Speak directly to your system. With its simple commands, flags, and parameters, a well-formed command-line application is the quickest way to automate a backup, a build, or a deployment and simplify your life. All you’ll need is Ruby, and the ability to install a few gems along the way. Examples written for Ruby 1.9.2, but 1.8.7 should work just as well.

Build Awesome Command-Line Applications in Ruby 2 for Rails 2.x is available here

Check out What Makes an Awesome Command-Line App in the May issue of PragPub Magazine, as well as The Nine Facets of an Awesome Command-Line App on the author’s blog.

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About this Book

  • 224 pages
  • Published:
  • Release: P1.0 (2012-03-13)
  • ISBN: 978-1-93435-691-3

As Ruby pro David Copeland explains, writing a command-line application that is self-documenting, robust, adaptable and forever useful is easier than you might think. Ruby is particularly suited to this task, since it combines high-level abstractions with “close to the metal” system interaction wrapped up in a concise, readable syntax. Moreover, Ruby has the support of a rich ecosystem of open-source tools and libraries.

Ten insightful chapters each explain and demonstrate a command-line best practice. You’ll see how to use these tools to elevate the lowliest automation script to a maintainable, polished application.

You’ll learn how to use free, open source parsers to create user-friendly command-line interfaces as well as command suites. You’ll see how to use defaults to keep options simple for everyday users, while giving advanced users options for more complex tasks.

There’s no reason a command-line application should lack documentation, whether it’s part of a help command or a man page; you’ll find out when and how to use both. Your journey from command-line novice to pro ends with a look at valuable approaches to testing your apps, and includes some fun techniques for outside-the-box, colorful interfaces that will delight your users.

With Ruby, the command line is not dead. Long live the command line.

What You Need:

All you’ll need is Ruby, and the ability to install a few gems along the way.
Examples written for Ruby 1.9.2, but 1.8.7 should work just as well.

Contents and Extracts

Full Table of Contents


  • Have a Clear and Concise Purpose
  • Be Easy To Use excerpt
  • Be Helpful
  • Play Well with Others excerpt
  • Delight Casual Users excerpt
  • Make Configuration Easy
  • Distribute Painlessly
  • Test, Test, Test
  • Be Easy To Maintain
  • Add Color, Formatting, and Interactivity
  • Common Command-Line Gems and Libraries

About the Author

David Bryant Copeland is a veteran professional software developer who spends most of his time on the command line. He speaks frequently at national and regional Ruby conferences and built many command-line and web applications, using the command-line to productive effect.

Comments and Reviews

  • I know of no other Ruby book that covers the content in this useful work, especially with its eye toward making Ruby command-line applications better citizens.

    —Noel Rappin Senior engineer at Groupon and author of "Rails Test Prescriptions"
  • This book proves that text mode is not the just the domain of batch scripts and glue code. Beyond the extensive survey of current Ruby CLI tools, David brings an unmatched focus on user experience and testing. Every full-stack developer should learn how to build the kinds of apps covered in this book.

    —Wynn Netherland CTO, Pure Charity
  • David Copeland has written a guide to writing the kind of command-line apps that will make your users want to hug you…this book will show you how to take your scripts from adequate to awesome.

    —Avdi Grimm Ruby Developer, author of "Exceptional Ruby"