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A ruby gem to help developers quickly build search function in rails
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rails-simple-search is a Ruby gem. It helps you quickly implement searching/filtering function for your web site. This plugin has paginating feature built in. If you're not looking for a full-text searching solution, this plugin will most probably satisfy all your searching requirement.

From time to time, I need to build pages to show a list of narrowed down records from a database table by giving some searching criteria on some columns of the table and/or of some referencing tables. Before I implemented this plugin, I usually do the searching in the following way:

  1. Use <%= form_tag %> to build a form in the view

  2. Get the searching criteria from the params hash individually in the controller and put them into instance variable to be used in view

  3. Build the SQL WHERE clause and sometimes the JOIN clause according to the values from the form

  4. Run the find(:all, :conditions => [xxxxxx], :joins => “yyyyyy”) with the WHERE and JOIN clauses

After having used this pattern a few times, I realized I could DRY it to make future coding of this kind of searching much simpler. That's where the rails-simple-search plugin comes in.

Now implementing the searching/filter page is a lot easier for me. You're see how easy it is by taking a look at the following example. I may give more examples in the future when I have some spare time.


Let's suppose we have models of User, Address, Post and Comment. User model has_one address and has_many posts; Post model has_many comments. We'd like to search for users according to any combination of the following criteria:

  • part of the user's email addrsss

  • range of the user's birth date

  • state of the user's address

  • part of the name of any authors who commented the user's any posts

The following is how we implement this searching function with rails-simple-search:

  1. Include gem into Gemfile

    gem 'rails-simple-search'
  2. Code in model (app/model/search.rb):

    class Search < RailsSimpleSearch::Base
  3. Code in controller:

    @search =, params[:search])
    @users = params[:page], per_page: 20).order('email')
  4. Code in views:

    <% form_for @search, url => "/xxxxxx" do |f| %>
      <%=f.label :email %>
      <%=f.text_field :email %>
      <%=f.label "first name or last name" %>
      <%=f.text_field "first_name_or_last_name" %>
      <%=f.label :from_birth_date %>
      <%=f.text_field :birth_date_greater_than_equal_to %>
      <%=f.label :to_age %>
      <%=f.text_field :birth_date_less_than_equal_to %>
      <%=f.label :state%>
      < "address.state_id", [['AL', 1], ...] %>  <!-- address is an association of model User -->
      <%=f.label :post%>
      <%=f.text_field "" %>           <!-- the associations could go even deeper, isn't it POWERFUL? -->
      <%=f.submit %>
    <% end %>
    <% @users.each do |user| %>
     <%= # show the attributes of user %>
    <% end %>
  5. Add route for the post to url “/xxxxxx” (config/route.rb)

    match "/xxxxxx" => "yyyyyyy#zzzzzz"


For rails 2.x.x applications, you might want to use the version 0.9.0.

From version 0.9.1 to 0.9.7, Rails 3 is supported.

From version 0.9.8 on, this gem started to support Rails 4. Version 0.9.8 is tested under Rails 4.1.1, and version 0.9.9 fixed an issue under Rails 4.2.

From version 1.1.0 on, we started to support the “or” relation, e.g., we can use field like “first_name_or_last_name”.

From version 1.1.3 on, we started to support Rails 5.

There is a real demo application which you can download and run immediately:


Copyright © 2012 [Yi Zhang], released under the MIT license

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