Simple Ruby version management
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Groom your app’s Ruby environment with rbenv.

Use rbenv to pick a Ruby version for your application and guarantee that your development environment matches production. Put rbenv to work with Bundler for painless Ruby upgrades and bulletproof deployments.

Powerful in development. Specify your app's Ruby version once, in a single file. Keep all your teammates on the same page. No headaches running apps on different versions of Ruby. Just Works™ from the command line and with app servers like Pow. Override the Ruby version anytime: just set an environment variable.

Rock-solid in production. Your application's executables are its interface with ops. With rbenv and Bundler binstubs you'll never again need to cd in a cron job or Chef recipe to ensure you've selected the right runtime. The Ruby version dependency lives in one place—your app—so upgrades and rollbacks are atomic, even when you switch versions.

One thing well. rbenv is concerned solely with switching Ruby versions. It's simple and predictable. A rich plugin ecosystem lets you tailor it to suit your needs. Compile your own Ruby versions, or use the ruby-build plugin to automate the process. Specify per-application environment variables with rbenv-vars. See more plugins on the wiki.

Why choose rbenv over RVM?

Table of Contents

How It Works

At a high level, rbenv intercepts Ruby commands using shim executables injected into your PATH, determines which Ruby version has been specified by your application, and passes your commands along to the correct Ruby installation.

Understanding PATH

When you run a command like ruby or rake, your operating system searches through a list of directories to find an executable file with that name. This list of directories lives in an environment variable called PATH, with each directory in the list separated by a colon:


Directories in PATH are searched from left to right, so a matching executable in a directory at the beginning of the list takes precedence over another one at the end. In this example, the /usr/local/bin directory will be searched first, then /usr/bin, then /bin.

Understanding Shims

rbenv works by inserting a directory of shims at the front of your PATH:


Through a process called rehashing, rbenv maintains shims in that directory to match every Ruby command across every installed version of Ruby—irb, gem, rake, rails, ruby, and so on.

Shims are lightweight executables that simply pass your command along to rbenv. So with rbenv installed, when you run, say, rake, your operating system will do the following:

  • Search your PATH for an executable file named rake
  • Find the rbenv shim named rake at the beginning of your PATH
  • Run the shim named rake, which in turn passes the command along to rbenv

Choosing the Ruby Version

When you execute a shim, rbenv determines which Ruby version to use by reading it from the following sources, in this order:

  1. The RBENV_VERSION environment variable, if specified. You can use the rbenv shell command to set this environment variable in your current shell session.

  2. The application-specific .ruby-version file in the current directory, if present. You can modify the current directory's .ruby-version file with the rbenv local command.

  3. The first .ruby-version file found by searching each parent directory until reaching the root of your filesystem, if any.

  4. The global ~/.rbenv/version file. You can modify this file using the rbenv global command. If the global version file is not present, rbenv assumes you want to use the "system" Ruby—i.e. whatever version would be run if rbenv weren't in your path.

Locating the Ruby Installation

Once rbenv has determined which version of Ruby your application has specified, it passes the command along to the corresponding Ruby installation.

Each Ruby version is installed into its own directory under ~/.rbenv/versions. For example, you might have these versions installed:

  • ~/.rbenv/versions/1.8.7-p371/
  • ~/.rbenv/versions/1.9.3-p327/
  • ~/.rbenv/versions/jruby-1.7.1/

Version names to rbenv are simply the names of the directories in ~/.rbenv/versions.


Compatibility note: rbenv is incompatible with RVM. Please make sure to fully uninstall RVM and remove any references to it from your shell initialization files before installing rbenv.

If you're on Mac OS X, consider installing with Homebrew.

Basic GitHub Checkout

This will get you going with the latest version of rbenv and make it easy to fork and contribute any changes back upstream.

  1. Check out rbenv into ~/.rbenv.

    $ git clone git:// ~/.rbenv
  2. Add ~/.rbenv/bin to your $PATH for access to the rbenv command-line utility.

    $ echo 'export PATH="$HOME/.rbenv/bin:$PATH"' >> ~/.bash_profile

    Ubuntu note: Modify your ~/.profile instead of ~/.bash_profile.

    Zsh note: Modify your ~/.zshrc file instead of ~/.bash_profile.

  3. Add rbenv init to your shell to enable shims and autocompletion.

    $ echo 'eval "$(rbenv init -)"' >> ~/.bash_profile

    Same as in previous step, use ~/.profile on Ubuntu, ~/.zshrc for Zsh.

  4. Restart your shell as a login shell so the path changes take effect. You can now begin using rbenv.

    $ exec $SHELL -l
  5. Install ruby-build, which provides an rbenv install command that simplifies the process of installing new Ruby versions.

    $ rbenv install 1.9.3-p327

    As an alternative, you can download and compile Ruby yourself into ~/.rbenv/versions/.

  6. Rebuild the shim executables. You should do this any time you install a new Ruby executable (for example, when installing a new Ruby version, or when installing a gem that provides a command).

    $ rbenv rehash


If you've installed rbenv manually using git, you can upgrade your installation to the cutting-edge version at any time.

$ cd ~/.rbenv
$ git pull

To use a specific release of rbenv, check out the corresponding tag:

$ cd ~/.rbenv
$ git fetch
$ git checkout v0.3.0

Homebrew on Mac OS X

You can also install rbenv using the Homebrew package manager on Mac OS X.

$ brew update
$ brew install rbenv
$ brew install ruby-build

To later update these installs, use upgrade instead of install.

Afterwards you'll still need to add eval "$(rbenv init -)" to your profile as stated in the caveats. You'll only ever have to do this once.

Neckbeard Configuration

Skip this section unless you must know what every line in your shell profile is doing.

rbenv init is the only command that crosses the line of loading extra commands into your shell. Coming from RVM, some of you might be opposed to this idea. Here's what rbenv init actually does:

  1. Sets up your shims path. This is the only requirement for rbenv to function properly. You can do this by hand by prepending ~/.rbenv/shims to your $PATH.

  2. Installs autocompletion. This is entirely optional but pretty useful. Sourcing ~/.rbenv/completions/rbenv.bash will set that up. There is also a ~/.rbenv/completions/rbenv.zsh for Zsh users.

  3. Rehashes shims. From time to time you'll need to rebuild your shim files. Doing this automatically makes sure everything is up to date. You can always run rbenv rehash manually.

  4. Installs the sh dispatcher. This bit is also optional, but allows rbenv and plugins to change variables in your current shell, making commands like rbenv shell possible. The sh dispatcher doesn't do anything crazy like override cd or hack your shell prompt, but if for some reason you need rbenv to be a real script rather than a shell function, you can safely skip it.

Run rbenv init - for yourself to see exactly what happens under the hood.

Uninstalling Ruby Versions

As time goes on, Ruby versions you install will accumulate in your ~/.rbenv/versions directory.

To remove old Ruby versions, simply rm -rf the directory of the version you want to remove. You can find the directory of a particular Ruby version with the rbenv prefix command, e.g. rbenv prefix 1.8.7-p357.

The ruby-build plugin provides an rbenv uninstall command to automate the removal process.

Command Reference

Like git, the rbenv command delegates to subcommands based on its first argument. The most common subcommands are:

rbenv local

Sets a local application-specific Ruby version by writing the version name to a .ruby-version file in the current directory. This version overrides the global version, and can be overridden itself by setting the RBENV_VERSION environment variable or with the rbenv shell command.

$ rbenv local 1.9.3-p327

When run without a version number, rbenv local reports the currently configured local version. You can also unset the local version:

$ rbenv local --unset

Previous versions of rbenv stored local version specifications in a file named .rbenv-version. For backwards compatibility, rbenv will read a local version specified in an .rbenv-version file, but a .ruby-version file in the same directory will take precedence.

rbenv global

Sets the global version of Ruby to be used in all shells by writing the version name to the ~/.rbenv/version file. This version can be overridden by an application-specific .ruby-version file, or by setting the RBENV_VERSION environment variable.

$ rbenv global 1.8.7-p352

The special version name system tells rbenv to use the system Ruby (detected by searching your $PATH).

When run without a version number, rbenv global reports the currently configured global version.

rbenv shell

Sets a shell-specific Ruby version by setting the RBENV_VERSION environment variable in your shell. This version overrides application-specific versions and the global version.

$ rbenv shell jruby-1.7.1

When run without a version number, rbenv shell reports the current value of RBENV_VERSION. You can also unset the shell version:

$ rbenv shell --unset

Note that you'll need rbenv's shell integration enabled (step 3 of the installation instructions) in order to use this command. If you prefer not to use shell integration, you may simply set the RBENV_VERSION variable yourself:

$ export RBENV_VERSION=jruby-1.7.1

rbenv versions

Lists all Ruby versions known to rbenv, and shows an asterisk next to the currently active version.

$ rbenv versions
* 1.9.3-p327 (set by /Users/sam/.rbenv/version)

rbenv version

Displays the currently active Ruby version, along with information on how it was set.

$ rbenv version
1.8.7-p352 (set by /Volumes/37signals/basecamp/.ruby-version)

rbenv rehash

Installs shims for all Ruby executables known to rbenv (i.e., ~/.rbenv/versions/*/bin/*). Run this command after you install a new version of Ruby, or install a gem that provides commands.

$ rbenv rehash

rbenv which

Displays the full path to the executable that rbenv will invoke when you run the given command.

$ rbenv which irb

rbenv whence

Lists all Ruby versions with the given command installed.

$ rbenv whence rackup


The rbenv source code is hosted on GitHub. It's clean, modular, and easy to understand, even if you're not a shell hacker.

Tests are executed using Bats:

$ bats test
$ bats test/<file>.bats

Please feel free to submit pull requests and file bugs on the issue tracker.

Version History

0.4.0 (January 4, 2013)

  • rbenv now prefers .ruby-version files to .rbenv-version files for specifying local application-specific versions. The .ruby-version file has the same format as .rbenv-version but is compatible with other Ruby version managers.
  • Deprecated ruby-local-exec and moved its functionality into the standard ruby shim. See the ruby-local-exec wiki page for upgrade instructions.
  • Modified shims to include the full path to rbenv so that they can be invoked without having rbenv's bin directory in the $PATH.
  • Sped up rbenv init by avoiding rbenv reinitialization and by using a simpler indexing approach. (Users of chef-rbenv should upgrade to the latest version to fix a compatibility issue.)
  • Reworked rbenv help so that usage and documentation is stored as a comment in each subcommand, enabling plugin commands to hook into the help system.
  • Added support for full completion of the command line, not just the first argument.
  • Updated installation instructions for Zsh and Ubuntu users.
  • Fixed rbenv which and rbenv prefix with system Ruby versions.
  • Changed rbenv exec to avoid prepending the system Ruby location to $PATH to fix issues running system Ruby commands that invoke other commands.
  • Changed rbenv rehash to ensure it exits with a 0 status code under normal operation, and to ensure outdated shims are removed first when rehashing.
  • Modified rbenv rehash to run hash -r afterwards, when shell integration is enabled, to ensure the shell's command cache is cleared.
  • Removed use of the += operator to support older versions of Bash.
  • Adjusted non-bare rbenv versions output to include system, if present.
  • Improved documentation for installing and uninstalling Ruby versions.
  • Fixed rbenv versions not to display a warning if the currently specified version doesn't exist.
  • Fixed an instance of local variable leakage in the rbenv shell function wrapper.
  • Changed rbenv shell to ensure it exits with a non-zero status on failure.
  • Added rbenv --version for printing the current version of rbenv.
  • Added /usr/lib/rbenv/hooks to the plugin hook search path.
  • Fixed rbenv which to account for path entries with spaces.
  • Changed rbenv init to accept option arguments in any order.

0.3.0 (December 25, 2011)

  • Added an rbenv root command which prints the value of $RBENV_ROOT, or the default root directory if it's unset.
  • Clarified Zsh installation instructions in the Readme.
  • Removed some redundant code in rbenv rehash.
  • Fixed an issue with calling readlink for paths with spaces.
  • Changed Zsh initialization code to install completion hooks only for interactive shells.
  • Added preliminary support for ksh.
  • rbenv rehash creates or removes shims only when necessary instead of removing and re-creating all shims on each invocation.
  • Fixed that RBENV_DIR, when specified, would be incorrectly expanded to its parent directory.
  • Removed the deprecated set-default and set-local commands.
  • Added a --no-rehash option to rbenv init for skipping the automatic rehash when opening a new shell.

0.2.1 (October 1, 2011)

  • Changed the rbenv command to ensure that RBENV_DIR is always an absolute path. This fixes an issue where Ruby scripts using the ruby-local-exec wrapper would go into an infinite loop when invoked with a relative path from the command line.

0.2.0 (September 28, 2011)

  • Renamed rbenv set-default to rbenv global and rbenv set-local to rbenv local. The set- commands are deprecated and will be removed in the next major release.
  • rbenv now uses greadlink on Solaris.
  • Added a ruby-local-exec command which can be used in shebangs in place of #!/usr/bin/env ruby to properly set the project-specific Ruby version regardless of current working directory.
  • Fixed an issue with rbenv rehash when no binaries are present.
  • Added support for rbenv-sh-* commands, which run inside the current shell instead of in a child process.
  • Added an rbenv shell command for conveniently setting the $RBENV_VERSION environment variable.
  • Added support for storing rbenv versions and shims in directories other than ~/.rbenv with the $RBENV_ROOT environment variable.
  • Added support for debugging rbenv via set -x when the $RBENV_DEBUG environment variable is set.
  • Refactored the autocompletion system so that completions are now built-in to each command and shared between bash and Zsh.
  • Added support for plugin bundles in ~/.rbenv/plugins as documented in issue #102.
  • Added /usr/local/etc/rbenv.d to the list of directories searched for rbenv hooks.
  • Added support for an $RBENV_DIR environment variable which defaults to the current working directory for specifying where rbenv searches for local version files.

0.1.2 (August 16, 2011)

  • Fixed rbenv to be more resilient against nonexistent entries in $PATH.
  • Made the rbenv rehash command operate atomically.
  • Modified the rbenv init script to automatically run rbenv rehash so that shims are recreated whenever a new shell is opened.
  • Added initial support for Zsh autocompletion.
  • Removed the dependency on egrep for reading version files.

0.1.1 (August 14, 2011)

  • Fixed a syntax error in the rbenv help command.
  • Removed -e from the shebang in favor of set -e at the top of each file for compatibility with operating systems that do not support more than one argument in the shebang.

0.1.0 (August 11, 2011)

  • Initial public release.


(The MIT license)

Copyright (c) 2013 Sam Stephenson

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the "Software"), to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.