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Restrict the values assignable to ActiveRecord attributes or associations.

README.md

assignable_values - Enums on vitamins Build Status Code Climate

assignable_values lets you restrict the values that can be assigned to attributes or associations of ActiveRecord models. You can think of it as enums where the list of allowed values is generated at runtime and the value is checked during validation.

We carefully enhanced the core enum functionality with small tweaks that are useful for web forms, internationalized applications and common authorization patterns.

Restricting scalar attributes

The basic usage to restrict the values assignable to strings, integers, etc. is this:

class Song < ActiveRecord::Base
  assignable_values_for :genre do
    ['pop', 'rock', 'electronic']
  end
end

The assigned value is checked during validation:

Song.new(:genre => 'rock').valid?     # => true
Song.new(:genre => 'elephant').valid? # => false

The validation error message is the same as the one from validates_inclusion_of (errors.messages.inclusion in your I18n dictionary). You can also set a custom error message with the :message option.

Listing assignable values

You can ask a record for a list of values that can be assigned to an attribute:

song.assignable_genres # => ['pop', 'rock', 'electronic']

This is useful for populating <select> tags in web forms:

form.select :genre, form.object.assignable_genres

Humanized labels

You will often want to present internal values in a humanized form. E.g. "pop" should be presented as "Pop music".

You can define human labels in your I18n dictionary:

en:
  assignable_values:
    song:
      genre:
        pop: 'Pop music'
        rock: 'Rock music'
        electronic: 'Electronic music'

You can access the humanized version for the current value like this:

song = Song.new(:genre => 'pop')
song.humanized_genre # => 'Pop music'

Or you can retrieve the humanized version of any given value by passing it as an argument to either instance or class:

song.humanized_genre('rock') # => 'Rock music'
Song.humanized_genre('rock') # => 'Rock music'

You can obtain a list of all assignable values with their humanizations:

song.humanized_genres.size            # => 3
song.humanized_genres.first.value     # => "pop"
song.humanized_genres.first.humanized # => "Pop music"

A good way to populate a <select> tag with pairs of internal values and human labels is to use the collection_select helper from Rails:

form.collection_select :genre, form.object.humanized_genres, :value, :humanized

If you don't like to use your I18n dictionary for humanizations, you can also declare them directly in your model like this:

class Song < ActiveRecord::Base
  assignable_values_for :genre do
    { 'pop' => 'Pop music',
      'rock' => 'Rock music',
      'electronic' => 'Electronic music' }
  end
end

Defining default values

You can define a default value by using the :default option:

class Song < ActiveRecord::Base
  assignable_values_for :genre, :default => 'rock' do
    ['pop', 'rock', 'electronic']
  end
end

The default is applied to new records:

Song.new.genre # => 'rock'

Defaults can be procs:

class Song < ActiveRecord::Base
  assignable_values_for :genre, :default => proc { Date.today.year } do
    1980 .. 2011
  end
end

The proc will be evaluated in the context of the record instance.

You can also default a secondary default that is only set if the primary default value is not assignable:

class Song < ActiveRecord::Base
  assignable_values_for :year, :default => 1999, :secondary_default => lambda { Date.today.year } do
    (Date.today.year - 2) .. Date.today.year
  end
end

If called in 2013 the code above will fall back to:

Song.new.year # => 2013

Allowing blank values

By default, an attribute must be assigned an value. If the value of an attribute is blank, the attribute will get a validation error.

If you would like to change this behavior and allow blank values to be valid, use the :allow_blank option:

class Song < ActiveRecord::Base
  assignable_values_for :genre, :default => 'rock', :allow_blank => true do
    ['pop', 'rock', 'electronic']
  end
end

The :allow_blank option can be a symbol, in which case a method of that name will be called on the record.

The :allow_blank option can also be a lambda, in which case the lambda will be called in the context of the record.

Values are only validated when they change

Values are only validated when they change. This is useful when the list of assignable values can change during runtime:

class Song < ActiveRecord::Base
  assignable_values_for :year do
    (Date.today.year - 2) .. Date.today.year
  end
end

If a value has been saved before, it will remain valid, even if it is no longer assignable:

Song.update_all(:year => 1985) # update all records with a value that is no longer valid
song = Song.last
song.year # => 1985
song.valid?  # => true

It will also be returned when obtaining the list of assignable values:

song.assignable_genres # => [2010, 2011, 2012, 1985]

Once a changed value has been saved, the previous value disappears from the list of assignable values:

song.genre = 'pop'
song.save!
song.assignable_years # => [2010, 2011, 2012]
song.year = 1985
song.valid? # => false

This is to prevent records from becoming invalid as the list of assignable values evolves. This also prevents <select> menus with blank selections when opening an old record in a web form.

Restricting belongs_to associations

You can restrict belongs_to associations in the same manner as scalar attributes:

class Song

  belongs_to :artist

  assignable_values_for :artist do
    Artist.where(:signed => true)
  end

end

Listing and validating als works the same:

chicane = Artist.create!(:name => 'Chicane', :signed => true)
lt2 = Artist.create!(:name => 'LT2', :signed => false)

song = Song.new

song.assignable_artists # => [#<Artist id: 1, name: "Chicane">]

song.artist = chicane
song.valid? # => true

song.artist = lt2
song.valid? # => false

Similiar to scalar attributes, associations are only validated when the foreign key (artist_id in the example above) changes. Previously saved values will remain assignable until another association has been saved.

Validation errors will be attached to the association's foreign key (artist_id in the example above).

How assignable values are evaluated

The list of assignable values is generated at runtime. Since the given block is evaluated on the record instance, so you can refer to other methods:

class Song < ActiveRecord::Base

  validates_numericality_of :year

  assignable_values_for :genre do
    genres = []
    genres << 'jazz' if year > 1900
    genres << 'rock' if year > 1960
    genres
  end

end

Obtaining assignable values from another source

The list of assignable values can be provided by any object that is accessible from your model. This is useful for authorization scenarios like Consul or CanCan, where permissions are defined in a single class.

You can define the source of assignable values by setting the :through option to a lambda:

class Story < ActiveRecord::Base
  assignable_values_for :state, :through => lambda { Power.current }
end

Power.current must now respond to a method assignable_story_states or assignable_story_states(story) which returns an Enumerable of state strings:

class Power

  cattr_accessor :current

  def initialize(role)
    @role = role
  end

  def assignable_story_states(story)
    states = ['draft', 'pending']
    states << 'accepted' if @role == :admin
    states
  end

end

Listing and validating works the same with delegation:

story = Story.new(:state => 'accepted')

Power.current = Power.new(:guest)
story.assignable_states # => ['draft', 'pending']
story.valid? # => false

Power.current = Power.new(:admin)
story.assignable_states # => ['draft', 'pending', 'accepted']
story.valid? # => true

Note that delegated validation is skipped when the delegate is nil. This way your model remains usable when there is no authorization context, like in batch processes or the console:

story = Story.new(:state => 'foo')
Power.current = nil
story.valid? # => true

Think of this as enabling an optional authorization layer on top of your model validations, which can be switched on or off depending on the current context.

Instead of a lambda you can also use the :through option to name an instance method:

class Story < ActiveRecord::Base
  attr_accessor :power
  assignable_values_for :state, :through => :power
end

Obtaining assignable values from a Consul power

A common use case for the :through option is when there is some globally accessible object that knows about permissions for the current request. In practice you will find that it requires some effort to make sure such an object is properly instantiated and accessible.

If you are using Consul, you will get a lot of this plumbing for free. Consul gives you a macro current_power to instantiate a so called "power", which describes what the current user may access:

class ApplicationController < ActionController::Base
  include Consul::Controller

  current_power do
    Power.new(current_user)
  end

end

The code above will provide you with a helper method current_power for your controller and views. Everywhere else, you can simply access it from Power.current.

You can now delegate validation of assignable values to the current power by saying:

 class Story < ActiveRecord::Base
   authorize_values_for :state
 end

This is a shortcut for saying:

 class Story < ActiveRecord::Base
   assignable_values_for :state, :through => lambda { Power.current }
 end

Head over to the Consul README for details.

Installation

Put this into your Gemfile:

gem 'assignable_values'

Now run bundle install and restart your server. Done.

Development

  • Fork the repository.
  • Push your changes with specs. There is a Rails 3 test application in spec/app_root if you need to test integration with a live Rails app.
  • Send me a pull request.

I'm very eager to keep this gem leightweight and on topic. If you're unsure whether a change would make it into the gem, talk to me beforehand.

Credits

Henning Koch from makandra.

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