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Define and render complex navigation menus for websites
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Navtastic is way to create and display complex navigation menus for websites. It allows for runtime configurations of menus, depending on context.

  • Keep menu content and rendering logic separate
  • Automatically highlight the current page
  • Different output structures supported (Simple, Bootstrap4, Bulma, Foundation6)
    • HTML structure only, bring your own CSS.
  • Easily create your own renderer to fit your style.

The current renderers only support vertical menus. Horizontal (navbar) menus are planned.

Table of Contents


Add it to your Gemfile:

gem 'navtastic'

Run the following command to install it:

bundle install


Define a menu somewhere:

Navtastic.define :main_menu do |menu|
  menu.item "Home", '/'
  menu.item "Posts", '/posts'
  menu.item "About", '/about'

Render it in your partials:

<%= Navtastic.render :main_menu, current_url %>

Using the default renderer, assuming that the current url starts with /posts, will result in:

    <a href="/">Home</a>
  <li class="current">
    <a href="/posts">Posts</a>
    <a href="/about">About</a>


When using rails, a render_menu helper is added that automatically sets the current_url.

Also, put defined menus in app/menus to take advantage of hot reload.



Every item can have a submenu. They can be nested as deeply as you want.

Navtastic.define :main_menu do |menu|
  menu.item "Home", '/' do |submenu|
    submenu.item "Posts", '/posts'
    submenu.item "About", '/about'

  menu.item "Settings" do |submenu|
    submenu.item "General", '/settings'
    submenu.item "Profile", '/settings/profile'

By default, submenus will be rendered inside the <li> tag of the parent item.

    <a href="/">Parent</a>
        <a href="/child">Child</a>

Current item

The current active item is decided by the current_url parameter when rendering a menu. It is the item with the longest url that starts with the current_url.

For example, if there is a menu containing these urls:

  • /
  • /posts
  • /posts/featured

If the current_url is /posts/featured/2017, the /posts/featured item will be highlighted. If the current_url is /posts/123, then /posts is highlighted.

The root url / will always match, if no other items match the current url. If there is no item with / as url in the menu and no other urls match, nothing will be highlighted.

Runtime parameters

You can pass runtime parameters when defining a menu. For example, passing the current user and change the menu accordingly.

# Define the menu
Navtastic.define :main_menu do |menu, params|
  menu.item "Home", "/"

  if params[:current_user]
    menu.item "Profile", "/users/#{params[:current_user].id}"
    menu.item "Logout", "/logout"
    menu.item "Login", "/login"

# Render it with the current user as a parameter
Navtastic.render :main_menu, current_url, current_user: User.current

Global Configuration

Some global settings that Navtastic uses can be configured. Make sure the configuration happens before defining any menu (e.g. when using rails, add it to config/initializers/navtastic.rb).

These are the defaults values:

Navtastic.configure do |config|
  # This url to prepend before every item url
  config.base_url = nil

  # Set the renderer to use, can be one of :simple, :bootstrap4, :bulma, :foundation6
  # Can also be a class if you want to use a custom renderer
  config.renderer = :simple

  # Options that are passed to the renderer
  config.renderer_options = {}

  # Reload the renderer class every time menu is rendered (helpful during development)
  config.reload_renderer = false

Menu Configuration

Each individual menu can also be configured in some way:

Navtastic.define :user_menu do |menu, params|
  # The url to put before every item
  menu.config.base_url = '/users/' + params[:user_id]

  menu.item "Profile", '/profile' # will link to: /users/123/profile

Item Configuration

Every item can have options passed to it:

Navtastic.define :menu do |menu|
  # Add a css class to the container (e.g. <li> tag)
  menu.item "Home", "/", class: 'highlight'

  # Add a css class the content inside the container (e.g. <a> tag)
  menu.item "Posts", "/posts", content_class: 'important'

  # If `root` is true, this item will ignore any base urls
  menu.item "Somewhere", '/', root: true

  # Use the item url as the base_url for the submenu
  menu.item "Settings", '/settings', base_url: true do |submenu|
    # submenu.config.base_url is now set to '/settings'


The following renders are currently available:

  • Simple adds a current class to the basic list structure
  • Bootstrap4 is used with the Bootstrap 4 framework.
  • Bulma is used with the framework.
  • Foundation6 is used with the Foundation 6 framework.

Some renderers also support extra options. You can set them globally in the configuration or pass them at runtime when rendering a menu:

# Global options
Navtastic.configure do |config|
  config.renderer_options = { option: value }
# Runtime options
<%= Navtastic.render :menu, current_url, renderer: { option: value } %>

Globally defined options and options given at runtime are merged together, with those at runtime taking precedence.

Bulma Configuration

  • headers (default: false)

    Top level items are styled differently. Works best if they are only text, not links.

    left: headers: false, right: headers: true

Foundation Configuration

  • active_class (default: nil)

    CSS class to use for active items. Active items are items that have a child that is the current item. Useful to highlight the current item in a drilldown menu.

  • style (default: nil)

    Set to :drilldown to generate a drilldown menu. Make sure you include the required javascript files.

    left: default style, right: drilldown style


  1. Checkout Repository: git clone
  2. Install Bundler: gem install bundler
  3. Run bundle install inside the project root to install the gem dependencies
  4. Run test cases: bundle exec rake

For testing visual changes, a test server is provided by running bundle exec rake demo. It's accessibly on http://localhost:9090.

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