Slugalicious -- Easy and powerful URL slugging for Rails 4

(no monkey-patching required)

Author Tim Morgan
Version 2.1 (Jul 9, 2013)
License Released under the MIT license.

Note about version 2.0

Version 2.0 is so-versioned because it breaks the API for previous versions. Previously, where you would have used find_from_slug, you would now use find_from_slug!. The old method now returns nil when an object is not found, rather than raising an exception.


Slugalicious is an easy-to-use slugging library that helps you generate pretty URLs for your ActiveRecord objects. It's built for Rails 4 and is cordoned off in a monkey patching-free zone.

Slugalicious is easy to use and powerful enough to cover all of the most common use-cases for slugging. Slugs are stored in a separate table, meaning you don't have to make schema changes to your models, and you can change slugs while still keeping the old URLs around for redirecting purposes.

Slugalicious is an intelligent slug generator: You can specify multiple ways to generate slugs, and Slugalicious will try them all until it finds one that generates a unique slug. If all else fails, Slugalicious will fall back on a less pretty but guaranteed-unique backup slug generation strategy.

Slugalicious works with the Stringex Ruby library, meaning you get meaningful slugs via the String#to_url method. Below are two examples of how powerful Stringex is:

"$6 Dollar Burger".to_url #=> "six-dollar-burger"
"新年好".to_url #=> "xin-nian-hao"


Important Note: Slugalicious is written for Rails 4.0 and Ruby 1.9 only.

Firstly, add the gem to your Rails project's Gemfile:

gem 'slugalicious'

Next, use the generator to add the Slug model and its migration to your project:

rails generate slugalicious

Then run the migration to set up your database.


For any model you want to slug, include the Slugalicious module and call slugged:

class User < ActiveRecord::Base
  include Slugalicious
  slugged ->(user) { "#{user.first_name} #{user.last_name}" }

Doing this sets the to_param method, so you can go ahead and start generating URLs using your models. You can use the find_from_slug method to load a record from a slug:

user = User.find_from_slug(params[:id])

Multiple slug generators

The slugged method takes a list of method names (as symbols) or Procs that each attempt to generate a slug. Each of these generators is tried in order until a unique slug is generated. (The output of each of these generators is run through the slugifier to convert it to a URL-safe string. The slugifier is by default String#to_url, provided by the Stringex gem.)

So, if we had our User class, and we first wanted to slug by last name only, but then add in the first name if two people share a last name, we'd call slugged like so:

slugged :last_name, ->(user) { "#{user.first_name} #{user.last_name}" }

In the event that none of these generators manages to make a unique slug, a fallback generator is used. This generator prepends the ID of the record, making it guaranteed unique. Let's use the example generators shown above. If we create a user with the name "Sancho Sample", he will get the slug "sample". Create another user with the same name, and that user will get the slug "sancho-sample;2". The semicolon is the default ID separator (and it can be overridden).

Scoped slugs

Slugs must normally be unique for a single model type. Thus, if you have a User named Hammer and a Product named hammer, they can both share the "hammer" slug.

If you want to decrease the uniqueness scope of a slug, you can do so with the :scope option on the slugged method. Let's say you wanted to limit the scope of a Product's slug to its associated Department; that way you could have a product named "keyboard" in both the Computer Supplies and the Music Supplies departments. To do so, override the :scope option with a method name (as symbol) or a Proc that limits the scope of the uniqueness requirement:

class Product < ActiveRecord::Base
  include Slugalicious
  belongs_to :department
  slugged :name, scope: :department_url_component


  def department_url_component + "/"

Now, your computer keyboard's slug will be "computer-supplies/keyboard" and your piano keyboard's slug will be "music-supplies/keyboard". There's an important thing to notice here: The method or proc you use to scope the slug must return a proper URL substring. That typically means you need to URL-escape it and add a slash at the end, as shown in the example above.

When you call to_param on your piano keyboard, instead of just "keyboard", you will get "music-supplies/keyboard". Likewise, you can use the find_from_slug_path method to find a record from its full path, slug and scope included. You would usually use this method in conjunction with route globbing. For example, we could set up our routes.rb file like so:

get '/products/*path', 'products#show', as: :products

Then, in our ProductsController, we load the product from the path slug like so:

def find_product
  @product = Product.find_from_slug_path(params[:path])

This is why it's very convenient to have your :scope method/proc not only return the uniqueness constraint, but also the scoped portion of the URL preceding the slug.

Altering and expiring slugs

When a model is created, it gets one slug, marked as the active slug (by default). This slug is the first generator that produces a unique slug string.

If a model is updated, its slug is regenerated. Each of the slug generators is invoked, and if any of them produces an existing slug assigned to the object, that slug is made the active slug. (Priority goes to the first slug generator that produces an existing slug [active or inactive]).

If none of the slug generators generates a known, existing slug belonging to the object, then the first unique slug is used. A new Slug instance is created and marked as active, and any other slugs belonging to the object are marked as inactive.

Inactive slugs do not act any differently from active slugs. An object can be found by its inactive slug just as well as its active slug. The flag is there so you can alter the behavior of your application depending on whether the slug is current.

A common application of this is to have inactive slugs 301-redirect to the active slug, as a way of both updating search engines' indexes and ensuring that people know the URL has changed. As an example of how do this, we alter the find_product method shown above to be like so:

def find_product
  @product = Product.find_from_slug_path(params[:path])
  unless @product.active_slug?(params[:path].split('/').last)
    redirect_to product_url(@product), status: :moved_permanently
    return false
  return true

The old URL will remain indefinitely, but users who hit it will be redirected to the new URL. Ideally, links to the old URL will be replaced over time with links to the new URL.

The problem is that even though the old slug is inactive, it's still "taken." If you create a product called "Keyboard", but then rename it to "Piano", the product will claim both the "keyboard" and "piano" slugs. If you had renamed it to make room for a different product called "Keyboard" (like a computer keyboard), you'd find its slug is "keyboard;2" or similar.

To prevent the slug namespace from becoming more and more polluted over time, websites generally expire inactive slugs after a period of time. To do this in Slugalicious, write a task that periodically checks for and deletes old, inactive Slug records. Such a task could be invoked through a cron job, for instance. An example:

Slug.inactive.where([ "created_at < ?", 30.days.ago ]).delete_all