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Easily search you ActiveRecord models with a simple query language using a named scope.
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The scoped_search Rails plugin makes it easy to search your ActiveRecord models. Searching is performed using a query string, which should be passed to the named_scope search_for that uses SQL LIKE %keyword% conditions for searching (ILIKE for Postgres). You can specify what fields should be used for searching.


The recommended method to enable scoped_search in your project is adding the scoped_search gem to your environment. Add the following code to your Rails configuration in config/environment.rb: do |config|
  config.gem 'wvanbergen-scoped_search', :lib => 'scoped_search', 
                 source => ''

Run sudo rake gems:install to install the gem.

Another alternative is to install scoped_search as a Rails plugin:

script/plugin install git://


First, you have to specify in what columns should be searched:

class User < ActiveRecord::Base
  searchable_on :first_name, :last_name

Now, the search_for scope is available for queries. You should pass a query string to the scope. This can be empty or nil, in which case all no search conditions are set (and all records will be returned).

User.search_for(params[:q]).each { |project| ... }

You can define multiple scopes like so:

class User < ActiveRecord::Base
  searchable_on do
    name :name_search
    fields :first_name, :last_name

  searchable_on do
    name :login_search
    fields :login, :email

  # this is an alternative way to create the login_search
  acts_as_scoped_search :login_search, :login, :email

If you'd rather select the columns to search when invoking the named scope, you can do that with any scoped search, or with the default “scoped_search” scope created by the following:

class User < ActiveRecord::Base
  # Creates a default scope called :scoped_search which searches all fields 
  # of this model

  # you can refer to the default scope in another scope
  named_scope :search_text_fields, lambda { |keywords| 
    self.scoped_search(keywords, :login, :email, :first_name, :last_name) 

  # or from a function
  def search_text_fields_function(keywords)
    self.scoped_search(keywords, :login, :email, :first_name, :last_name)

You can also search on associate models. This works with belongs_to, has_one, has_many, has_many :through, and HABTM. For example if a User has_many Notes (title, content, created_at, updated_at)

class User < ActiveRecord::Base
  has_many: notes
  searchable_on :first_name, :last_name, :notes_title, :notes_content

The search query language is simple. It supports these constructs:

  • words: some search keywords

  • phrases: "a single search phrase"

  • negation: "look for this" -"but do not look for this phrase and this" -word

  • OR words/phrases: word/phrase OR word/phrase. Example: "Hello World" OR "Hello Moon"

  • dates: mm/dd/yyyy, dd/mm/yyyy, yyyy/mm/dd, yyyy-mm-dd

  • date ranges: > date, >= date, < date, <= date, date TO date. Examples: > 30/05/1983, < 2009-01-30

This functionality is build on named_scope. The searchable_on statement creates a named_scope search_for. Because of this, you can actually chain the call with other scopes. For example, this can be very useful if you only want to search in projects that are accessible by a given user.

class Project < ActiveRecord::Base
  searchable_on :name, :description
  named_scope :accessible_by, lambda { |user| ... }

# using chained named_scopes and will_paginate
Project.accessible_by(current_user).search_for(params[:q]).paginate(:page => params[:page], :include => :tasks)

Additional resources


This plugin is released under the MIT license. Please contact weshays ( or wvanbergen ( for any questions.

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