Easily Upgrade Your Rails Applications With next_rails

Did you ever wish you could upgrade your Rails applications without doing it all at once? This would make everything much easier, right?

With next_rails, a toolkit to upgrade Rails applications, turn your wish into reality. While Rails upgrades tend to be manageable in small applications, many issues are often arising in larger applications due to upstream changes like the removal of deprecated features. next_rails makes the whole upgrade process easier to manage by allowing you to gradually change your code. Let’s start!

How next_rails Works

next_rails is a gem and you should add it in your Gemfile under the development group. Do it manually or with this command:

bundle add next_rails --group=development

Once next_rails is installed, you set it up with next --init. This command slightly changes your Gemfile while also creating Gemfile.next, a symlink to your Gemfile. The following lines are added to your Gemfile:

def next?
  File.basename(__FILE__) == "Gemfile.next"
end

The last step to setup next_rails is to add a if...else statement to your Gemfile under the newly introduced next? method. This replaces the usual gem 'rails' line found in every Gemfile of a Rails application, so don’t forget to delete that line too.

if next?
  # This is the next Rails version your application will run
  gem 'rails', '~> 6.1'
else
  # This is the Rails version your application currently runs
  gem 'rails', '~> 6.0'
end

To run Bundler with the next Rails version, you can prefix any Bundler call with next. Let’s execute next bundle install, this will generate Gemfile.next.lock with all gems listed in your Gemfile, but unlike Gemfile.lock, it will point to the next Rails version as listed in the if...else statement above. Another command example would be next bundle exec rails s to start your Rails application with the next Rails version.

How to Write Code for the Next Rails Version

In the directory lib located at the root of your Rails application, define a new module RailsVersion:

# lib/rails_version.rb
module RailsVersion
  def self.is_6_1?
    Rails::VERSION::MAJOR == 6 && Rails::VERSION::MINOR == 1
  end
end

With this module, you can then check if the application is currently running with the next Rails version. It can be in models, controllers, etc…

This class…

class Bicycle
  def repair
    'The bicycle is all fixed up!'
  end
end

…is adapted for the next Rails version:

class Bicycle
  def repair
    # Code for the next Rails version
    return 'Everything is repaired!' if RailsVersion.is_6_1?

    # Code for the current Rails version
    'The bicycle is all fixed up!'
  end
end

Adapting code for the next Rails version doesn’t have to be complicated. A guard clause or a if...else statement should be enough in most cases. If needed, you could also write a separate method like this:

class Bicycle
  def repair
    # Code for the next Rails version
    return repair_6_1 if RailsVersion.is_6_1?

    # Code for the current Rails version
    'The bicycle is all fixed up!'
  end

  def repair_6_1
    # Do whatever needs to be done for the next Rails version
  end
end

How to Roll Out the Next Rails Version

You can safely upgrade the Rails version in the Gemfile once all issues arising from the next Rails version have been addressed:

if next?
  gem 'rails', '~> 6.1'
else
  # Now the same version as above
  gem 'rails', '~> 6.1'
end

The code for the newly upgraded Rails version is kept and the rest is removed.

This class…

class Bicycle
  def repair
    # Code for next Rails version
    return 'Everything is repaired!' if RailsVersion.is_6_1?

    # Code for current Rails version
    'The bicycle is all fixed up!'
  end
end

…is changed to:

class Bicycle
  def repair
    'Everything is repaired!'
  end
end

How to Keep Gemfile.next.lock Up-to-Date

The version of Rails and other gems tracked in Gemfile.next.lock have to be updated from time to time to follow the dependency updates happening on the default Gemfile.lock. This is how you can achieve this:

  1. Overwrite Gemfile.next.lock with a copy of Gemfile.lock:

    cp Gemfile.lock Gemfile.next.lock
    
  2. Inside your development environment, update the Rails version:

    next bundle update rails
    
  3. Create a pull request with the changes or commit them to a branch, this depends on your project.

How Did It Go For You?

This is it, you’re set to use next_rails in your Rails applications. Let me know how it went for you by sending me a message on the Contact Me page. Constructive feedback is always welcomed!