Defining versions in Ruby gems

This post is inspired by a question I answered on StackOverflow a while back, asking about the best way to define the version of a Ruby gem.

By far the simplest method is to just hardcode the version number in your .gemspec:

# mygem.gemspec do |s|        = "mygem"
  s.version     = "1.0.0"

But you’ll often see gems instead defining the version in a separate file, then require‘ing it in the .gemspec:

# lib/mygem/version.rb
module Mygem
  VERSION = "1.0.0"

# mygem.gemspec
$:.push File.expand_path("../lib", __FILE__)
require "mygem/version" do |s|        = "mygem"
  s.version     = Mygem::VERSION

More code for the apparently same effect, so what are the advantages of the more verbose method? Well, for one, we can easily access the gem’s version easily with the Mygem::VERSION. This can come in handy for 3rd party apps - for instance, this Devise patch which targets specific versions (source):

# config/initializers/devise_patch.rb
require 'devise/version'
if !defined?(Devise::VERSION) || (Devise::VERSION < "1.4.0" && %w[1.2 1.3].all? {|v| !Devise::VERSION.start_with?(v)})
  raise "I don't know how to patch your devise version. See"

if Devise::VERSION < "1.5.0"
  warn "Patching devise #{Devise::VERSION} with < 1.5.0 patch"
  Devise::Models::Authenticatable::ClassMethods.class_eval do
    def auth_param_requires_string_conversion?(value); true; end
elsif [("1.5.0".."1.5.3"), ("2.0.0".."2.0.4"), ("2.1.0".."2.1.2"), ("2.2.0".."2.2.2")].any? { |range|
  warn "Patching devise #{Devise::VERSION} with < 2.2.3 patch"
  Devise::ParamFilter.class_eval do
    def param_requires_string_conversion?(_value); true; end

Also if we wanted to see Git commits that changed the gem’s version, we could run:

git log version.rb

A couple of further tips - it’s not a bad idea to use .freeze to stop Mygem::VERSION getting overwritten accidentally:

module Mygem
  VERSION = "1.0.0".freeze

Some gems (including Rails) break down the version number into MAJOR, MINOR and TINY (or PATCH) releases:

module Mygem
  module VERSION
    MAJOR = 1
    MINOR = 0
    TINY = 0

    STRING = [MAJOR, MINOR, TINY].compact.join('.')

This is handy if you’re following semantic versioning.

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