A wrapper around DataTable's ajax methods that allow synchronization with server-side pagination in a Rails app
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Important : This gem is targeted at DataTables version 1.10.x.

It's tested against :

  • Rails 4.2.10 / 5.0.7 / 5.1.6 / 5.2.0
  • Ruby 2.3.7 / 2.4.4 / 2.5.1
  • Postgresql 9.6
  • MySQL 5.6
  • Oracle XE 11.2 (thanks to travis-oracle)
  • SQLite3


DataTables is a nifty jQuery plugin that adds the ability to paginate, sort, and search your html tables. When dealing with large tables (more than a couple of hundred rows) however, we run into performance issues. These can be fixed by using server-side pagination, but this breaks some DataTables functionality.

ajax-datatables-rails is a wrapper around DataTables ajax methods that allow synchronization with server-side pagination in a Rails app. It was inspired by this Railscast. I needed to implement a similar solution in a couple projects I was working on, so I extracted a solution into a gem.

Joel Quenneville (original author)

I needed a good gem to manage a lot of DataTables so I chose this one :)

Nicolas Rodriguez (current maintainer)

The final goal of this gem is to generate a JSON content that will be given to jQuery DataTables. All the datatable customizations (header, tr, td, css classes, width, height, buttons, etc...) must take place in the javascript definition of the datatable. jQuery DataTables is a very powerful tool with a lot of customizations available. Take the time to read the doc.


Breaking changes :

  1. the v1.0.0 version is a major break from v0.4.
  • Datatables no longer inherits from AjaxDatatablesRails::Base but from AjaxDatatablesRails::ActiveRecord (this solves #228)
  • The view_context is no longer injected in Datatables but only the params hash (see the example). This will break calls to helpers methods.

To mitigate this 2 changes see the migration doc.

  1. the v0.4 version is a major break from v0.3.

The core has been rewriten to remove dependency on Kaminari or WillPaginate.

It also brings a new (more natural) way of defining columns, based on hash definitions (and not arrays) and add some filtering options for column search.

See below for more infos.

To migrate on the v0.4 you'll need to :

  • update your DataTables classes to remove all the extend directives
  • switch to hash definitions of view_columns
  • update your views to declare your columns bindings (See here)

Documentation version

This documentation is about the v1.x.x release (master branch) of this gem.

You can still have access to the v0.4.x documentation on the v0.4.x branch.


Add these lines to your application's Gemfile:

gem 'ajax-datatables-rails'

And then execute:

$ bundle install

We assume here that you have already installed jQuery DataTables.

You can install jQuery DataTables :


Generate the ajax-datatables-rails config file with this command :

$ bundle exec rails generate datatable:config

Doing so, will create the config/initializers/ajax_datatables_rails.rb file with the following content :

AjaxDatatablesRails.configure do |config|
  # available options for db_adapter are: :pg, :mysql, :mysql2, :sqlite, :sqlite3
  # config.db_adapter = :pg

  # Or you can use your rails environment adapter if you want a generic dev and production
  # config.db_adapter = Rails.configuration.database_configuration[Rails.env]['adapter'].to_sym

Uncomment the config.db_adapter line and set the corresponding value to your database and gem. This is all you need.


Currently AjaxDatatablesRails only supports ActiveRecord as ORM for performing database queries.

Adding support for Sequel, Mongoid and MongoMapper is (more or less) a planned feature for this gem.

If you'd be interested in contributing to speed development, please open an issue and get in touch.

Quick start (in 5 steps)

The following examples assume that we are setting up ajax-datatables-rails for an index page of users from a User model, and that we are using Postgresql as our db, because you should be using it. (It also works with other DB, see above, just be sure to have configured the right adapter)

The goal is to render a users table and display : id, first name, last name, email, and bio for each user.

Something like this:

ID First Name Last Name Email Brief Bio
1 John Doe john.doe@example.net Is your default user everywhere
2 Jane Doe jane.doe@example.net Is John's wife
3 James Doe james.doe@example.net Is John's brother and best friend

Here the steps we're going through :

  1. Generate the datatable class
  2. Build the View
  3. Customize the generated Datatables class
  4. Setup the Controller action
  5. Wire up the Javascript

1) Generate the datatable class

Run the following command:

$ rails generate datatable User

This will generate a file named user_datatable.rb in app/datatables. Open the file and customize in the functions as directed by the comments.

Take a look here for an explanation about the generator syntax.

2) Build the View

You should always start by the single source of truth, which is your html view.

  • Set up an html <table> with a <thead> and <tbody>
  • Add in your table headers if desired
  • Don't add any rows to the body of the table, DataTables does this automatically
  • Add a data attribute to the <table> tag with the url of the JSON feed, in our case is the users_path as we're pointing to the UsersController#index action
<table id="users-datatable" data-source="<%= users_path(format: :json) %>">
      <th>First Name</th>
      <th>Last Name</th>
      <th>Brief Bio</th>

3) Customize the generated Datatables class

a. Declare columns mapping

First we need to declare in view_columns the list of the model(s) columns mapped to the data we need to present. In this case: id, first_name, last_name, email and bio.

This gives us:

def view_columns
  @view_columns ||= {
    id:         { source: "User.id" },
    first_name: { source: "User.first_name", cond: :like, searchable: true, orderable: true },
    last_name:  { source: "User.last_name",  cond: :like },
    email:      { source: "User.email" },
    bio:        { source: "User.bio" },

Notes : by default orderable and searchable are true and cond is :like.

cond can be :

  • :like, :start_with, :end_with, :string_eq for string or full text search
  • :eq, :not_eq, :lt, :gt, :lteq, :gteq, :in for numeric
  • :date_range for date range (only for Rails > 4.2.x, see here)
  • :null_value for nil field
  • Proc for whatever (see here for real example)

See here to get more details about columns definitions and how to play with associated models.

You can customize or sanitize the search value passed to the DB by using the :formatter option with a lambda :

def view_columns
  @view_columns ||= {
    id:         { source: "User.id" },
    first_name: { source: "User.first_name" },
    last_name:  { source: "User.last_name" },
    email:      { source: "User.email", formatter: -> (o) { o.upcase } },
    bio:        { source: "User.bio" },

The object passed to the lambda is the search value.

b. Map data

Then we need to map the records retrieved by the get_raw_records method to the real values we want to display :

def data
  records.map do |record|
      id:         record.id,
      first_name: record.first_name,
      last_name:  record.last_name,
      email:      record.email,
      bio:        record.bio,
      DT_RowId:   record.id, # This will automagically set the id attribute on the corresponding <tr> in the datatable

You can either use the v0.3 Array style for your columns :

This method builds a 2d array that is used by datatables to construct the html table. Insert the values you want on each column.

def data
  records.map do |record|

The drawback of this method is that you can't pass the DT_RowId so it's tricky to set the id attribute on the corresponding <tr> in the datatable (need to be done on JS side).

See here if you need to use view helpers like link_to, mail_to, etc...

c. Get Raw Records

This is where your query goes.

def get_raw_records

Obviously, you can construct your query as required for the use case the datatable is used.


def get_raw_records

You can put any logic in get_raw_records based on any parameters you inject in the Datatable object.

IMPORTANT : Because the result of this method will be chained to ActiveRecord methods for sorting, filtering and pagination, make sure to return an ActiveRecord::Relation object.

d. Additional data

You can inject other key/value pairs in the rendered JSON by defining the #additional_data method :

def additional_data
    foo: 'bar'

Very useful with https://github.com/vedmack/yadcf to provide values for dropdown filters.

4) Setup the Controller action

Set the controller to respond to JSON

def index
  respond_to do |format|
    format.json { render json: UserDatatable.new(params) }

Don't forget to make sure the proper route has been added to config/routes.rb.

See here if you need to inject params in the UserDatatable.

5) Wire up the Javascript

Finally, the javascript to tie this all together. In the appropriate coffee file:

# users.coffee

$ ->
    processing: true
    serverSide: true
    ajax: $('#users-datatable').data('source')
    pagingType: 'full_numbers'
    columns: [
      {data: 'id'}
      {data: 'first_name'}
      {data: 'last_name'}
      {data: 'email'}
      {data: 'bio'}
    # pagingType is optional, if you want full pagination controls.
    # Check dataTables documentation to learn more about
    # available options.

or, if you're using plain javascript:

// users.js

jQuery(document).ready(function() {
    "processing": true,
    "serverSide": true,
    "ajax": $('#users-datatable').data('source'),
    "pagingType": "full_numbers",
    "columns": [
      {"data": "id"},
      {"data": "first_name"},
      {"data": "last_name"},
      {"data": "email"},
      {"data": "bio"}
    // pagingType is optional, if you want full pagination controls.
    // Check dataTables documentation to learn more about
    // available options.

Advanced usage

Using view helpers

Sometimes you'll need to use view helper methods like link_to, mail_to, edit_user_path, check_box_tag and so on in the returned JSON representation returned by the data method.

To have these methods available to be used, this is the way to go:

class UserDatatable < AjaxDatatablesRails::ActiveRecord
  extend Forwardable

  # either define them one-by-one
  def_delegator :@view, :check_box_tag
  def_delegator :@view, :link_to
  def_delegator :@view, :mail_to
  def_delegator :@view, :edit_user_path

  # or define them in one pass
  def_delegators :@view, :check_box_tag, :link_to, :mail_to, :edit_user_path

  # ... other methods (view_columns, get_raw_records...)

  def initialize(params, opts = {})
    @view = opts[:view_context]

  # now, you'll have these methods available to be used anywhere
  def data
    records.map do |record|
        id:         check_box_tag('users[]', record.id),
        first_name: link_to(record.first_name, edit_user_path(record)),
        last_name:  record.last_name,
        email:      mail_to(record.email),
        bio:        record.bio
        DT_RowId:   record.id,

# and in your controller:
def index
  respond_to do |format|
    format.json { render json: UserDatatable.new(params, view_context: view_context) }

Using view decorators

If you want to keep things tidy in the data mapping method, you could use Draper to define column mappings like below.

Note : This is the recommanded way as you don't need to inject the view_context in the Datatable object to access helpers methods. It also helps in separating view/presentation logic from filtering logic (the only one that really matters in a datatable class).

Example :

class UserDatatable < AjaxDatatablesRails::ActiveRecord
  def data
    records.map do |record|
        id:         record.decorate.check_box,
        first_name: record.decorate.link_to,
        last_name:  record.decorate.last_name
        email:      record.decorate.email,
        bio:        record.decorate.bio
        DT_RowId:   record.id,

class UserDecorator < ApplicationDecorator
  delegate :last_name, :bio

  def check_box
    h.check_box_tag 'users[]', object.id

  def link_to
    h.link_to object.first_name, h.edit_user_path(object)

  def email
    h.mail_to object.email

  # Just an example of a complex method you can add to you decorator
  # To render it in a datatable just add a column 'dt_actions' in
  # 'view_columns' and 'data' methods and call record.decorate.dt_actions
  def dt_actions
    links = []
    links << h.link_to 'Edit',   h.edit_user_path(object) if h.policy(object).update?
    links << h.link_to 'Delete', h.user_path(object), method: :delete, remote: true if h.policy(object).destroy?
    h.safe_join(links, '')

Pass options to the datatable class

An AjaxDatatablesRails::ActiveRecord inherited class can accept an options hash at initialization. This provides room for flexibility when required.


# In the controller
def index
  respond_to do |format|
    format.json { render json: UserDatatable.new(params, user: current_user, from: 1.month.ago) }

# The datatable class
class UnrespondedMessagesDatatable < AjaxDatatablesRails::ActiveRecord

  # ... other methods (view_columns, data...)

  def user
    @user ||= options[:user]

  def from
    @from ||= options[:from].beginning_of_day

  def to
    @to ||= Date.today.end_of_day

  # We can now customize the get_raw_records method
  # with the options we've injected
  def get_raw_records
    user.messages.unresponded.where(received_at: from..to)


Columns syntax

You can mix several model in the same datatable.

Suppose we have the following models: User, PurchaseOrder, Purchase::LineItem and we need to have several columns from those models available in our datatable to search and sort by.

# we use the ModelName.column_name notation to declare our columns

def view_columns
  @view_columns ||= {
    first_name:       'User.first_name',
    last_name:        'User.last_name',
    order_number:     'PurchaseOrder.number',
    order_created_at: 'PurchaseOrder.created_at',
    quantity:         'Purchase::LineItem.quantity',
    unit_price:       'Purchase::LineItem.unit_price',
    item_total:       'Purchase::LineItem.item_total'

Associated and nested models

The previous example has only one single model. But what about if you have some associated nested models and in a report you want to show fields from these tables.

Take an example that has an Event, Course, CourseType, Allocation, Teacher, Contact, Competency and CompetencyType models. We want to have a datatables report which has the following column:


We want to sort and search on all columns of the list. The related definition would be :

def view_columns
  @view_columns ||= {
    course_type:     'CourseType.name',
    course_name:     'Course.name',
    contact_name:    'Contact.full_name',
    competency_type: 'CompetencyType.name',
    event_title:     'Event.title',
    event_start:     'Event.event_start',
    event_end:       'Event.event_end',
    event_status:    'Event.status',

def get_raw_records
    { course: :course_type },
    { allocations: {
      teacher: [:contact, { competencies: :competency_type }]

Some comments for the above code :

  1. In the get_raw_records method we have quite a complex query having one to many and many to many associations using the joins ActiveRecord method. The joins will generate INNER JOIN relations in the SQL query. In this case, we do not include all event in the report if we have events which is not associated with any model record from the relation.

  2. To have all event records in the list we should use the .includes method, which generate LEFT OUTER JOIN relation of the SQL query.


Make sure to append .references(:related_model) with any associated model. That forces the eager loading of all the associated models by one SQL query, and the search condition for any column works fine. Otherwise the :recordsFiltered => filter_records(get_raw_records).count(:all) will generate 2 SQL queries (one for the Event model, and then another for the associated tables). The :recordsFiltered => filter_records(get_raw_records).count(:all) will use only the first one to return from the ActiveRecord::Relation object in get_raw_records and you will get an error message of Unknown column 'yourtable.yourfield' in 'where clause' in case the search field value is not empty.

So the query using the .includes() method is:

def get_raw_records
    { course: :course_type },
    { allocations: {
      teacher: [:contact, { competencies: :competency_type }]

Default scope

See DefaultScope is evil and #223 and #233.

DateRange search

This feature works with yadcf.

To enable the date range search, for example created_at :

  • add a 'created_at' <th> in your html
  • declare your column in view_columns : created_at: { source: 'Post.created_at', cond: :date_range, delimiter: '-yadcf_delim-' }
  • add it in data : created_at: record.decorate.created_at
  • setup yadcf to make created_at search field a range

Generator Syntax

Also, a class that inherits from AjaxDatatablesRails::ActiveRecord is not tied to an existing model, module, constant or any type of class in your Rails app. You can pass a name to your datatable class like this:

$ rails generate datatable users
# returns a users_datatable.rb file with a UsersDatatable class

$ rails generate datatable contact_messages
# returns a contact_messages_datatable.rb file with a ContactMessagesDatatable class

$ rails generate datatable UnrespondedMessages
# returns an unresponded_messages_datatable.rb file with an UnrespondedMessagesDatatable class

In the end, it's up to the developer which model(s), scope(s), relationship(s) (or else) to employ inside the datatable class to retrieve records from the database.


Create a master parent class

In the same spirit of Rails ApplicationController and ApplicationRecord, you can create an ApplicationDatatable class (in app/datatables/application_datatable.rb) that will be inherited from other classes :

class ApplicationDatatable < AjaxDatatablesRails::ActiveRecord
  # puts commonly used methods here

class PostDatatable < ApplicationDatatable

This way it will be easier to DRY you datatables.

Create indices for Postgresql

In order to speed up the ILIKE queries that are executed when using the default configuration, you might want to consider adding some indices. For postgresql, you are advised to use the gin/gist index type. This makes it necessary to enable the postgrsql extension pg_trgm. Double check that you have this extension installed before trying to enable it. A migration for enabling the extension and creating the indices could look like this:

def change
  enable_extension :pg_trgm
  TEXT_SEARCH_ATTRIBUTES = ['your', 'attributes']
  TABLE = 'your_table'

    reversible do |dir|
      dir.up do
        execute "CREATE INDEX #{TABLE}_#{attr}_gin ON #{TABLE} USING gin(#{attr} gin_trgm_ops)"

      dir.down do
        remove_index TABLE.to_sym, name: "#{TABLE}_#{attr}_gin"

Speedup JSON rendering

Install yajl-ruby, basically :

gem 'yajl-ruby', require: 'yajl'


$ bundle install

That's all :) (Automatically prefer Yajl or JSON backend over Yaml, if available)

Use HTTP POST method

Use HTTP POST method to avoid 414 Request-URI Too Large error. See : #278.

You can easily define a route concern in config/routes.rb and reuse it when you need it :

Rails.application.routes.draw do
  concern :with_datatable do
    post 'datatable', on: :collection

  resources :posts, concerns: [:with_datatable]
  resources :users, concerns: [:with_datatable]

then in your controllers :

# PostsController
  def index

  def datatable
    render json: PostDatatable.new(params)

# UsersController
  def index

  def datatable
    render json: UserDatatable.new(params)

then in your views :

# posts/index.html.erb
<table id="posts-datatable" data-source="<%= datatable_posts_path(format: :json) %>">

# users/index.html.erb
<table id="users-datatable" data-source="<%= datatable_users_path(format: :json) %>">

then in your Coffee/JS :

$ ->
      url: $('#posts-datatable').data('source')
      type: 'POST'
    # ...others options, see [here](#5-wire-up-the-javascript)

$ ->
      url: $('#users-datatable').data('source')
      type: 'POST'
    # ...others options, see [here](#5-wire-up-the-javascript)


You'll find a sample project here. Its real world example.

Filtering by JSONB column values : #277

Use has_scope gem with ajax-datatables-rails : #280

Use Datatable orthogonal data : see #269


  1. Fork it
  2. Create your feature branch (git checkout -b my-new-feature)
  3. Commit your changes (git commit -am 'Added some feature')
  4. Push to the branch (git push origin my-new-feature)
  5. Create new Pull Request