ActiveRecord Tablefree

Project ActiveRecord Tablefree
gem name activerecord-tablefree
license MIT
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A simple implementation of the ActiveRecord Tableless pattern for any Rails project or other Ruby project that uses ActiveRecord.

Why, why, why

Why would you ever consider this gem as opposed to ActiveModel.

ActiveModel::Model does not support relations and nested attributes.


ActiveRecord Tablefree is distributed as a gem, which is how it should be used in your app.

Include the gem in your Gemfile:

gem "activerecord-tablefree", "~> 3.0"

Supported Versions

Supported ruby version are

  • 2.2.x series higher than 2.2.2 (a Rails 5 requirement)
  • 2.3.x series
  • 2.4.x series

Supported ActiveRecord versions are

  • 5.0.x series
  • 5.1.x series

If you are using an older ActiveRecord version you can use the gem activerecord-tableless

This gem tries to maintain the same API as the older activerecord-tableless gem.


Define a model like this:

class ContactMessage < ActiveRecord::Base
  column :name, :string
  column :email, :string
  column :message, :string
  validates_presence_of :name, :email, :message

You can now use the model in a view like this:

<%= form_for :contact_message, @contact_message do |f| %>
  Your name: <%= f.text_field :name %>
  Your email: <%= f.text_field :email %>
  Your message: <%= f.text_field :message %>
<% end %>

And in the controller:

def contact_message
  @contact_message =
    @contact_message.attributes = params[:contact_message]
    if @contact_message.valid?
      # Process the message...

If you wish (this is not recommended), you can pretend you have a succeeding database by using

has_no_table :database => :pretend_success


Some model as before, but with an association to a real DB-backed model.

    class ContactMessage < ActiveRecord::Base
      column :message, :string
      column :email, :string
      validates_presence_of :name, :email
      belongs_to :contact, foreign_key: :email, primary_key: :email

    class Contact < ActiveRecord::Base
      validates_presence_of :name, :email
      has_one :contact_message, foreign_key: :email, primary_key: :email, dependent: nil

Obviously the association is not full-fledged, as some traversals just won't make sense with one side not being loadable from the database. From the ContactMessage you can get to the Contact, but not vice versa.

>> contact = 'Boo', email: '[email protected]')
>> contact_message = contact)
=> '[email protected]'


To start developing, please download the source code

git clone git://

Install development libraries

sudo apt-get install -y libsqlite3-dev libxml2-dev libxslt-dev

When downloaded, you can start issuing the commands like

bundle install
bundle update
bundle exec appraisal generate
bundle exec appraisal install
bundle exec appraisal rake all

Or you can see what other options are there:

bundle exec rake -T

Publishing gem

gem bump -v pre

Verify everything is OK.

gem build activerecord-tablefree.gemspec

Verify everything is OK.

gem release -t


Originally this code was implemented for Rails 2 by Kenneth Kalmer. For Rails 3 the need for this functionality was reduced dramatically due to the introduction of ActiveModel. But because the ActiveModel does not support relations and nested attributes the existence of this gem is still justified.

Rails 3 and 4 support is provided in the activerecord-tableless gem, by Jarl Friis.

This gem is a Rails 5 compatible update, and renaming of that gem.

For a history of technical implementation details feel free to take a look in the git log :-)

Copyright (c) Jarl Friis. Copyright (c) Peter Boling, Bolt Threads.

The license is MIT. See LICENSE.txt for further details.