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Have you tried to construct a complex query in Rails to do joins and order by different columns and have fallen into writing SQL because you could not construct a query using ActiveRecord’s querying DSL, then this blog post might help.

Rails provides a way to merge complex queries using a method called merge and it works like this.

To understand what kind of queries we can create lets consider few models: Person, Location, Region

These models are associated in the follow way. A Person has belongs_to :location, a Location has_many :people and belongs_to :region and a Region has_many :locations. Person, Location and Region also have a name field.

Lets say we want to get all the people that are in a specific Region given a region name. This requires us to do an INNER and a LEFT JOIN across three tables and the query to do so looks like this:

SELECT "people".* FROM "people"
INNER JOIN "locations" ON "locations"."id" = "people"."location_id"
LEFT OUTER JOIN "regions" ON "regions"."id" = "locations"."region_id"
WHERE "regions"."name" = 'Asia'

To construct such a query you can split the problem into smaller queries and merge them using merge:

Here is the code:

class Person < ActiveRecord::Base
  belongs_to :location

  def self.in_region(region)

class Location < ActiveRecord::Base
  belongs_to :region
  has_many :people

  def self.in_region(region)
    joins(:region).where(regions: { name: region })

class Region < ActiveRecord::Base
  has_many :locations

If you look at the problem now it is split in such a way that Location now has a method called in_region which returns all Locations within a Region. Using that we can merge this query with the query for finding people within locations that are within a region:

def self.in_region(region)

This opens up the possibility to do even more advance queries while using ActiveRecord’s DSL. It introduces smaller queries that can be reused by your Rails app, makes your code more cohesive by having Location class take care of the responsibility of finding Locations within a region and also makes the code easy to test by introducing smaller queries that can be tested instead of constructing a big monolothic query.

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Ankur Patel


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Ankur અંકુર Patel

Full Stack Ruby on Rails, Frontend Web and native iOS App Developer | Author of "Hands-on Full-Stack Development with Swift"

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