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[NO LONGER MAINTAINED: I'm not maintaining this anymore. Contact me through GitHub if you want to be the new maintainer.] Give each of your models a simple 'vanity' URL. Makes into something like (Rails 3)

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Vanities is a gem for use with a Rails 3/3.1 project that will transform URLs like this:

Into something cool, like this:

The Vanity URL Explained

Vanities implements the concept of the “vanity URL”. Similar to a vanity license plate, it's a unique name or ID chosen by the user that is specific to them. However, this doesn't necessarily have to be for a user - in theory, any model in your Rails 3 application can use a vanity URL.

This gem works by redirecting requests for a vanity name - say “foo” - to the object that owns it. So for example, visiting would perform a redirect to (assuming a user object with an ID of 1 owned the “foo” vanity).

Common Use Cases

Some common use cases for something like vanities would be:

How To Install

Vanities is pretty simple to install. First, a few requirements and caveats:


REST-based models - every model with which you want to use vanities MUST be made a RESTful resource in your routes file (config/routes.rb). This is absolutely required.

Rails 3 - vanities is built on Rails 3 or 3.1. It might work with older versions of Rails, but only if you go back and reverse engineer some of the routing stuff, and possibly other things if using versions of Rails prior to the 2.3.x series. No other versions are supported.

ActiveRecord - vanities needs a table in the database to keep track of the individual vanity names. Datamapper and/or -otherorm- isn't/aren't supported out of the box, but the setup itself is so simple that you could probably reverse-engineer this to use another ORM if you wanted to.


In your application's Gemfile, add the following line:

gem 'vanities'

Then in your console/terminal, do:

bundle install

Next, while still in your terminal/console:

rails g vanities

You'll see a list of instructions that it'll print out. Next you'll want to open up your model that you want to have a vanity URL (say a User model) and add this line to it to substitute the polymorphic association that does all the magic:


Finally, do:

rake db:migrate

And you're all set!

A word about routes…

Vanities should be set as the absolute last route in your routes.rb file. The reason is because Rails' routing system is set up to take the first route in the file (from the top) that matches, and stop there. If a vanity URL that doesn't exist is higher in routing priority than, say, a user's show action, things are going to be a little funky.

All you need to do is cut and paste the route installed for the vanities controller from wherever it is in your routes.rb file after installation, and move it to be the last route in your system.

Using vanities

Every model that has a call to 'has_vanity' will have a vanity object associated with it. Each instance of your model will have one - and only one - vanity. Vanities CANNOT be repeated across different models. For example, let's say you have a user with a vanity called “bob”, and a product; you cannot call the product's vanity “bob” as well, as that's already taken by the aforementioned user.

To set up a vanity for a model, all you need to do is create a vanity. Say you're in the Rails console. This would be as simple as:

u = User.first
u.vanity = => "bob")

Finally, you can go to localhost:3000/bob to be automatically redirected to the user's 'show' action.

About the Tests

Vanities is mostly a convenience gem, nothing more. It makes use of code already tested by Rails, and as such, is pretty light on its own tests. As of version 0.1.3, Vanities includes a test to ensure that the 'has_vanity' method does work correctly. I fully welcome any well written tests for Vanities. Just fork, do your work, and submit a pull request.

Running the tests

Download this gem then cd to the right directory:

cd /path/to/your/gem/install/vanities

Then just use ruby to run the tests:

ruby test/unit/vanities_test.rb

What version of ActiveRecord can I use this with?

Vanities should work with ActiveRecord 3.0 and 3.1 just fine. It probably works with older versions, too. In theory, any version fo ActiveRecord that provides polymorphic associations should work, as long as the API stays the same. If you have doubts or questions, feel free to run the tests.


0.1.3 17 September 2011: Slight refactor based on suggestions from Marc Gayle (@marcgayle) to allow for + and - characters in routes. Also added basic test to ensure 'has_vanity' is loaded into ActiveRecord as an available method, and that it works to provide the polymorphic association necessary to make everything work.

0.1.2 20 March 2011: Slight refactor to make the vanities controller render a 404 if it can't find a vanity object. Small documentation update about routes (make sure vanities is the LAST route in your routes.rb file).

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