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Put helps you write prioritized, multi-variate sort_by blocks
 Project Readme

Put puts your objects in order πŸ’Ž

Put pairs with Enumerable#sort_by to provide a more expressive, fault-tolerant, and configurable approach to sorting Ruby objects with multiple criteria. Here's a screencast & short blog post that we put out, in case you're interested.

Put "put" in your Gemfile

You've probably already put a few gems in there, so why not put Put, too:

gem "put"

Of course after you push Put, your colleagues will wonder why you put Put there.

Before you tell me where to put it

A neat trick when applying complex sorting rules to a collection is to map them to an array of arrays of comparable values in priority order. It's a common approach (and a special subtype of what's called a Schwartzian transform), but the pattern doesn't have a widely-accepted name yet, so let's use code to explain.

Suppose you have some people:

Person =, :age, :rubyist?, keyword_init: true)

people = [ "Tam", age: 22), "Zak", age: 33), "Axe", age: 33), "Qin", age: 18, rubyist?: true), "Zoe", age: 28, rubyist?: true)

And you want to sort these people in the following priority order:

  1. Put any Rubyists at the top of the list, as is right and good
  2. If both are (or are not) Rubyists, break the tie by sorting by age descending
  3. Finally, break any remaining ties by sorting by name ascending

Here's what the aforementioned pattern to accomplish this usually looks like using Enumerable#sort_by:

people.sort_by { |person|
    person.rubyist? ? 0 : 1,
    person.age * -1,
} # => Zoe, Qin, Axe, Zak, Tam

The above will return everyone in the right order. This has a few drawbacks, though:

  • Unless you're already familiar with this pattern that nobody's bothered to give a name before, this code isn't very expressive. As a result, each line is almost begging for a code comment above it to explain its intent
  • Ternary operators are confusing, especially with predicate methods like rubyist? and especially when returning magic number's like 1 and 0.
  • Any nil values will result in a bad time. If a person's age is nil, you'll get "undefined method '*' for nil:NilClass" NoMethodError
  • Relatedly, if any two items aren't comparable (i.e. <=> returns nil), you'll be greeted with an inscrutable ArgumentError that just says "comparison of Array with Array failed"

Here's the same code example if you put Put in there:

people.sort_by { |person|
    (Put.first if person.rubyist?),
} # => Zoe, Qin, Axe, Zak, Tam

The Put gem solves every one of the above issues:

  • Put's methods have actual names. In fact, let's just call this the "Put pattern" while we're at it
  • No ternaries necessary
  • It's quite nil friendly
  • It ships with a Put.debug method that helps you introspect those impenetrable ArgumentError messages whenever any two values turn out not to be comparable

After reading this, your teammates will be glad they put you in charge of putting gems like Put in the Gemfile.

When you Put it that way

Put's API is short and sweet. In fact, you've already put up with most of it.


When a particular condition indicates an item should go to the top of a list, you'll want to designate a position in your mapped sort_by arrays to return either Put.first or nil, like this:

[42, 12, 65, 99, 49].sort_by { |n|
  [(Put.first if n.odd?)]
} # => 65, 99, 49, 42, 12


When a sort criteria should go to the bottom of the list, you can do the same sort of conditional expression with Put.last:

%w[Jin drinks Gin on Gym day].sort_by { |s|
  [(Put.last unless s.match?(/[A-Z]/))]
} # => ["Jin", "Gin", "Gym", "drinks", "on", "day"]

Put.asc(value, nils_first: false)

The Put.asc method provides a nil-safe way to sort a value in ascending order:

%w[The quick brown fox].sort_by { |s|
} # => ["The", "brown", "fox", "quick"]

It also supports an optional nils_first keyword argument that defaults to false (translation: nils are sorted last by default), which looks like this:

[3, nil, 1, 5].sort_by { |n|
  [Put.asc(n, nils_first: true)]
} # => [nil, 1, 3, 5]

Put.desc(value, nils_first: false)

The opposite of Put.asc is Put.desc, and it works as you might suspect:

%w[Aardvark Zebra].sort_by { |s|
} # => ["Zebra", "Aardvark"]

And also like Put.asc, Put.desc has an optional nils_first keyword argument when you want nils on top:

[1, nil, 2, 3].sort_by { |n|
  [Put.desc(n, nils_first: true)]
} # => [nil, 3, 2, 1]


You're sorting stuff, so naturally order matters. But when building a compound sort_by expression, order matters less as you add more and more tiebreaking criteria. In fact, sometimes shuffling items is the more appropriate than leaving things in their original order. Enter Put.anywhere, which can be called without any argument at any index in the mapped sorting array:

[1, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9].sort_by { |n|
    (Put.first if n.even?),
} # => [8, 4, 1, 7, 9, 3]


If you're sorting items and you know some not-comparable nil values are going to appear, you can put all the nils on top with Put.nil_first(value). Note that unlike Put.asc and Put.desc, it won't actually sort the valuesβ€”it'll just pull all the nils up!

[:fun, :stuff, nil, :here].sort_by { |val|
} # => [nil, :fun, :stuff, :here]


As you might be able to guess, Put.nils_last puts the nils last:

[:every, nil, :counts].sort_by { |val|
} # => [:every, :counts, nil]


If you see "comparison of Array with Array failed" and you don't have any idea what is going on, try debugging by changing sort_by to map and passing it to Put.debug.

For an interactive example of how to debug this issue with Put.debug, take a look at this test case.

Put your hands together! πŸ‘

Many thanks to Matt Jones and Matthew Draper for answering a bunch of obscure questions about comparisons in Ruby and implementing the initial prototype, respectively. πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

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