Mastering IRB

Command line options

Usage:  irb.rb [options] [programfile] [arguments]
  -f                Suppress read of ~/.irbrc
  -d                Set $DEBUG to true (same as `ruby -d`)
  -r load-module    Same as `ruby -r`
  -I path           Specify $LOAD_PATH directory
  -U                Same as `ruby -U`
  -E enc            Same as `ruby -E`
  -w                Same as `ruby -w`
  -W[level=2]       Same as `ruby -W`
  --inspect         Use `inspect` for output (default except for bc mode)
  --noinspect       Don't use inspect for output
  --readline        Use Readline extension module
  --noreadline      Don't use Readline extension module
  --prompt prompt-mode
  --prompt-mode prompt-mode
                    Switch prompt mode. Pre-defined prompt modes are
                    `default`, `simple`, `xmp` and `inf-ruby`
  --inf-ruby-mode   Use prompt appropriate for inf-ruby-mode on emacs.
                    Suppresses --readline.
  --simple-prompt   Simple prompt mode
  --noprompt        No prompt mode
  --tracer          Display trace for each execution of commands.
  --back-trace-limit n
                    Display backtrace top n and tail n. The default
                    value is 16.
  --irb_debug n     Set internal debug level to n (not for popular use)
  -v, --version     Print the version of irb

Configuration

IRB reads from ~/.irbrc when it’s invoked.

If ~/.irbrc doesn’t exist, irb will try to read in the following order:

  • .irbrc
  • irb.rc
  • _irbrc
  • $irbrc

The following are alternatives to the command line options. To use them type as follows in an irb session:

IRB.conf[:IRB_NAME]="irb"
IRB.conf[:INSPECT_MODE]=nil
IRB.conf[:IRB_RC] = nil
IRB.conf[:BACK_TRACE_LIMIT]=16
IRB.conf[:USE_LOADER] = false
IRB.conf[:USE_READLINE] = nil
IRB.conf[:USE_TRACER] = false
IRB.conf[:IGNORE_SIGINT] = true
IRB.conf[:IGNORE_EOF] = false
IRB.conf[:PROMPT_MODE] = :DEFAULT
IRB.conf[:PROMPT] = {...}
IRB.conf[:DEBUG_LEVEL]=0

Auto indentation

To enable auto-indent mode in irb, add the following to your .irbrc:

IRB.conf[:AUTO_INDENT] = true

Autocompletion

To enable autocompletion for irb, add the following to your .irbrc:

require 'irb/completion'

History

By default, irb disables history and will not store any commands you used.

If you want to enable history, add the following to your .irbrc:

IRB.conf[:SAVE_HISTORY] = 1000

This will now store the last 1000 commands in ~/.irb_history.

See IRB::Context#save_history= for more information.

Customizing the IRB Prompt

In order to customize the prompt, you can change the following Hash:

IRB.conf[:PROMPT]

This example can be used in your .irbrc

IRB.conf[:PROMPT][:MY_PROMPT] = { # name of prompt mode
  :AUTO_INDENT => true,           # enables auto-indent mode
  :PROMPT_I =>  ">> ",            # simple prompt
  :PROMPT_S => nil,               # prompt for continuated strings
  :PROMPT_C => nil,               # prompt for continuated statement
  :RETURN => "    ==>%s\n"        # format to return value
}

IRB.conf[:PROMPT_MODE] = :MY_PROMPT

Or, invoke irb with the above prompt mode by:

irb --prompt my-prompt

Constants PROMPT_I, PROMPT_S and PROMPT_C specify the format. In the prompt specification, some special strings are available:

%N    # command name which is running
%m    # to_s of main object (self)
%M    # inspect of main object (self)
%l    # type of string(", ', /, ]), `]' is inner %w[...]
%NNi  # indent level. NN is digits and means as same as printf("%NNd").
      # It can be omitted
%NNn  # line number.
%%    # %

For instance, the default prompt mode is defined as follows:

IRB.conf[:PROMPT_MODE][:DEFAULT] = {
  :PROMPT_I => "%N(%m):%03n:%i> ",
  :PROMPT_S => "%N(%m):%03n:%i%l ",
  :PROMPT_C => "%N(%m):%03n:%i* ",
  :RETURN => "%s\n" # used to printf
}

irb comes with a number of available modes:

# :NULL:
#   :PROMPT_I:
#   :PROMPT_N:
#   :PROMPT_S:
#   :PROMPT_C:
#   :RETURN: |
#     %s
# :DEFAULT:
#   :PROMPT_I: ! '%N(%m):%03n:%i> '
#   :PROMPT_N: ! '%N(%m):%03n:%i> '
#   :PROMPT_S: ! '%N(%m):%03n:%i%l '
#   :PROMPT_C: ! '%N(%m):%03n:%i* '
#   :RETURN: |
#     => %s
# :CLASSIC:
#   :PROMPT_I: ! '%N(%m):%03n:%i> '
#   :PROMPT_N: ! '%N(%m):%03n:%i> '
#   :PROMPT_S: ! '%N(%m):%03n:%i%l '
#   :PROMPT_C: ! '%N(%m):%03n:%i* '
#   :RETURN: |
#     %s
# :SIMPLE:
#   :PROMPT_I: ! '>> '
#   :PROMPT_N: ! '>> '
#   :PROMPT_S:
#   :PROMPT_C: ! '?> '
#   :RETURN: |
#     => %s
# :INF_RUBY:
#   :PROMPT_I: ! '%N(%m):%03n:%i> '
#   :PROMPT_N:
#   :PROMPT_S:
#   :PROMPT_C:
#   :RETURN: |
#     %s
#   :AUTO_INDENT: true
# :XMP:
#   :PROMPT_I:
#   :PROMPT_N:
#   :PROMPT_S:
#   :PROMPT_C:
#   :RETURN: |2
#         ==>%s

Restrictions

Because irb evaluates input immediately after it is syntactically complete, the results may be slightly different than directly using Ruby.

IRB Sessions

IRB has a special feature, that allows you to manage many sessions at once.

You can create new sessions with Irb.irb, and get a list of current sessions with the jobs command in the prompt.

Commands

JobManager provides commands to handle the current sessions:

jobs    # List of current sessions
fg      # Switches to the session of the given number
kill    # Kills the session with the given number

The exit command, or ::irb_exit, will quit the current session and call any exit hooks with IRB.irb_at_exit.

A few commands for loading files within the session are also available:

  • source: Loads a given file in the current session and displays the source lines, see IrbLoader#source_file

  • irb_load: Loads the given file similarly to Kernel#load, see IrbLoader#irb_load
  • irb_require: Loads the given file similarly to Kernel#require

Configuration

The command line options, or IRB.conf, specify the default behavior of Irb.irb.

On the other hand, each conf in IRB@Command+line+options is used to individually configure IRB.irb.

If a proc is set for IRB.conf[:IRB_RC], its will be invoked after execution of that proc with the context of the current session as its argument. Each session can be configured using this mechanism.

Session variables

There are a few variables in every Irb session that can come in handy:

  • _: The value command executed, as a local variable
  • __: The history of evaluated commands
  • __[line_no]: Returns the evaluation value at the given line number, line_no. If line_no is a negative, the return value line_no many lines before the most recent return value.

Example using IRB Sessions

# invoke a new session
irb(main):001:0> irb
# list open sessions
irb.1(main):001:0> jobs
  #0->irb on main (#<Thread:0x400fb7e4> : stop)
  #1->irb#1 on main (#<Thread:0x40125d64> : running)

# change the active session
irb.1(main):002:0> fg 0
# define class Foo in top-level session
irb(main):002:0> class Foo;end
# invoke a new session with the context of Foo
irb(main):003:0> irb Foo
# define Foo#foo
irb.2(Foo):001:0> def foo
irb.2(Foo):002:1>   print 1
irb.2(Foo):003:1> end

# change the active session
irb.2(Foo):004:0> fg 0
# list open sessions
irb(main):004:0> jobs
  #0->irb on main (#<Thread:0x400fb7e4> : running)
  #1->irb#1 on main (#<Thread:0x40125d64> : stop)
  #2->irb#2 on Foo (#<Thread:0x4011d54c> : stop)
# check if Foo#foo is available
irb(main):005:0> Foo.instance_methods #=> [:foo, ...]

# change the active sesssion
irb(main):006:0> fg 2
# define Foo#bar in the context of Foo
irb.2(Foo):005:0> def bar
irb.2(Foo):006:1>  print "bar"
irb.2(Foo):007:1> end
irb.2(Foo):010:0>  Foo.instance_methods #=> [:bar, :foo, ...]

# change the active session
irb.2(Foo):011:0> fg 0
irb(main):007:0> f = Foo.new  #=> #<Foo:0x4010af3c>
# invoke a new session with the context of f (instance of Foo)
irb(main):008:0> irb f
# list open sessions
irb.3(<Foo:0x4010af3c>):001:0> jobs
  #0->irb on main (#<Thread:0x400fb7e4> : stop)
  #1->irb#1 on main (#<Thread:0x40125d64> : stop)
  #2->irb#2 on Foo (#<Thread:0x4011d54c> : stop)
  #3->irb#3 on #<Foo:0x4010af3c> (#<Thread:0x4010a1e0> : running)
# evaluate f.foo
irb.3(<Foo:0x4010af3c>):002:0> foo #=> 1 => nil
# evaluate f.bar
irb.3(<Foo:0x4010af3c>):003:0> bar #=> bar => nil
# kill jobs 1, 2, and 3
irb.3(<Foo:0x4010af3c>):004:0> kill 1, 2, 3
# list open sessions, should only include main session
irb(main):009:0> jobs
  #0->irb on main (#<Thread:0x400fb7e4> : running)
# quit irb
irb(main):010:0> exit

IRB Reference