A long-lived project that still receives updates
Adds methods to ActiveRecord::Migration to create and manage database views in Rails


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Scenic Landscape

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Scenic adds methods to ActiveRecord::Migration to create and manage database views in Rails.

Using Scenic, you can bring the power of SQL views to your Rails application without having to switch your schema format to SQL. Scenic provides a convention for versioning views that keeps your migration history consistent and reversible and avoids having to duplicate SQL strings across migrations. As an added bonus, you define the structure of your view in a SQL file, meaning you get full SQL syntax highlighting in the editor of your choice and can easily test your SQL in the database console during development.

Scenic ships with support for PostgreSQL. The adapter is configurable (see Scenic::Configuration) and has a minimal interface (see Scenic::Adapters::Postgres) that other gems can provide.

So how do I install this?

If you're using Postgres, Add gem "scenic" to your Gemfile and run bundle install. If you're using something other than Postgres, check out the available third-party adapters.

Great, how do I create a view?

You've got this great idea for a view you'd like to call search_results. You can create the migration and the corresponding view definition file with the following command:

$ rails generate scenic:view search_results
      create  db/views/search_results_v01.sql
      create  db/migrate/[TIMESTAMP]_create_search_results.rb

Edit the db/views/search_results_v01.sql file with the SQL statement that defines your view. In our example, this might look something like this:

SELECT AS searchable_id,
  'Status' AS searchable_type,
  comments.body AS term
FROM statuses
JOIN comments ON = comments.status_id


SELECT AS searchable_id,
  'Status' AS searchable_type,
  statuses.body AS term
FROM statuses

The generated migration will contain a create_view statement. Run the migration, and baby, you got a view going. The migration is reversible and the schema will be dumped into your schema.rb file.

$ rake db:migrate

Cool, but what if I need to change that view?

Here's where Scenic really shines. Run that same view generator once more:

$ rails generate scenic:view search_results
      create  db/views/search_results_v02.sql
      create  db/migrate/[TIMESTAMP]_update_search_results_to_version_2.rb

Scenic detected that we already had an existing search_results view at version 1, created a copy of that definition as version 2, and created a migration to update to the version 2 schema. All that's left for you to do is tweak the schema in the new definition and run the update_view migration.

What if I want to change a view without dropping it?

The update_view statement used by default will drop your view then create a new version of it. This may not be desirable when you have complicated hierarchies of dependent views.

Scenic offers a replace_view schema statement, resulting in a CREATE OR REPLACE VIEW SQL query which will update the supplied view in place, retaining all dependencies. Materialized views cannot be replaced in this fashion.

You can generate a migration that uses the replace_view schema statement by passing the --replace option to the scenic:view generator:

$ rails generate scenic:view search_results --replace
      create  db/views/search_results_v02.sql
      create  db/migrate/[TIMESTAMP]_update_search_results_to_version_2.rb

The migration will look something like this:

class UpdateSearchResultsToVersion2 < ActiveRecord::Migration
  def change
    replace_view :search_results, version: 2, revert_to_version: 1

Can I use this view to back a model?

You bet! Using view-backed models can help promote concepts hidden in your relational data to first-class domain objects and can clean up complex ActiveRecord or ARel queries. As far as ActiveRecord is concerned, a view is no different than a table.

class SearchResult < ApplicationRecord
  belongs_to :searchable, polymorphic: true

  # If you want to be able to call +Model.find+, you
  # must declare the primary key. It can not be
  # inferred from column information.
  # self.primary_key = :id

  # this isn't strictly necessary, but it will prevent
  # rails from calling save, which would fail anyway.
  def readonly?

Scenic even provides a scenic:model generator that is a superset of scenic:view. It will act identically to the Rails model generator except that it will create a Scenic view migration rather than a table migration.

There is no special base class or mixin needed. If desired, any code the model generator adds can be removed without worry.

$ rails generate scenic:model recent_status
      invoke  active_record
      create    app/models/recent_status.rb
      invoke    test_unit
      create      test/models/recent_status_test.rb
      create      test/fixtures/recent_statuses.yml
      create  db/views/recent_statuses_v01.sql
      create  db/migrate/20151112015036_create_recent_statuses.rb

What about materialized views?

Materialized views are essentially SQL queries whose results can be cached to a table, indexed, and periodically refreshed when desired. Does Scenic support those? Of course!

The scenic:view and scenic:model generators accept a --materialized option for this purpose. When used with the model generator, your model will have the following method defined as a convenience to aid in scheduling refreshes:

def self.refresh
  Scenic.database.refresh_materialized_view(table_name, concurrently: false, cascade: false)

This will perform a non-concurrent refresh, locking the view for selects until the refresh is complete. You can avoid locking the view by passing concurrently: true but this requires both PostgreSQL 9.4 and your view to have at least one unique index that covers all rows. You can add or update indexes for materialized views using table migration methods (e.g. add_index table_name) and these will be automatically re-applied when views are updated.

The cascade option is to refresh materialized views that depend on other materialized views. For example, say you have materialized view A, which selects data from materialized view B. To get the most up to date information in view A you would need to refresh view B first, then right after refresh view A. If you would like this cascading refresh of materialized views, set cascade: true when you refresh your materialized view.

I don't need this view anymore. Make it go away.

Scenic gives you drop_view too:

def change
  drop_view :search_results, revert_to_version: 2
  drop_view :materialized_admin_reports, revert_to_version: 3, materialized: true


Why do I get an error when querying a view-backed model with find, last, or first?

ActiveRecord's find method expects to query based on your model's primary key, but views do not have primary keys. Additionally, the first and last methods will produce queries that attempt to sort based on the primary key.

You can get around these issues by setting the primary key column on your Rails model like so:

class People < ApplicationRecord
  self.primary_key = :my_unique_identifier_field

Why is my view missing columns from the underlying table?

Did you create the view with SELECT [table_name].*? Most (possibly all) relational databases freeze the view definition at the time of creation. New columns will not be available in the view until the definition is updated once again. This can be accomplished by "updating" the view to its current definition to bake in the new meaning of *.

add_column :posts, :title, :string
update_view :posts_with_aggregate_data, version: 2, revert_to_version: 2

When will you support MySQL, SQLite, or other databases?

We have no plans to add first-party adapters for other relational databases at this time because we (the maintainers) do not currently have a use for them. It's our experience that maintaining a library effectively requires regular use of its features. We're not in a good position to support MySQL, SQLite or other database users.

Scenic does support configuring different database adapters and should be extendable with adapter libraries. If you implement such an adapter, we're happy to review and link to it. We're also happy to make changes that would better accommodate adapter gems.

We are aware of the following existing adapter libraries for Scenic which may meet your needs:

Please note that the maintainers of Scenic make no assertions about the quality or security of the above adapters.


Used By

Scenic is used by some popular open source Rails apps: Mastodon,, and

Related projects

  • fx Versioned database functions and triggers for Rails


Here are a few posts we've seen discussing Scenic:


Scenic is maintained by Derek Prior, Caleb Hearth, and you, our contributors.