Guard is a command line tool to easily handle events on file system modifications.
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Guard is a command line tool to easily handle events on file system modifications.

This document contains a lot of information, please take your time and read these instructions carefully. If you have any questions about the Guard usage or want to share some information with the Guard community, please go to one of the following places:

Information on advanced topics like creating your own Guard plugin, programatic use of Guard, hooks and callbacks and more can be found in the Guard wiki.

Before you file an issue, make sure you have read the known issues and file an issue sections that contains some important information.


  • File system changes handled by our awesome Listen gem.
  • Support for visual system notifications.
  • Huge eco-system with more than 190 guard plugins.
  • Tested against Ruby 1.8.7, 1.9.2, 1.9.3, 2.0.0, REE and the latest versions of JRuby & Rubinius.


Two nice introduction screen casts to Guard are available that helps you get started:


The simplest way to install Guard is to use Bundler.

Add Guard to your Gemfile:

group :development do
  gem 'guard'

and install it by running Bundler:

$ bundle

Generate an empty Guardfile with:

$ guard init

It's important that you always run Guard through Bundler to avoid errors. If you're getting sick of typing bundle exec all the time, try the Rubygems Bundler.

If you are on Mac OS X and have problems with either Guard not reacting to file changes or Pry behaving strange, then you should add proper Readline support to Ruby on Mac OS X.

Windows Colors

If you want colors in your terminal, you'll have to add the win32console gem to your Gemfile and install it with Bundler:

group :development do
  gem 'win32console'

Interrupt handling

If the Pry interactor is used, then Ctrl-C is delegated to Pry to exit continuation and Ctrl-D to exit Guard. Without interactor, Ctrl-C exits Guard and Ctrl-D is ignored.

System notifications

You can configure Guard to make use of the following system notification libraries:


The ruby_gntp gem sends system notifications over the network with the Growl Notification Transport Protocol and supports local and remote notifications. To have the images be displayed, you have to use instead of localhost in your GTNP configuration.

Guard supports multiple notification channels for customizing each notification type. For Growl on Mac OS X you need to have at least version 1.3 installed.

To use ruby_gntp you have to add it to your Gemfile and run bundler:

group :development do
  gem 'ruby_gntp'


  • Runs on Mac OS X
  • Supports all Growl versions

The growl gem is compatible with all versions of Growl and uses a command line tool growlnotify that must be separately downloaded and installed. The version of the command line tool must match your Growl version. The growl gem does not support multiple notification channels.

You have to download the installer for growlnotify from the Growl download section.

To use growl you have to add it to your Gemfile and run bundler:

group :development do
  gem 'growl'


  • Runs on Linux, FreeBSD, OpenBSD and Solaris
  • Supports Libnotify

The libnotify gem supports the Gnome libnotify notification daemon, but it can be used on other window managers as well. You have to install the libnotify-bin package with your favorite package manager.

To use libnotify you have to add it to your Gemfile and run bundler:

group :development do
  gem 'libnotify'

If you are unable to build the libnotify gem on your system, Guard also has a built in notifier - notifysend - that shells out to the notify-send utility that comes with libnotify-bin.


  • Runs on Windows
  • Supports Notifu

The rb-notifu gem supports Windows system tray notifications.

To use rb-notifu you have to add it to your Gemfile and run bundler:

group :development do
  gem 'rb-notifu'


  • Runs on Mac OS X
  • Supports Growl version >= 1.3
  • Doesn't support JRuby and MacRuby.
  • Doesn't work when forking, e.g. with Spork.

The growl_notify gem uses AppleScript to send Growl notifications. The gem needs a native C extension to make use of AppleScript and does not run on JRuby and MacRuby.

Guard supports multiple notification channels for customizing each notification type and you need to have at least Growl version 1.3 installed.

To use growl_notify you have to add it to your Gemfile and run bundler:

group :development do
  gem 'growl_notify'

Terminal Notifier

  • Runs on Mac OS X 10.8 only

The terminal-notifier-guard sends notifications to the OS X Notification Center.

To use terminal-notifier-guard you have to add it to your Gemfile and run bundler:

group :development do
  gem 'terminal-notifier-guard'

Terminal Title

  • Runs in every terminal supporting XTerm escape sequences to set the window title.



  • To use TMux notifications, you have to start Guard within a TMux session.

The TMux notifier will color the background of the left part of the status bar indicating the status of the notifications. Optionally you can set :display_message => true to display the Guard notification as 'display-message' notification.

The way these messages are formatted is configurable.

# Guardfile
notification :tmux,
  :display_message => true,
  :timeout => 5, # in seconds
  :default_message_format => '%s >> %s',
  # the first %s will show the title, the second the message
  # Alternately you can also configure *success_message_format*,
  # *pending_message_format*, *failed_message_format*
  :line_separator => ' > ', # since we are single line we need a separator
  :color_location => 'status-left-bg' # to customize which tmux element will change color

The result will be for RSpec using example above

RSpec >> 15 test, 0 failures > in 0.002 sec

You can use nice powerline chars here if you have that configured.

You can get the message history by using Ctrl+b ~ (where Ctrl+b is your key to activate TMux).


  • You can also have Guard write notifications to a file. Each notification will overwrite the file. This allows other commands to be run based on the status of other guard commands.


# Guardfile
notification :file, path: '.guard_result'

guard :shell do
  watch '.guard_result' do
    if'.guard_result').lines.first.strip == 'failed'
      # ...


# Guardfile
notification :file,
  :path => '.guard_result', # Required, no default
  :format => "result: %s\ntitle: %s\nmessage: %s\n" # Default: "%s\n%s\n%s\n"

Add Guard plugins

Guard is now ready to use and you should add some Guard plugins for your specific use. Start exploring the many Guard plugins available by browsing the Guard organization on GitHub or by searching for guard- on RubyGems.

When you have found a Guard plugin of your interest, add it to your Gemfile:

group :development do
  gem '<guard-plugin-name>'

See the init section of the Guard usage below to see how to install the supplied plugin template that you can install and to suit your needs.


Guard is run from the command line. Please open your terminal and go to your project work directory.


You can always get help on the available tasks with the help task:

$ guard help

To request more detailed help on a specific task is simple: just appending the task name to the help task. For example, to get help for the start task, simply run:

$ guard help start


You can generate a Guardfile and have all installed plugins be automatically added into it by running the init task without any option:

$ guard init

You can also specify the name of an installed plugin to only get that plugin template in the generated Guardfile:

$ guard init <guard-name>

You can also specify the names of multiple plugins to only get those plugin templates in the generated Guardfile:

$ guard init <guard1-name> <guard2-name>

You can also define your own templates in ~/.guard/templates/ which can be appended in the same way to your existing Guardfile:

$ guard init <template-name>

Note: If you already have a Guardfile in the current directory, the init task can be used to append a supplied template from an installed plugin to your existing Guardfile.

-b/--bare option

You can generate an empty Guardfile by running the init task with the bare option:

$ guard init --bare
$ guard init -b # shortcut


Just launch Guard inside your Ruby or Rails project with:

$ guard

Guard will look for a Guardfile in your current directory. If it does not find one, it will look in your $HOME directory for a .Guardfile.

-c/--clear option

The shell can be cleared after each change:

$ guard --clear
$ guard -c # shortcut

You can add the following snippet to your ~/.guardrc to have the clear option always be enabled:

Guard.options[:clear] = true

-n/--notify option

System notifications can be disabled:

$ guard --notify false
$ guard -n f # shortcut

Notifications can also be disabled globally by setting a GUARD_NOTIFY environment variable to false.

-g/--group option

Scope Guard to certain plugin groups on start:

$ guard --group group_name another_group_name
$ guard -g group_name another_group_name # shortcut

See the Guardfile DSL below for creating groups.

-P/--plugins option

Scope Guard to certain plugins on start:

$ guard --plugins plugin_name another_plugin_name
$ guard -P plugin_name another_plugin_name # shortcut

-d/--debug option

Guard can display debug information which can be very usefull for plugins developers with:

$ guard --debug
$ guard -d # shortcut

-w/--watchdir option

Guard can watch any directory instead of the current directory:

$ guard --watchdir ~/your/fancy/project
$ guard -w ~/your/fancy/project # shortcut

-G/--guardfile option

Guard can use a Guardfile not located in the current directory:

$ guard --guardfile ~/.your_global_guardfile
$ guard -G ~/.your_global_guardfile # shortcut

-i/--no-interactions option

Turn off completely any Guard terminal interactions with:

$ guard start -i
$ guard start --no-interactions

-B/--no-bundler-warning option

Skip Bundler warning when a Gemfile exists in the project directory but Guard is not run with Bundler.

$ guard start -B
$ guard start --no-bundler-warning

-l/--latency option

Overwrite Listen's default latency, useful when your hard-drive / system is slow.

$ guard start -l 1.5
$ guard start --latency 1.5

-p/--force-polling option

Force Listen polling listener usage.

$ guard start -p
$ guard start --force-polling


You can list the available plugins with the list task:

$ guard list
| Plugin   | In Guardfile |
| Compass  ||
| Cucumber ||
| Jammit   ||
| Ronn     ||
| Rspec    ||
| Spork    ||
| Yard     ||


You can show the structure of the groups and their plugins with the show task:

$ guard show
| Group   | Plugin | Option          | Value                      |
| Specs   | Rspec  | all_after_pass  | true                       |
|         |        | all_on_start    | true                       |
|         |        | cli             | "--fail-fast --format doc" |
|         |        | focus_on_failed | false                      |
|         |        | keep_failed     | true                       |
|         |        | run_all         | {}                         |
|         |        | spec_paths      | ["spec"]                   |
| Docs    | Ronn   |                 |                            |

This shows the internal structure of the evaluated Guardfile or .Guardfile, with the .guard.rb file. You can read more about these files in the shared configuration section.


Guard shows a Pry console whenever it has nothing to do and comes with some Guard specific Pry commands:

  • , a, all: Run all plugins.
  • h, help: Show help for all interactor commands.
  • c, change: Trigger a file change.
  • n, notification: Toggles the notifications.
  • p, pause: Toggles the file listener.
  • r, reload: Reload all plugins.
  • o, scope: Scope Guard actions to plugins or groups.
  • s, show: Show all Guard plugins.
  • e, exit: Stop all plugins and quit Guard

The all and reload commands supports an optional scope, so you limit the Guard action to either a Guard plugin or a Guard group like:

[1]  guard(main)> all rspec
[2]  guard(main)> all frontend

Remember, you can always use help on the Pry command line to see all available commands and help <command> for more detailed information. help guard will show all Guard related commands available

Pry supports the Ruby built-in Readline, rb-readline and Coolline. Just install the readline implementation of your choice by adding it to your `Gemfile.

You can also disable the interactions completely by running Guard with the --no-interactions option.


Further Guard specific customizations can be made in ~/.guardrc that will be evaluated prior the Pry session is started (~/.pryrc is ignored). This allows you to make use of the Pry plugin architecture to provide custom commands and extend Guard for your own needs and distribute as a gem. Please have a look at the Pry Wiki for more information.


You can also interact with Guard by sending POSIX signals to the Guard process (all but Windows and JRuby).

Pause watching

$ kill -USR1 <guard_pid>

Continue watching

$ kill -USR2 <guard_pid>

Guardfile DSL

The Guardfile DSL is evaluated as plain Ruby, so you can use normal Ruby code in your Guardfile. Guard itself provides the following DSL methods that can be used for configuration:


The guard method allows you to add a Guard plugin to your toolchain and configure it by passing the options after the name of the plugin:

guard :coffeescript, :input => 'coffeescripts', :output => 'javascripts'

You can define the same plugin more than once:

guard :coffeescript, :input => 'coffeescripts', :output => 'javascripts'
guard :coffeescript, :input => 'specs', :output => 'specs'


The watch method allows you to define which files are watched by a Guard:

guard :bundler do

String watch patterns are matched with String#==. You can also pass a regular expression to the watch method:

guard :jessie do

This instructs the jessie plugin to watch for file changes in the spec folder, but only for file names that ends with _spec or Spec and have a file type of js or coffee.

You can easily test your watcher regular expressions with Rubular.

When you add a block to the watch expression, you can modify the file name that has been detected before sending it to the plugin for processing:

guard :rspec do
  watch(%r{^lib/(.+)\.rb$})     { |m| "spec/lib/#{m[1]}_spec.rb" }

In this example the regular expression capture group (.+) is used to transform a file change in the lib folder to its test case in the spec folder. Regular expression watch patterns are matched with Regexp#match.

You can also launch any arbitrary command in the supplied block:

guard :shell do
  watch('.*') { `git status` }


The group method allows you to group several plugins together. This comes in handy especially when you have a huge Guardfile and want to focus your development on a certain part.

group :specs do
  guard :rspec do

group :docs do
  guard :ronn do

Groups to be run can be specified with the Guard DSL option --group (or -g):

$ guard -g specs

Guard plugins that don't belong to a group are considered global and are always run.

Another neat use of groups is to group dependant plugins and stop processing if one fails. In order to make this work, the group needs to have the halt_on_fail option enabled and the Guard plugin needs to throw :task_has_failed to indicate that the action was not successful.

group :specs, :halt_on_fail => true do
  guard :rspec do

  guard :cucumber do


The scope method allows you to define the default plugin or group scope for Guard, if not specified as command line option. Thus command line group and plugin scope takes precedence over the DSL scope configuration.

You can define either a single plugin or group:

scope :plugin => :rspec
scope :group => :docs

or specify multiple plugins or groups.

scope :plugins => [:test, :jasmine]
scope :groups => [:docs, :frontend]

If you define both the plugin and group scope, the plugin scope has precedence. If you use both the plural and the singular option, the plural has precedence.


If you don't specify any notification configuration in your Guardfile, Guard goes through the list of available notifiers and takes the first that is available. If you specify your preferred library, auto detection will not take place:

notification :growl

will select the growl gem for notifications. You can also set options for a notifier:

notification :growl, :sticky => true

Each notifier has a slightly different set of supported options:

notification :growl, :sticky => true, :host => '', :password => 'secret'
notification :gntp, :sticky => true, :host => '', :password => 'secret'
notification :growl_notify, :sticky => true, :priority => 0
notification :libnotify, :timeout => 5, :transient => true, :append => false, :urgency => :critical
notification :notifu, :time => 5, :nosound => true, :xp => true
notification :emacs

It's possible to use more than one notifier. This allows you to configure different notifiers for different OS if your project is developed cross-platform or if you like to have local and remote notifications.

Notifications can also be turned off in the Guardfile, in addition to setting the environment variable GUARD_NOTIFY or using the cli switch -n:

notification :off


You can customize the Pry interactor history and RC file like:

interactor :guard_rc => '~/.my_guard-rc', :history_file => '~/.my_guard_history_file'

If you do not need the Pry interactions with Guard at all, you can turn it off:

interactor :off


The callback method allows you to execute arbitrary code before or after any of the start, stop, reload, run_all, run_on_changes, run_on_additions, run_on_modifications and run_on_removals Guard plugins method. You can even insert more hooks inside these methods.

guard :rspec do

  callback(:start_begin) { `mate .` }

Please see the hooks and callbacks page in the Guard wiki for more details.


The ignore method can be used to exclude files and directories from the set of files being watched. Let's say you have used the watch method to monitor a directory, but you are not interested in changes happening to images, you could use the ignore method to exclude them.

This comes in handy when you have large amounts of non-source data in you project. By default .rbx, .bundle, .git, .svn, log, tmp, vendor are ignored.

Please note that method only accept regexps. More on the Listen README.

To append to the default ignored files and directories, use the ignore method:

ignore %r{^ignored/path/}, /public/

To replace to default ignored files and directories, use the ignore! method:

ignore! /data/


The filter method allows you to focus by filtering files and directories without having to specify them by hand in the watch method. E.g. if you are watching multiple directories but only interested in changes to the Ruby files, then use the filter method.

Please note that method only accept regexps. More on the Listen README.

filter /\.txt$/, /.*\.zip/

To replace any existing filter, use the filter! method:

filter! /\.js$/


The logger method allows you to customize the Lumberjack log output to your needs by specifying one or more options like:

logger :level       => :warn,
       :template    => '[:severity - :time - :progname] :message',
       :time_format => 'at %I:%M%p',
       :only        => [:rspec, :jasmine, 'coffeescript'],
       :except      => :jammit,
       :device      => 'guard.log'

Log :level option must be either :debug, :info, :warn or :error. If Guard is started in debug mode, the log level will be automatically set to :debug.

The :template option is a string which can have one or more of the following placeholders: :time, :severity, :progname, :pid, :unit_of_work_id and :message. A unit of work is assigned for each action Guard performs on multiple Guard plugin.

The :time_format option directives are the same as Time#strftime or can be :milliseconds

The :only and :except are either a string or a symbol, or an array of strings or symbols that matches the name of the Guard plugin name that sends the log message. They cannot be specified at the same time.

By default the logger uses $stderr as device, but you can override this by supplying the :device option and set either an IO stream or a filename.


ignore %r{^ignored/path/}, /public/
filter /\.txt$/, /.*\.zip/

notification :growl_notify
notification :gntp, :host => ''

group :backend do
  guard :bundler do

  guard :rspec, :cli => '--color --format doc' do
    watch(%r{^lib/(.+)\.rb$})         { |m| "spec/lib/#{m[1]}_spec.rb" }
    watch(%r{^spec/models/.+\.rb$})   { ["spec/models", "spec/acceptance"] }
    watch(%r{^spec/.+\.rb$})          { `say hello` }
    watch('spec/spec_helper.rb')      { "spec" }

group :frontend do
  guard :coffeescript, :output => 'public/javascripts/compiled' do

  guard :livereload do

Shared configurations

You may optionally place a .Guardfile in your home directory to use it across multiple projects. It's evaluated when you have no Guardfile in your current directory.

If a .guard.rb is found in your home directory, it will be appended to the Guardfile in your current directory. This can be used for tasks you want guard to handle but other users probably don't.

For example, indexing your source tree with Ctags:

guard :shell do
  watch(%r{^(?:app|lib)/.+\.rb$}) { `ctags -R` }

Known issues

Please check guard's GitHub issue tracker for known issues. Additionally you should check listen's issue tracker for issues which affect guard's behaviour; for example, there is currently a nasty bug preventing listen from watching files inside symlinked directories.

File an issue

You can report bugs and feature requests to GitHub Issues.

Please don't ask question in the issue tracker, instead ask them at one of our other places:

Try to figure out where the issue belongs to: Is it an issue with Guard itself or with a Guard plugin you're using?

When you file a bug, please try to follow these simple rules if applicable:

  • Make sure you've read the README carefully.
  • Make sure you run Guard with bundle exec first.
  • Add debug information to the issue by running Guard with the --debug option.
  • Add your Guardfile and Gemfile to the issue.
  • Provide information about your environment:
    • Your current versions of your OS, Ruby, Rubygems and Bundler.
    • Shared project folder with services like Dropbox, NFS, etc.
  • Make sure that the issue is reproducible with your description.

It's most likely that your bug gets resolved faster if you provide as much information as possible!


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.
  • Update the CHANGELOG for noteworthy changes (don't forget to run bundle exec pimpmychangelog and watch the magic happen)!
  • Please do not change the version number.

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

Open Commit Bit

Guard has an open commit bit policy: Anyone with an accepted pull request gets added as a repository collaborator. Please try to follow these simple rules:

  • Commit directly onto the master branch only for typos, improvements to the readme and documentation (please add [ci skip] to the commit message).
  • Create a feature branch and open a pull-request early for any new features to get feedback.
  • Make sure you adhere to the general pull request rules above.


Thibaud Guillaume-Gentil (@thibaudgg)

Core Team