How to connect to and use ActiveRecord outside of Rails?

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How to connect to and use ActiveRecord outside of Rails?

Let’s say you have a Ruby script and you would like to use ActiveRecord library inside it. Is it possible without Rails? Is it hard? It’s possible and not hard at all.

Using ActiveRecord

Make sure your pure Ruby script starts by requiring active_record:

require 'active_record'

Connecting to database

Connection defaults

I like to use connection strings instead of YAML/Hash with separate key-values to describe the connection.

ENV['DATABASE_URL'] ||= "postgres://localhost/my_db_name?pool=5"

I prefer to use environment variables to set them because if I want to run the script on a different database, I can change it easily by setting an environment variable outside of the script. So this works nicely for me.

Connect to database using the connection string


That’s it. This one-liner does the job.


You can now normally use the models in your script.

class Event < ActiveRecord::Base

There is no ApplicationRecord so you can’t inherit from it (unless you define that as well, yourself).


If the database does not already have the tables you are planning on using, you can create them with Active Record migrations. If you always want to have a clean state when you run the script, pass force: true to drop a table before creating it.

ActiveRecord::Schema.define do
  self.verbose = true # or false

  enable_extension "plpgsql"
  enable_extension "pgcrypto"

  create_table(:events, force: true) do |t|
    t.string      :title,       null: false
    t.text        :description, null: false
    t.datetime    :created_at,  null: false

Set verbose to false if you don’t want to see the output of SQL statements creating those tables.


If you want to see the SQL queries and commands executed by your script, don’t forget to set a logger.

require 'logger'
ActiveRecord::Base.logger =

Use STDOUT instead of a file, to output directly on the screen.

Running the script

ruby my_script.rb

If you want to use different DB than the default:

DATABASE_URL=mysql2://root:@ ruby my_script.rb

If you want to always use specific activerecord version you need to create the Gemfile

source ''
gem 'activerecord', '~> 5.1.3'

and run bundle install.

Execute the script with bundler:

bundle exec ruby my_script.rb

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