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Starting a new project? Use Jsonb Accessor instead! It has more features and is better maintained.


Hstore Accessor allows you to treat fields on an hstore column as though they were actual columns being picked up by ActiveRecord. This is especially handy when trying to avoid sparse columns while making use of single table inheritence. Hstore Accessor currently supports ActiveRecord versions 4.0, 4.1, 4.2, 5.0, and 5.1.

Table of Contents


Add this line to your application's Gemfile:

gem "hstore_accessor", "~> 1.1"

And then execute:

$ bundle

Or install it yourself as:

$ gem install hstore_accessor


The hstore_accessor method accepts the name of the hstore column you'd like to use and a hash with keys representing fields and values indicating the type to be stored in that field. The available types are: string, integer, float, decimal, datetime, date, boolean, array, and hash. It is available on an class that inherits from ActiveRecord::Base.

class Product < ActiveRecord::Base
  hstore_accessor :options,
    color: :string,
    weight: :integer,
    price: :float,
    built_at: :datetime,
    build_date: :date,
    tags: :array, # deprecated
    ratings: :hash # deprecated
    miles: :decimal

Now you can interact with the fields stored in the hstore directly.

product =
product.color = "green"
product.weight = 34
product.price = 99.95
product.built_at = - 10.days
product.build_date =
product.popular = true
product.tags = %w(housewares kitchen) # deprecated
product.ratings = { user_a: 3, user_b: 4 } # deprecated
product.miles = 3.14

Reading these fields works as well.

product.color # => "green"
product.price  # => 99.95

In order to reduce the storage overhead of hstore keys (especially when indexed) you can specify an alternate key.

hstore_accessor :options,
  color: { data_type: :string, store_key: "c" },
  weight: { data_type: :integer, store_key: "w" }

In the above example you can continue to interact with the fields using their full name but when saved to the database the field will be set using the store_key.

Additionally, dirty tracking is implemented in the same way that normal ActiveRecord fields work.

product.color          #=> "green"
product.color = "blue"
product.changed?       #=> true
product.color_changed? #=> true
product.color_was      #=> "green"
product.color_change  #=> ["green", "blue"]

ActiveRecord methods generated for fields

class Product < ActiveRecord::Base
  hstore_accessor :data, field: :string
  • field
  • field=
  • field?
  • field_changed?
  • field_was
  • field_change
  • reset_field!
  • restore_field!
  • field_will_change!

Overriding methods is supported, with access to the original Hstore Accessor implementation available via super.

Additionally, there is also hstore_metadata_for_<fields> on both the class and instances. column_for_attribute will also return a column object for an Hstore Accessor defined field. If you're using ActiveRecord 4.2, type_for_attribute will return a type object for Hstore Accessor defined fields the same as it does for actual columns.


The hstore_accessor macro also creates scopes for string, integer, float, decimal, time, date, boolean, and array fields.

String Fields

For string types, a with_<key> scope is created which checks for equality.


Integer, Float, Decimal Fields

For integer, float and decimal types five scopes are created:

Product.price_lt(240.00)  # price less than
Product.price_lte(240.00) # price less than or equal to
Product.price_eq(240.00)  # price equal to
Product.price_gte(240.00) # price greater than or equal to
Product.price_gt(240.00)  # price greater than

Datetime Fields

For datetime fields, three scopes are created:

Product.built_at_before(         # built before the given time
Product.built_at_eq( - 10.days)   # built at an exact time
Product.built_at_after( - 4.days) # built after the given time

Date Fields

For date fields, three scopes are created:

Product.build_date_before(         # built before the given date
Product.build_date_eq( - 10.days)   # built at an exact date
Product.built_date_after( - 4.days) # built after the given date

Array Fields

Note: the array field type is deprecated. It is available in version 0.9.0 but not > 1.0.0

For array types, two scopes are created:

Product.tags_eq(%w(housewares kitchen))       # tags equaling
Product.tags_contains("kitchen")              # tags containing a single value
Product.tags_contains(%w(housewares kitchen)) # tags containing a number of values

Boolean Fields

Two scopes are created for boolean fields:

Product.is_popular  # => when popular is set to true
Product.not_popular # => when popular is set to false

Predicate methods are also available on instances:

product = true)
product.popular? # => true

Single-table Inheritance

One of the big issues with ActiveRecord single-table inheritance (STI) is sparse columns. Essentially, as sub-types of the original table diverge further from their parent more columns are left empty in a given table. Postgres' hstore type provides part of the solution in that the values in an hstore column does not impose a structure - different rows can have different values.

We set up our table with an hstore field:

# db/migration/<timestamp>_create_players_table.rb
class CreateVehiclesTable < ActiveRecord::Migration
  def change
    create_table :vehicles do |t|
      t.string :make
      t.string :model
      t.integer :model_year
      t.string :type
      t.hstore :data

And for our models:

# app/models/vehicle.rb
class Vehicle < ActiveRecord::Base

# app/models/vehicles/automobile.rb
class Automobile < Vehicle
  hstore_accessor :data,
    axle_count: :integer,
    weight: :float,
    engine_details: :hash

# app/models/vehicles/airplane.rb
class Airplane < Vehicle
  hstore_accessor :data,
    engine_type: :string,
    safety_rating: :integer,
    features: :hash

From here any attributes specific to any sub-class can be stored in the hstore column avoiding sparse data. Indices can also be created on individual fields in an hstore column.

This approach was originally concieved by Joe Hirn in this blog post.


Upgrading from version 0.6.0 to 0.9.0 should be fairly painless. If you were previously using a time type fields, simply change it to datetime like so:

# Before...
hstore_accessor :data, published_at: :time
# After...
hstore_accessor :data, published_at: :datetime

While the array and hash types are available in version 0.9.0, they are deprecated and are not available in 1.0.0.



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

Developing Locally

Before you make your pull requests, please make sure you style is in line with our Rubocop settings and that all of the tests pass.

  1. bundle install
  2. appraisal install
  3. Make sure Postgres is installed and running
  4. appraisal rspec to run all the tests
  5. rubocop to check for style


Adds typed hstore-backed field support to ActiveRecord models.







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