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Get to Know a Gem: Rak

Posted by Tue, 11 Dec 2007 17:10:00 GMT

A few months ago, I posted about an article that showed you how to colorize your grep search results. Since then, I’ve heard people talking about ack, which describes itself as…

“a tool like grep, aimed at programmers with large trees of heterogeneous source code.”

It’s written in Perl, which is fine and dandy… but before I installed it, I heard that there was a Ruby version named rak, which describes itself as…

“a grep replacement in pure Ruby. It accepts Ruby syntax regular expressions and automatically recurses directories, skipping .svn/, .cvs/, pkg/ and more things you don’t care about. “

Sounds great. Let’s see what this thing can do.

Installing rak

Daniel Lucraft, the author of rak, was kind enough to package it up as a Rubygem. So, all we have to do is install it via gem install rak.

   > sudo gem install rak                                                                                                                                                                                                     
  Bulk updating Gem source index for:
  Successfully installed rak-0.8.0
  Installing ri documentation for rak-0.8.0...
  Installing RDoc documentation for rak-0.8.0...
  ~ >

Great, let’s move on.

Using rak

Now that it’s installed, we can use Rak by typing rak from the command line. You’d typically want to run this from within the root of your application.

For example, basic usage would look like the following.

$ rak search-pattern

In my first test, I ran rak README.

Immediately, I see a greater advantage to rak over using grep and that’s because it’s giving me line numbers for free, which takes remembering a few extra options with grep.

Like grep, we can specify a specific path to search with. For example, we use a view helper named link_to_unimplemented to help us track actions that aren’t implemented yet. Looking at a current project, I can run rak link_to_unimplemented app/views and produce the following results.

I’m going to keep playing with it, but wanted to help get the word out. If you have any tips on using it, please share them in the comments. :-)