What is Pry?

Pry is an awesome IRB replacement that offers a ton of powerful features. This post will highlight five of the most useful, so you can get more out of Pry.

Getting Started

To install Pry, type the following into your terminal:

$ gem install pry

To start Pry from the terminal, simply enter in Pry like so:

$ pry
[1] pry(main)>

Once in Pry, you can start interacting with Ruby as you would with irb, but with other added features.

1. Use Shell Commands while in Pry

When inside a Pry session, it’s possible to execute normal shell commands, such as pwd, cd, or ls. You can even run more advanced commands like bundle or even run rails commands like rails generate or rails server.

To do so, simply prepend a . to the start of the shell command you would like to run. Here’s some examples:

[1] pry(main)> .pwd
[2] pry(main)> .ls
Desktop   Development Dropbox   Movies    Pictures
Development Downloads Library   Music
[3] pry(main)> .cd Development
[4] pry(main)> .pwd
[5] pry(main)> .ls
ruby_rocks.rb      Folder

2. Make Full Use of Pry’s Methods

Pry has a bunch of different methods that can really help you understand your code. Here are a few of the best: lets you move into a new context, such as an object or scope. Here’s how it looks in action

[1] pry(main)> self
[2] pry(main)> class Dog
[2] pry(main)*   def bark
[2] pry(main)*     puts "woof"
[2] pry(main)*   end
[2] pry(main)* end
[3] pry(main)> cd Dog
[4] pry(Dog):1> self
Dog < Object

In the above example, we are now inside the Dog class object. We can perform other actions while inside an object, such as ls. allows you to list all the various methods that an object can perform. We can see how it works by continuing our example

[5] pry(Dog):1> ls
Object.methods: yaml_tag
Dog#methods: bark
locals: _  __  _dir_  _ex_  _file_  _in_  _out_  _pry_

As we can see, typing ls shows us what methods an object has. In this example, we see that Dog has the bark method. lets us see the original code of a method. This can be of great value when trying to understand what it is a method does. Continuing with our example, we can see the original bark method.

[6] pry(Dog):1> show-method bark
From: (pry) @ line 3:
Owner: Dog
Visibility: public
Number of lines: 3
def bark
  puts "woof"

4.nesting can be used to help orient yourself in understanding the scope and inheritance of the current object. Here’s how nesting works in our ongoing example.

[7] pry(Dog):1> nesting
Nesting status:
0 main (Pry top level)
1 Dog
  1. Finally, help can list out all the other methods that Pry offers that won’t be covered in this blog post. Try it out within Pry yourself to see all the different options.

3. Dive Into Running Code with binding.pry

binding.pry can be used to start a Pry session at any point in your application. This can be great to use to really dive into code and understand scope, methods and any sort of errors. Here’s how it works.

Let’s say we have a file, pry-example.rb, with the following code:

require 'pry'

class Example
  def how_binding_works

demonstration =

We then run the file within the terminal:

$ ruby pry-example.rb

After running the file, we are then put into the code at the point where binding.pry is located.

From: /Users/Username/pry-example.rb @ line 6 Example#how_binding_works:

    5: def how_binding_works
 => 6:   binding.pry
    7: end

[1] pry(#<Example>)>

We can then execute whatever commands we want in order to understand this place in the code.

[1] pry(#<Example>)> ls
Example#methods: how_binding_works
locals: _  __  _dir_  _ex_  _file_  _in_  _out_  _pry_
[2] pry(#<Example>)> self

4. Use Pry with Rails

It’s possible to use Pry with your rails app instead of the default rails console. There are a few options for how to do so. One of the simplest is to use the pry-rails gem with your application. Doing so will cause rails console to load Pry instead of IRB, yet will still retain all of your rails informatin, such as your models, and all the information in your database.

To set up your rails app to use Pry, simply add the following code to your gemfile:

gem 'pry-rails', :group => :development

Then run bundle install and the next time you invoke the rails console, you’ll be brought into Pry.

Pry-rails also comes with two additional methods that extend the functionality of Pry with your rails app. They are:

  1. show-routes - This shows all of your routes for your application in the same way that typing rake routes in the shell would do.

  2. show-models - This lists all of the models along with all of their column name. It is the same as if viewing the schema.rb of your application. However, in addition, it will also show any associations your models have, such as belongs_to or has_many.

5. Explore All of Pry’s Awesome Documentation & Resources

Pry has some of the best documentation and resources around. Here are some of the best places to start with to get a deeper understanding of Pry.

  1. Pry’s Main Site gives a great overview of the project.

  2. The Pry Intoductory Screencast is easy to follow and does a wonderful job of demonstrating the power of Pry.

  3. The RailsCasts episode, Pry with Rails, covers some great ways to use Pry with Rails.

  4. The Pry Wiki on Pry’s Github Repository is fantastic and provides links to other worthwhile resources as well as clear documentation on all of Pry’s capabilities.