Textile and sanitize ActiveRecord columns
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Acts as Sanitiled

This plugin, based on Chris Wanstrath's venerable acts_as_textiled, extends the automatic textiling functionality to sanitization as well using as its basis Ryan Grove's powerful yet simple Sanitize gem.

The reasoning behind this approach is simple. Filtering input before it is saved to the database (as xss_terminate and many other popular plugins do) often fails to preserve user intent. On the other hand, filtering output at the template level is error prone, and you are begging to get pwned. Short of some sort of taint mode (which Rails 3 will have!), I believe the method employed by acts_as_textiled is the next best thing: you get safe output by default, but input is never corrupted.


  • Sanitize >1.1.0 (prior versions had a whitespace issue)

  • Nokogiri >1.3.3

  • RedCloth (for Textile support)

  • ActiveRecord (tested on 2.3.4)


acts_as_sanitiled is distributed via Gemcutter. If you are enlightened you can simply do:

gem install acts_as_sanitiled

If you haven't checkout out Gemcutter yet:

gem install --source http://gemcutter.org acts_as_sanitiled

Then in your Rails environment.rb:

config.gem 'acts_as_sanitiled'

Known Issues

The tests are passing for me with Sanitize 1.1.0 and Nokogiri 1.4.0 under my native ruby install of 1.8.6. However under 1.8.7 (using rvm) I get a whitespace error in the sanitized html, which results in paragraphs and line breaks not having line breaks, and thus screws up the output of attribute(:plain). I haven't been able to figure out what the problem is yet, but if you see a test failure on:

./spec/sanitiled_spec.rb:49: A standard textiled object - should properly textilize and strip html

Let me know if you are able to help debug.

Changes from acts_as_textiled

acts_as_sanitiled mostly maintains the API, but one noticeable difference is that it needs to expose the Sanitize config. Therefore acts_as_textiled use of a hash to provide per-column RedCloth configuration had to be replaced with Sanitize config. RedCloth options can still be passed as an array that applies to all fields listed.

The other big change is that acts_as_sanitiled uses Sanitize which outputs utf8 rather than HTML entities. For my own purposes this is preferable anyway, but it might give someone a few headaches getting encoding issues. My advice: take your lumps now and figure out your encoding pipelines.


class Story < ActiveRecord::Base
  acts_as_sanitiled :body_text, :description

>> story = Story.find(3)
=> #<Story:0x245fed8 ... >

>> story.description
=> "<p>This is <strong>cool</strong>.</p>"

>> story.description(:source)
=> "This is *cool*."

>> story.description(:plain)
=> "This is cool."

>> story.description = "I _know_!"
=> "I _know_!"

>> story.save
=> true

>> story.description
=> "<p>I <em>know</em>!</p>"

>> story.textiled = false
=> false

>> story.description
=> "I _know_!"

>> story.textiled = true
=> true

>> story.description
=> "<p>I <em>know</em>!</p>"

Different Modes

Sanitize supports a detailed configuration hash describing what HTML is allowed (among other things). This can be passed at the end of the declaration. See the Sanitize docs for more information.

class Story < ActiveRecord::Base
  acts_as_sanitiled :body_text, :elements => ['em','strong','div'], :attributes => {'div' => ['class','id']}

RedCloth supports different modes, such as :lite_mode. To use a mode on a specific attribute simply pass one or more options in an array after the field names. Like so:

class Story < ActiveRecord::Base
  acts_as_sanitiled :body_text, :description, [ :lite_mode ]

Of course you can combine them as well:

class Story < ActiveRecord::Base
  acts_as_sanitiled :body_text, :description, [ :lite_mode ], :elements => ['a'], :add_attributes => {'a' => {'rel' => 'nofollow'}}

Suppose you want to sanitize but not textilize:

class Story < ActiveRecord::Base
  acts_as_sanitized :body_text, :elements => ['br', 'p']

Or vice-versa:

class Story < ActiveRecord::Base
  acts_as_textilized :body_text, [ :lite_mode ]

Default options

Most likely you want to use the same options throughout your application, but perhaps not the same options I like. You can set the default options for both Sanitize and RedCloth like so.

ActsAsSanitiled.default_redcloth_options = [:no_span_caps]
ActsAsSanitiled.default_sanitize_options = {:elements => ['em','strong','p','br']}

This should be done in environment.rb or an initializer so it will run before your ActiveRecord classes are defined.


Are you using form_for? If you are, you don't have to change any code at all.

<% form_for :story, @story do |f| %>
  Description: <br/> <%= f.text_field :description %>
<% end %>

You'll see the Textile plaintext in the text field. It Just Works.

form tags

If you're being a bit unconvential, no worries. You can still get at your raw Textile like so:

Description: <br/> <%= text_field_tag :description, @story.description(:source) %>

And there's always object.textiled = false, as demo'd above.


acts_as_sanitiled locally caches rendered HTML once the attribute in question has been requested. Obviously this doesn't bode well for marshalling or caching.

If you need to force your object to build and cache HTML for all textiled attributes, call the textilize method on your object.

If you're real crazy you can even do something like this:

class Story < ActiveRecord::Base
  acts_as_sanitiled :body_text, :description

  def after_find

All your Textile will now be ready to go in spiffy HTML format. But you probably won't need to do this.