Decorators/View-Models for Rails Applications
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Draper: View Models for Rails

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Draper adds an object-oriented layer of presentation logic to your Rails application.

Without Draper, this functionality might have been tangled up in procedural helpers or adding bulk to your models. With Draper decorators, you can wrap your models with presentation-related logic to organise - and test - this layer of your app much more effectively.

Why Use a Decorator?

Imagine your application has an Article model. With Draper, you'd create a corresponding ArticleDecorator. The decorator wraps the model, and deals only with presentational concerns. In the controller, you decorate the article before handing it off to the view:

# app/controllers/articles_controller.rb
def show
  @article = Article.find(params[:id]).decorate

In the view, you can use the decorator in exactly the same way as you would have used the model. But whenever you start needing logic in the view or start thinking about a helper method, you can implement a method on the decorator instead.

Let's look at how you could convert an existing Rails helper to a decorator method. You have this existing helper:

# app/helpers/articles_helper.rb
def publication_status(article)
  if article.published?
    "Published at #{article.published_at.strftime('%A, %B %e')}"

But it makes you a little uncomfortable. publication_status lives in a nebulous namespace spread across all controllers and view. Down the road, you might want to display the publication status of a Book. And, of course, your design calls for a slighly different formatting to the date for a Book.

Now your helper method can either switch based on the input class type (poor Ruby style), or you break it out into two methods, book_publication_status and article_publication_status. And keep adding methods for each publication the global helper namespace. And remember all the names. Ick.

Ruby thrives when we use Object-Oriented style. If you didn't know Rails' helpers existed, you'd probably imagine that your view template could feature something like this:

<%= @article.publication_status %>

Without a decorator, you'd have to implement the publication_status method in the Article model. That method is presentation-centric, and thus does not belong in a model.

Instead, you implement a decorator:

# app/decorators/article_decorator.rb
class ArticleDecorator < Draper::Decorator

  def publication_status
    if published?
      "Published at #{published_at}"

  def published_at
    source.published_at.strftime("%A, %B %e")

Within the publication_status method we use the published? method. Where does that come from? It's a method of the source Article, whose methods have been made available on the decorator by the delegate_all call above.

You might have heard this sort of decorator called a "presenter", an "exhibit", a "view model", or even just a "view" (in that nomenclature, what Rails calls "views" are actually "templates"). Whatever you call it, it's a great way to replace procedural helpers like the one above with "real" object-oriented programming.

Decorators are the ideal place to:

  • format complex data for user display
  • define commonly-used representations of an object, like a name method that combines first_name and last_name attributes
  • mark up attributes with a little semantic HTML, like turning a url field into a hyperlink


Add Draper to your Gemfile:

gem 'draper', '~> 1.0'

And run bundle install within your app's directory.

If you're upgrading from a 0.x release, the major changes are outlined in the wiki.

Writing Decorators

Decorators inherit from Draper::Decorator, live in your app/decorators directory, and are named for the model that they decorate:

# app/decorators/article_decorator.rb
class ArticleDecorator < Draper::Decorator
# ...


When you have Draper installed and generate a resource with...

rails generate resource Article'll get a decorator for free!

But if the Article model already exists, you can run...

rails generate decorator Article create the ArticleDecorator.

Accessing Helpers

Normal Rails helpers are still useful for lots of tasks. Both Rails' provided helper and those defined in your app can be accessed via the h method:

class ArticleDecorator < Draper::Decorator
  def emphatic
    h.content_tag(:strong, "Awesome")

If writing h. frequently is getting you down, you can add...

include Draper::LazyHelpers the top of your decorator class - you'll mix in a bazillion methods and never have to type h. again. (Note: the capture method is only available through h or helpers)

Accessing the model

When writing decorator methods you'll usually need to access the wrapped model. While you may choose to use delegation (covered below) for convenience, you can always use the source (or its alias model):

class ArticleDecorator < Draper::Decorator
  def published_at
    source.published_at.strftime("%A, %B %e")

Decorating Objects

Single Objects

Ok, so you've written a sweet decorator, now you're going to want to put it in action! A simple option is to call the decorate method on your model:

@article = Article.first.decorate

This infers the decorator from the object being decorated. If you want more control - say you want to decorate a Widget with a more general ProductDecorator - then you can instantiate a decorator directly:

@widget =
# or, equivalently
@widget = ProductDecorator.decorate(Widget.first)


If you have a whole bunch of objects, you can decorate them all in one fell swoop:

@articles = ArticleDecorator.decorate_collection(Article.all)

If your collection is an ActiveRecord query, you can use this:

@articles = Article.popular.decorate

Note: In Rails 3, the .all method returns an array and not a query. Thus you cannot use the technique of Article.all.decorate in Rails 3. In Rails 4, .all returns a query so this techique would work fine.

If you want to add methods to your decorated collection (for example, for pagination), you can subclass Draper::CollectionDecorator:

# app/decorators/articles_decorator.rb
class ArticlesDecorator < Draper::CollectionDecorator
  def page_number

# elsewhere...
@articles =
# or, equivalently
@articles = ArticlesDecorator.decorate(Article.all)

Draper decorates each item using its decorate method. Alternatively, you can specify a decorator by overriding the collection decorator's decorator_class method, or by passing the :with option to the constructor.

Using pagination

Some pagination gems add methods to ActiveRecord::Relation. For example, Kaminari's paginate helper method requires the collection to implement current_page, total_pages, and limit_value. To expose these on a collection decorator, you can delegate to the source:

class PaginatingDecorator < Draper::CollectionDecorator
  delegate :current_page, :total_pages, :limit_value

The delegate method used here is the same as that added by Active Support, except that the :to option is not required; it defaults to :source when omitted.

will_paginate needs you to delegate :current_page, :per_page, :offset, :total_entries, :total_pages.

Decorating Associated Objects

You can automatically decorate associated models when the primary model is decorated. Assuming an Article model has an associated Author object:

class ArticleDecorator < Draper::Decorator
  decorates_association :author

When ArticleDecorator decorates an Article, it will also use AuthorDecorator to decorate the associated Author.

Decorated Finders

You can call decorates_finders in a decorator...

class ArticleDecorator < Draper::Decorator

...which allows you to then call all the normal ActiveRecord-style finders on your ArticleDecorator and they'll return decorated objects:

@article = ArticleDecorator.find(params[:id])


Draper supports RSpec, MiniTest::Rails, and Test::Unit, and will add the appropriate tests when you generate a decorator.


Your specs are expected to live in spec/decorators. If you use a different path, you need to tag them with type: :decorator.

In a controller spec, you might want to check whether your instance variables are being decorated properly. You can use the handy predicate matchers:

assigns(:article).should be_decorated

# or, if you want to be more specific
assigns(:article).should be_decorated_with ArticleDecorator

Note that model.decorate == model, so your existing specs shouldn't break when you add the decoration.

Spork Users

In your Spork.prefork block of spec_helper.rb, add this:

require 'draper/test/rspec_integration'

Isolated tests

In tests, Draper needs to build a view context to access helper methods. By default, it will create an ApplicationController and then use its view context. If you are speeding up your test suite by testing each component in isolation, you can eliminate this dependency by putting the following in your spec_helper or similar:

Draper::ViewContext.test_strategy :fast

In doing so, your decorators will no longer have access to your application's helpers. If you need to selectively include such helpers, you can pass a block:

Draper::ViewContext.test_strategy :fast do
  include ApplicationHelper

Advanced usage

Shared Decorator Methods

You might have several decorators that share similar needs. Since decorators are just Ruby objects, you can use any normal Ruby technique for sharing functionality.

In Rails controllers, common functionality is organized by having all controllers inherit from ApplicationController. You can apply this same pattern to your decorators:

# app/decorators/application_decorator.rb
class ApplicationDecorator < Draper::Decorator
# ...

Then modify your decorators to inherit from that ApplicationDecorator instead of directly from Draper::Decorator:

class ArticleDecorator < ApplicationDecorator
  # decorator methods

Delegating Methods

When your decorator calls delegate_all, any method called on the decorator not defined in the decorator itself will be delegated to the decorated source. This is a very permissive interface.

If you want to strictly control which methods are called within views, you can choose to only delegate certain methods from the decorator to the source model:

class ArticleDecorator < Draper::Decorator
  delegate :title, :body

We omit the :to argument here as it defaults to the source object. You could choose to delegate methods to other places like this:

class ArticleDecorator < Draper::Decorator
  delegate :title, :body
  delegate :name, :title, to: :author, prefix: true

From your view template, assuming @article is decorated, you could do any of the following:

@article.title # Returns the article's `.title`
@article.body  # Returns the article's `.body`
@article.author_name  # Returns the article's ``
@article.author_title # Returns the article's `author.title`

Adding context

If you need to pass extra data to your decorators, you can use a context hash. Methods that create decorators take it as an option, for example:

Article.first.decorate(context: {role: :admin})

The value passed to the :context option is then available in the decorator through the context method.

If you use decorates_association, the context of the parent decorator is passed to the associated decorators. You can override this with the :context option:

class ArticleDecorator < Draper::Decorator
  decorates_association :author, context: {foo: "bar"}

or, if you want to modify the parent's context, use a lambda that takes a hash and returns a new hash:

class ArticleDecorator < Draper::Decorator
  decorates_association :author,
    context: ->(parent_context){ parent_context.merge(foo: "bar") }

Specifying Decorators

When you're using decorates_association, Draper uses the decorate method on the associated record(s) to perform the decoration. If you want use a specific decorator, you can use the :with option:

class ArticleDecorator < Draper::Decorator
  decorates_association :author, with: FancyPersonDecorator

For a collection association, you can specify a CollectionDecorator subclass, which is applied to the whole collection, or a singular Decorator subclass, which is applied to each item individually.

Scoping Associations

If you want your decorated association to be ordered, limited, or otherwise scoped, you can pass a :scope option to decorates_association, which will be applied to the collection before decoration:

class ArticleDecorator < Draper::Decorator
  decorates_association :comments, scope: :recent

Proxying Class Methods

If you want to proxy class methods to the wrapped model class, including when using decorates_finders, Draper needs to know the model class. By default, it assumes that your decorators are named SomeModelDecorator, and then attempts to proxy unknown class methods to SomeModel.

If your model name can't be inferred from your decorator name in this way, you need to use the decorates method:

class MySpecialArticleDecorator < Draper::Decorator
  decorates :article

This is only necessary when proxying class methods.

Making models decoratable

Models get their decorate method from the Draper::Decoratable module, which is included in ActiveRecord::Base and Mongoid::Document by default. If you're using another ORM (including versions of Mongoid prior to 3.0), or want to decorate plain old Ruby objects, you can include this module manually.


Draper was conceived by Jeff Casimir and heavily refined by Steve Klabnik and a great community of open source contributors.

Core Team