Accessing REST services in an ActiveRecord style

gem install active_rest_client -v 1.2.0



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This gem is for accessing REST services in an ActiveRecord style. ActiveResource already exists for this, but it doesn't work where the resource naming doesn't follow Rails conventions, it doesn't have in-built caching and it's not as flexible in general.

Deprecation Note for non-Which? Users

This gem isn't being updated here. If you want the functionality of ActiveRestClient you should probably look at this fork, which is being actively maintained by the original author:


Some background (


Add this line to your application's Gemfile:

gem 'active_rest_client'

And then execute:

$ bundle

Or install it yourself as:

$ gem install active_rest_client


First you need to create your new model class:

# config/environments/production.rb
MyApp::Application.configure do
  # ...
  config.api_server_url = ""

# app/models/person.rb
class Person < ActiveRestClient::Base
  base_url Rails.application.config.api_server_url

  get :all, "/people"
  get :find, "/people/:id"
  put :save, "/people/:id"
  post :create, "/people"

Note I've specified the base_url in the class above. This is useful where you want to be explicit or use different APIs for some classes and be explicit. If you have one server that's generally used, you can set it once with a simple line in a config/initializer/{something}.rb file:

ActiveRestClient::Base.base_url = ""

Any base_url settings in specific classes override this declared default. You can then use your new class like this:

# Create a new person
@person = Person.create(

# Find a person (not needed after creating)
id =
@person = Person.find(id)

# Update a person
@person.last_name = "Jones"

# Get all people
@people = Person.all
@people.each do |person|
  puts "Hi " + person.first_name

If an API returns an array of results and you have will_paginate installed then you can call the paginate method to return a particular page of the results (note: this doesn't reduce the load on the server, but it can help with pagination if you have a cached response).

@people = Person.all
@people.paginate(page: 1, per_page: 10).each do |person|
  puts "You made the first page: " + person.first_name

Note, you can assign to any attribute, whether it exists or not before and read from any attribute (which will return nil if not found). If you pass a string or a number to a method it will assume that it's for the "id" field. Any other field values must be passed as a hash and you can't mix passing a string/number and a hash.

@person = Person.find(1234)  # valid
@person = Person.find("1234")  # valid
@person = Person.find(:id => 1234)  # valid
@person = Person.find(:id => 1234, :name => "Billy")  # valid
@person = Person.find(1234, :name => "Billy")  # invalid

You can also call any mapped method as an instance variable which will pass the current attribute set in as parameters (either GET or POST depending on the mapped method type). If the method returns a single instance it will assign the attributes of the calling object and return itself. If the method returns a list of instances, it will only return the list. So, we could rewrite the create call above as:

@person =
@person.first_name = "John"
@person.last_name  = "Smith"

The response of the #create call set the attributes at that point (any manually set attributes before that point are removed).

If you have attributes beginning with a number, Ruby doesn't like this. So, you can use hash style notation to read/write the attributes:

@tv = Tv.find(model:"UE55U8000") # { "properties" : {"3d" : false} }
puts["3d"]["3d"] = true

If you want to debug the response, using inspect on the response object may well be useful. However, if you want a simpler output, then you can call #to_json on the response object:

@person = Person.find(email:"")
puts @person.to_json

Advanced Features

Faraday Configuration

ActiveRestClient uses Faraday to allow switching HTTP backends, the default is to just use Faraday's default. To change the used backend just set it in the class by setting adapter to a Faraday supported adapter symbol.

ActiveRestClient::Base.adapter = :net_http
# or ...
ActiveRestClient::Base.adapter = :patron

In versions before 1.2.0 the adapter was hardcoded to :patron, so if you want to ensure it still uses Patron, you should set this setting.

If you want more control you can pass a complete configuration block ("complete" means that the block does not override the default configuration, but rather replaces it). For available config variables look into the Faraday documentation.

ActiveRestClient::Base.faraday_config do |faraday|
  faraday.options.timeout       = 10
  faraday.headers['User-Agent'] = "ActiveRestClient/#{ActiveRestClient::VERSION}"


There are two types of association. One assumes when you call a method you actually want it to call the method on a separate class (as that class has other methods that are useful). The other is lazy loading related classes from a separate URL.

Association Type 1 - Loading Other Classes

If the call would return a single instance or a list of instances that should be considered another object, you can also specify this when mapping the method using the :has_one or :has_many options respectively. It doesn't call anything on that object except for instantiate it, but it does let you have objects of a different class to the one you initially called.

class Expense < ActiveRestClient::Base
  def inc_vat
    ex_vat * 1.20

class Address < ActiveRestClient::Base
  def full_string
    return "#{self.street}, #{}, #{self.region}, #{}"

class Person < ActiveRestClient::Base
  get :find, "/people/:id", :has_many => {:expenses => Expense}, :has_one => {:address => Address}

@person = Person.find(1)
puts @person.expenses.reduce {|e| e.inc_vat}
puts @person.address.full_string

Association Type 2 - Lazy Loading From Other URLs

When mapping the method, passing a list of attributes will cause any requests for those attributes to mapped to the URLs given in their responses. The response for the attribute may be one of the following:

"attribute" : "URL"
"attribute" : ["URL", "URL"]
"attribute" : { "url" : "URL"}
"attribute" : { "href" : "URL"}
"attribute" : { "something" : "URL"}

The difference between the last 3 examples is that a key of url or href signifies it's a single object that is lazy loaded from the value specified. Any other keys assume that it's a nested set of URLs (like in the array situation, but accessible via the keys - e.g. object.attribute.something in the above example).

It is required that the URL is a complete URL including a protocol starting with "http". To configure this use code like:

class Person < ActiveRestClient::Base
  get :find, "/people/:id", :lazy => [:orders, :refunds]

And use it like this:

# Makes a call to /people/1
@person = Person.find(1)

# Makes a call to the first URL found in the "books":[...] array in the article response
# only makes the HTTP request when first used though

Association Type 3 - HAL Auto-loaded Resources

You don't need to define lazy attributes if they are defined using HAL (with an optional embedded representation). If your resource has an _links item (and optionally an _embedded item) then it will automatically treat the linked resources (with the _embedded cache) as if they were defined using :lazy as per type 2 above.

If you need to, you can access properties of the HAL association. By default just using the HAL association gets the embedded resource (or requests the remote resource if not available in the _embedded list).

@person = Person.find(1)

Association Type 4 - Nested Resources

It's common to have resources that are logically children of other resources. For example, suppose that your API includes these endpoints:

HTTP Verb Path
POST /magazines/:magazine_id/ads create a new ad belonging to a magazine
GET /magazines/:magazine_id/ads display a list of all ads for a magazine

In these cases, your child class will contain the following:

class Ad < ActiveRestClient::Base
  post :create, "/magazines/:magazine_id/ads"
  get :all, "/magazines/:magazine_id/ads"

You can then access Ads by specifying their magazine IDs:

Add.all(magazine_id: 1)
Add.create(magazine_id: 1, title: "My Add Title")

Combined Example

OK, so let's say you have an API for getting articles. Each article has a property called title (which is a string) and a property images which includes a list of URIs. Following this URI would take you to a image API that returns the image's filename and filesize. We'll also assume this is a HAL compliant API. We would declare our two models (one for articles and one for images) like the following:

class Article < ActiveRestClient::Base
  get :find, '/articles/:id', has_many:{:images => Image} # ,lazy:[:images] isn't needed as we're using HAL

class Image < ActiveRestClient::Base
  # You may have mappings here

  def nice_size

We assume the /articles/:id call returns something like the following:

  "title": "Fly Fishing",
  "author": "J R Hartley",
  "images": [

We said above that the /images/:id call would return something like:

  "filename": "",
  "filesize": 123456

When it comes time to use it, you would do something like this:

@article = Article.find(1)
@article.images.size == 2
@article.images.each do |image|
  puts image.inspect

At this point, only the HTTP call to '/articles/1' has been made. When you actually start using properties of the images list/image object then it makes a call to the URL given in the images list and you can use the properties as if it was a nested JSON object in the original response instead of just a URL:

@image = @article.images.first
puts @image.filename
# =>
puts @image.filesize
# => 123456

You can also treat @image looks like an Image class (and you should 100% treat it as one) it's technically a lazy loading proxy. So, if you cache the views for your application should only make HTTP API requests when actually necessary.

puts @image.nice_size
# => 121KB


Expires and ETag based caching is enabled by default, but with a simple line in the application.rb/production.rb you can disable it:

ActiveRestClient::Base.perform_caching = false

or you can disable it per classes with:

class Person < ActiveRestClient::Base
  perform_caching false

If Rails is defined, it will default to using Rails.cache as the cache store, if not, you'll need to configure one with a ActiveSupport::Cache::Store compatible object using:

ActiveRestClient::Base.cache_store ="redis://localhost:6379/0/cache")

Using filters

You can use filters to alter get/post parameters, the URL or set the post body (doing so overrides normal parameter insertion in to the body) before a request or to adjust the response after a request. This can either be a block or a named method (like ActionController's before_filter/before_action methods).

The filter is passed the name of the method (e.g. :save) and an object (a request object for before_request and a response object for after_request). The request object has four public attributes post_params (a Hash of the POST parameters), get_params (a Hash of the GET parameters), headers and url (a String containing the full URL without GET parameters appended)

require 'secure_random'

class Person < ActiveRestClient::Base
  before_request do |name, request|
    if || name == :save
      id = request.post_params.delete(:id)
      request.get_params[:id] = id

  before_request :replace_token_in_url

  before_request :add_authentication_details

  before_request :replace_body

  before_request :override_default_content_type


  def replace_token_in_url(name, request)
    request.url.gsub!("#token", SecureRandom.hex)

  def add_authentication_details(name, request)
    request.headers["X-Custom-Authentication-Token"] = ENV["AUTH_TOKEN"]

  def replace_body(name, request)
    if name == :create
      request.body = request.post_params.to_json

  def override_default_content_type(name, request)
    if name == :save
      request.headers["Content-Type"] = "application/json"

If you need to, you can create a custom parent class with a before_request filter and all children will inherit this filter.

class MyProject::Base < ActiveRestClient::Base
  before_request do |name, request|
    request.get_params[:api_key] = "1234567890-1234567890"

class Person < MyProject::Base
  # No need to declare a before_request for :api_key, already defined by the parent

After filters work in exactly the same way:

class Person < ActiveRestClient::Base
  after_request :fix_empty_content


  def fix_empty_content(name, response)
    if response.status == 204 && response.body.blank?
      response.body = '{"empty": true}'

Lazy Loading

ActiveRestClient supports lazy loading (delaying the actual API call until the response is actually used, so that views can be cached without still causing API calls).

Note: Currently this isn't enabled by default, but this is likely to change in the future to make lazy loading the default.

To enable it, simply call the lazy_load! method in your class definition:

class Article < ActiveRestClient::Base

If you have a ResultIterator that has multiple objects, each being lazy loaded or HAL linked resources that isn't loaded until it's used, you can actually parallelise the fetching of the items using code like this:


# or

items.parallelise do |item|

This will return an array of the named method for each object or the response from the block and will have loaded the objects in to the resource.



You can authenticate with Basic authentication by putting the username and password in to the base_url or by setting them within the specific model:

class Person < ActiveRestClient::Base
  username 'api'
  password 'eb693ec-8252c-d6301-02fd0-d0fb7-c3485'

  # ...


Using the Api-Auth integration it is very easy to sign requests. Include the Api-Auth gem in your Gemfile and in then add it to your application. Then simply configure Api-Auth one time in your app and all requests will be signed from then on.

require 'api-auth'

@access_id = '123456'
@secret_key = 'abcdef'
ActiveRestClient::Base.api_auth_credentials(@access_id, @secret_key)

You can also specify different credentials for different models just like configuring base_url

class Person < ActiveRestClient::Base
  api_auth_credentials('123456', 'abcdef')

For more information on how to generate an access id and secret key please read the Api-Auth documentation.

Body Types

By default ActiveRestClient puts the body in to normal CGI parameters in K=V&K2=V2 format. However, if you want to use JSON for your PUT/POST requests, you can use either (the other option, the default, is :form_encoded):

class Person < ActiveRestClient::Base
  request_body_type :json
  # ...


ActiveRestClient::Base.request_body_type = :json

This will also set the header Content-Type to application/x-www-form-urlencoded by default or application/json; charset=utf-8 when :json. You can override this using the filter before_request.

If you have an API that is inconsistent in its body type requirements, you can also specify it on the individual method mapping:

class Person < ActiveRestClient::Base
  request_body_type :form_encoded # This is the default, but just for demo purposes

  get :all, '/people', request_body_type: :json

Parallel Requests

Sometimes you know you will need to make a bunch of requests and you don't want to wait for one to finish to start the next. When using parallel requests there is the potential to finish many requests all at the same time taking only as long as the single longest request. To use parallel requests you will need to set Active-Rest-Client to use a Faraday adapter that supports parallel requests (such as Typhoeus).

# Set adapter to Typhoeus to use parallel requests
ActiveRestClient::Base.adapter = :typhoeus

Now you just need to get ahold of the connection that is going to make the requests by specifying the same host that the models will be using. When inside the in_parallel block call request methods as usual and access the results after the in_parallel block ends.

ActiveRestClient::ConnectionManager.in_parallel('') do
    @person = Person.find(1234)
    @employers = Employer.all

    puts @person #=> nil
    puts @employers #=> nil
end # The requests are all fired in parallel during this end statement

puts #=> "John"
puts @employers.size #=> 7

Faking Calls

There are times when an API hasn't been developed yet, so you want to fake the API call response. To do this, you can simply pass a fake option when mapping the call containing the response.

class Person < ActiveRestClient::Base
  get :all, '/people', fake: [{first_name:"Johnny"}, {first_name:"Bob"}]

You may want to run a proc when faking data (to put information from the parameters in to the response or return different responses depending on the parameters). To do this just pass a proc to :fake:

class Person < ActiveRestClient::Base
  get :all, '/people', fake: ->(request) { {result: request.get_params[:id]} }

Raw Requests

Sometimes you have have a URL that you just want to force through, but have the response handled in the same way as normal objects or you want to have the filters run (say for authentication). The easiest way to do that is to call _request on the class:

class Person < ActiveRestClient::Base

people = Person._request('') # Defaults to get with no parameters
# people is a normal ActiveRestClient object, implementing iteration, HAL loading, etc.

Person._request('', :post, {id:1234,name:"John"}) # Post with parameters

If you want to use a lazy loaded request instead (so it will create an object that will only call the API if you use it), you can use _lazy_request instead of _request. If you want you can create a construct that creates and object that lazy loads itself from a given method (rather than a URL):

@person = Person._lazy_request(Person._request_for(:find, 1234))

This initially creates an ActiveRestClient::Request object as if you'd called Person.find(1234) which is then passed in to the _lazy_request method to return an object that will call the request if any properties are actually used. This may be useful at some point, but it's actually easier to just prefix the find method call with lazy_ like:

@person = Person.lazy_find(1234)

Doing this will try to find a literally mapped method called "lazy_find" and if it fails, it will try to use "find" but instantiate the object lazily.

Plain Requests

If you are already using ActiveRestClient but then want to simply call a normal URL and receive the resulting content as a string (i.e. not going through JSON parsing or instantiating in to an ActiveRestClient::Base descendent) you can use code like this:

class Person < ActiveRestClient::Base

people = Person._plain_request('') # Defaults to get with no parameters
# people is a normal ActiveRestClient object, implementing iteration, HAL loading, etc.

Person._plain_request('', :post, {id:1234,name:"John"}) # Post with parameters

The parameters are the same as for _request, but it does no parsing on the response

Proxying APIs

Sometimes you may be working with an old API that returns JSON in a less than ideal format or the URL or parameters required have changed. In this case you can define a descendent of ActiveRestClient::ProxyBase, pass it to your model as the proxy and have it rework URLs/parameters on the way out and the response on the way back in (already converted to a Ruby hash/array). By default any non-proxied URLs are just passed through to the underlying connection layer. For example:

class ArticleProxy < ActiveRestClient::ProxyBase
  get "/all" do
    url "/all_people" # Equiv to url.gsub!("/all", "/all_people") if you wanted to keep params
    response = passthrough
    translate(response) do |body|
      body["first_name"] = body.delete("fname")

class Article < ActiveRestClient::Base
  proxy ArticleProxy
  base_url ""

  get :all, "/all", fake:"{\"name\":\"Billy\"}"
  get :list, "/list", fake:"[{\"name\":\"Billy\"}, {\"name\":\"John\"}]"

Article.all.first_name == "Billy"

This example does two things:

  1. It rewrites the incoming URL for any requests matching "/all" to "/all_people"
  2. It uses the translate method to move the "fname" attribute from the response body to be called "first_name". The translate method must return the new object at the end (either the existing object alterered, or a new object to replace it with)

As the comment shows, you can use url value to set the request URL to a particular value, or you can call gsub! on the url to replace parts of it using more complicated regular expressions.

You can use the get_params or post_params methods within your proxy block to amend/create/delete items from those request parameters, like this:

get "/list" do
  get_params["id"] = get_params.delete("identifier")

This example renames the get_parameter for the request from identifier to id (the same would have worked with post_params if it was a POST/PUT request). The passthrough method will take care of automatically recombining them in to the URL or encoding them in to the body as appropriate.

If you want to manually set the body for the API yourself you can use the body method

put "/update" do
  body "{\"id\":#{post_params["id"]}}"

This example takes the post_params["id"] and converts the body from being a normal form-encoded body in to being a JSON body.

The proxy block expects one of three things to be the return value of the block.

  1. The first options is that the call to passthrough is the last thing and it calls down to the connection layer and returns the actual response from the server in to the "API->Object" mapping layer ready for use in your application
  2. The second option is to save the response from passthrough and use translate on it to alter the structure.
  3. The third option is to use render if you want to completely fake an API and return the JSON yourself

To completely fake the API, you can do the following. Note, this is also achievable using the fake setting when mapping a method, however by doing it in a Proxy block means you can dynamically generate the JSON rather than just a hard coded string.

put "/fake" do
  render "{\"id\":1234}"

Translating APIs

IMPORTANT: This functionality has been deprecated in favour of the "Proxying APIs" functionality above. You should aim to remove this from your code as soon as possible.

Sometimes you may be working with an API that returns JSON in a less than ideal format. In this case you can define a barebones class and pass it to your model. The Translator class must have class methods that are passed the JSON object and should return an object in the correct format. It doesn't need to have a method unless it's going to translate that mapping though (so in the example below there's no list method). For example:

class ArticleTranslator
  def self.all(object)
    ret = {}
    ret["first_name"] = object["name"]

class Article < ActiveRestClient::Base
  translator ArticleTranslator
  base_url ""

  get :all, "/all", fake:"{\"name\":\"Billy\"}"
  get :list, "/list", fake:"[{\"name\":\"Billy\"}, {\"name\":\"John\"}]"

Article.all.first_name == "Billy"

Default Parameters

If you want to specify default parameters you shouldn't use a path like:

class Person < ActiveRestClient::Base
  get :all, '/people?all=true' # THIS IS WRONG!!!

You should use a defaults option to specify the defaults, then they will be correctly overwritten when making the request

class Person < ActiveRestClient::Base
  get :all, '/people', :defaults => {:active => true}

@people = Person.all(active:false)

HTTP/Parse Error Handling

Sometimes the backend server may respond with a non-200/304 header, in which case the code will raise an ActiveRestClient::HTTPClientException for 4xx errors or an ActiveRestClient::HTTPServerException for 5xx errors. These both have a status accessor and a result accessor (for getting access to the parsed body):

rescue ActiveRestClient::HTTPClientException, ActiveRestClient::HTTPServerException => e
  Rails.logger.error("API returned #{e.status} : #{e.result.message}")

If the response is unparsable (e.g. not in the desired content type), then it will raise an ActiveRestClient::ResponseParseException which has a status accessor for the HTTP status code and a body accessor for the unparsed response body.


You can create validations on your objects just like Rails' built in ActiveModel validations. For example:

class Person < ActiveRestClient::Base
  validates :first_name, presence:true
  validates :password, length:{within:6..12}
  validates :post_code, length:{minimum:6, maximum:8}
  validates :salary, numericality:true, minimum:20_000, maximum:50_000

  validates :first_name do |object, name, value|
    object.errors[name] << "must be over 4 chars long" if value.length <= 4

  get :index, '/'

Note the block based validation is responsible for adding errors to object.errors[name] (and this will automatically be ready for << inserting into).

Validations are run when calling valid? or when calling any API on an instance (and then only if it is valid? will the API go on to be called).


You can turn on verbose debugging to see what is sent to the API server and what is returned in one of these two ways:

class Article < ActiveRestClient::Base
  verbose true

class Person < ActiveRestClient::Base

By default verbose logging isn't enabled, so it's up to the developer to enable it (and remember to disable it afterwards). It does use debug level logging, so it shouldn't fill up a correctly configured production server anyway.

If you prefer to record the output of an API call in a more automated fashion you can use a callback called record_response like this:

class Article < ActiveRestClient::Base
  record_response do |url, response|, "w") do |f|
      f << response.body

Beta Features

XML Responses

ActiveRestClient uses Crack to allow parsing of XML responses. For example, given an XML response of (with a content type of application/xml or text/xml):

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<feed xmlns="">

  <title>Example Feed</title>
  <link href=""/>
    <name>John Doe</name>

    <title>Atom-Powered Robots Run Amok</title>
    <link href=""/>
    <summary>Some text.</summary>

    <title>Something else cool happened</title>
    <link href=""/>
    <summary>Some other text.</summary>


You can use:

class Feed < ActiveRestClient::Base
  base_url ""
  get :atom, "/atom"

@atom = Feed.atom

puts @atom.feed.title
@atom.feed.entry.each do |entry|
  puts "#{entry.title} -> #{}"

If your XML object comes back with a root node and you'd like to ignore it, you can define the mapping as:

class Feed < ActiveRestClient::Base
  get :atom, "/atom", ignore_xml_root: "feed"

For testing purposes, if you are using a fake content response when defining your endpoint, you should also provide fake_content_type: "application/xml" so that the parser knows to use XML parsing.


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