more messages (unless you also specified --quiet, which overrides --verbose)

Also --version and --help, naturally.

Config file

If the current directory contains a file named .rerun, it will be parsed with the same rules as command-line arguments. Newlines are the same as any other whitespace, so you can stack options vertically, like this:

--pattern **/*.{rb,js,scss,sass,html,md}

Options specified on the command line will override those in the config file. You can negate boolean options with --no-, so for example, with the above config file, to re-enable logging, you could say:

rerun --no-quiet rackup

If you're not sure what options are being overwritten, use --verbose and rerun will show you the final result of the parsing.


If you have growlnotify available on the PATH, it sends notifications to growl in addition to the console.

If you have terminal-notifier, it sends notifications to the OS X notification center in addition to the console.

If you have notify-send, it sends notifications to Freedesktop-compatible desktops in addition to the console.

If you have more than one available notification program, Rerun will pick one, or you can choose between them using --notify growl, --notify osx, --notify notify-send, etc.

If you have a notifier installed but don't want rerun to use it, set the --no-notify option.

Download growlnotify here now that Growl has moved to the App Store.

Install terminal-notifier using gem install terminal-notifier. (You may have to put it in your system gemset and/or use sudo too.) Using Homebrew to install terminal-notifier is not recommended.

On Debian/Ubuntu, notify-send is available in the libnotify-bin package. On other GNU/Linux systems, it might be in a package with a different name.

On-The-Fly Commands

While the app is (re)running, you can make things happen by pressing keys:

  • r -- restart (as if a file had changed)
  • f -- force restart (stop and start)
  • c -- clear the screen
  • x or q -- exit (just like control-C)
  • p -- pause/unpause filesystem watching

If you're backgrounding or using Pry or a debugger, you might not want these keys to be trapped, so use the --background option.


The current algorithm for killing the process is:

  • send SIGTERM (or the value of the --signal option)
  • if that doesn't work after 2 seconds, send SIGINT (aka control-C)
  • if that doesn't work after 2 more seconds, send SIGKILL (aka kill -9)

This seems like the most gentle and unixy way of doing things, but it does mean that if your program ignores SIGTERM, it takes an extra 2 to 4 seconds to restart.

If you want to use your own series of signals, use the --signal option. If you want to change the delay before attempting the next signal, use the --wait option.

Vagrant and VirtualBox

If running inside a shared directory using Vagrant and VirtualBox, you must pass the --force-polling option. You may also have to pass some extra --ignore options too; otherwise each scan can take 10 or more seconds on directories with a large number of files or subdirectories underneath it.



If you are using zsh as your shell, and you are specifying your --pattern as **/*.rb, you may face this error

Errno::EACCES: Permission denied - <filename>

This is because **/*.rb gets expanded into the command by zsh instead of passing it through to rerun. The solution is to simply quote ('' or "") the pattern. i.e

rerun -p **/*.rb rake test


rerun -p "**/*.rb" rake test

To Do:

Must have for v1.0

  • Make sure to pass through quoted options correctly to target process [bug]
  • Optionally do "bundle install" before and "bundle exec" during launch

Nice to have

  • ".rerun" file in $HOME
  • If the last element of the command is a .ru file and there's no other command then use rackup
  • Figure out an algorithm so "-x" is not needed (if possible) -- maybe by accepting a "--port" option or reading
  • Specify (or deduce) port to listen for to determine success of a web server launch
  • see also

Wacky Ideas

  • On OS X:
    • use a C library using growl's developer API
    • Use growl's AppleScript or SDK instead of relying on growlnotify
    • "Failed" icon for notifications

Other projects that do similar things

Why would I use this instead of Shotgun?

Shotgun does a "fork" after the web framework has loaded but before your application is loaded. It then loads your app, processes a single request in the child process, then exits the child process.

Rerun launches the whole app, then when it's time to restart, uses "kill" to shut it down and starts the whole thing up again from scratch.

So rerun takes somewhat longer than Shotgun to restart the app, but does it much less frequently. And once it's running it behaves more normally and consistently with your production app.

Also, Shotgun reloads the app on every request, even if it doesn't need to. This is fine if you're loading a single file, but if your web pages all load other files (CSS, JS, media) then that adds up quickly. (I can only assume that the developers of shotgun are using caching or a front web server so this isn't a pain point for them.)

And hey, does Shotgun reload your Worker processes if you're using Foreman and a Procfile? I'm pretty sure it doesn't.


Why would I use this instead of Rack::Reloader?

Rack::Reloader is certifiably beautiful code, and is a very elegant use of Rack's middleware architecture. But because it relies on the LOADED_FEATURES variable, it only reloads .rb files that were 'require'd, not 'load'ed. That leaves out (non-Erector) template files, and also, at least the way I was doing it, sub-actions (see this thread).

Rack::Reloader also doesn't reload configuration changes or redo other things that happen during app startup. Rerun takes the attitude that if you want to restart an app, you should just restart the whole app. You know?

Why would I use this instead of Guard?

Guard is very powerful but requires some up-front configuration. Rerun is meant as a no-frills command-line alternative requiring no knowledge of Ruby nor config file syntax.

Why did you write this?

I've been using Sinatra and loving it. In order to simplify their system, the Rat Pack removed auto-reloading from Sinatra proper. I approve of this: a web application framework should be focused on serving requests, not on munging Ruby ObjectSpace for dev-time convenience. But I still wanted automatic reloading during development. Shotgun wasn't working for me (see above) so I spliced Rerun together out of code from Rspactor, FileSystemWatcher, and Shotgun -- with a heavy amount of refactoring and rewriting. In late 2012 I migrated the backend to the Listen gem, which was extracted from Guard, so it should be more reliable and performant on multiple platforms.


Rerun: Alex Chaffee,,

Based upon and/or inspired by:

Patches by:

Version History

  • v0.14.0 4 January 2023

    • Ruby 3.2 compatibility fix: .exists? no longer exists
  • v0.13.1 9 December 2020

    • --no-ignore-dotfiles option
  • v0.13.0 26 January 2018

    • bugfix: pause/unpause works again (thanks Barry!)
    • .rerun config file
  • v0.12.0 23 January 2018

    • smarter --signal option, allowing you to specify a series of signals to try in order; also --wait to change how long between tries
    • --force-polling option (thanks ajduncan)
    • f key to force stop and start (thanks mwpastore)
    • add .c and .h files to default ignore list
    • support for Windows
      • use Kernel.spawn instead of fork
      • use wdm gem for Windows Directory Monitor
    • support for notifications on GNU/Linux using notify-send (thanks terceiro)
    • fix Gem::LoadError - terminal-notifier is not part of the bundle bug (thanks mattheworiordan)
  • 0.11.0 7 October 2015

    • better 'changed' message
    • --notify osx option
    • --restart option (with bugfix by Mike Pastore)
    • use Listen 3 gem
    • add .feature files to default watchlist (thanks @jmuheim)
  • v0.10.0 4 May 2014

    • add '.coffee,.slim,.md' to default pattern (thanks @xylinq)
    • --ignore option
  • v0.9.0 6 March 2014

    • --dir (or -d) can be specified more than once, for multiple directories (thanks again Barry!)
    • --name option
    • press 'p' to pause/unpause filesystem watching (Barry is the man!)
    • works with Listen 2 (note: needs 2.3 or higher)
    • cooldown works, thanks to patches to underlying Listen gem
    • ignore all dotfiles, and add actual list of ignored dirs and files
  • v0.8.2

    • bugfix, forcing Rerun to use Listen v1.0.3 while we work out the troubles we're having with Listen 1.3 and 2.1
  • v0.8.1

    • bugfix release (#30 and #34)
  • v0.8.0

    • --background option (thanks FND!) to disable the keyboard listener
    • --signal option (thanks FND!)
    • --no-growl option
    • --dir supports multiple directories (thanks Barry!)
  • v0.7.1

    • bugfix: make rails icon work again
  • v0.7.0

    • uses Listen gem (which uses rb-fsevent for lightweight filesystem snooping)


Open Source MIT License. See "LICENSE" file.