How to work with PostgreSQL enums in Rails 7

How to work with PostgreSQL enums in Rails 7

Examples of creating an enum type, renaming a value, deleting a value

Rails 7 introduced a new way to create enums in PostgreSQL, by adding create_enum method. See official documentation here.

I will explore the following tasks:

  1. Creating an enum type and adding a column to a model with that enum type
  2. How to add a new value for the enum
  3. How to rename a value from enum type
  4. How to delete a value from enum type

All examples were tested on PostgreSQL 12, Ruby 3.1.2 and Rails 7.1.0.alpha

How to create an enum type for an Active Record model

The migration will look like this:

def up
  create_enum :user_status, ["pending", "active", "archived"]
  create_table :users, force: true do |t|
    t.enum :status, enum_type: "user_status", default: "pending", null: false

The User model might look something like this:

class User < ActiveRecord::Base
  enum status: {
    pending: 'pending',
    active: 'active',
    archived: 'archived',
    disabled: 'disabled',
    waiting: 'waiting'
  }, _prefix: true

And then you can execute things like:

User.status_pending.count # returning the number of Users with status pending
user = User.first
user.status_pending? # will return true if the status is `pending`

A rollback for this might look like this:

def down
  drop_table :users

  execute <<-SQL
    DROP TYPE user_status;

How to add a new value

You can do this by executing the following migration with raw SQL:


def up
  execute <<-SQL
      ALTER TYPE user_status ADD VALUE IF NOT EXISTS 'disabled' AFTER 'active';

For creating a rollback, see the section about how to delete a value from an enum. Things are a bit more complicated.

How to rename an enum type that a Rails model uses

Let's say you now want to rename pending to waiting and do that in Rails and the database.

The migration might look something like the following:


def up
    execute <<-SQL
      ALTER TYPE user_status RENAME VALUE 'pending' TO 'waiting';

    # don't forget to change the default status if you renamed the default one
    change_column_default :users, :status, from: 'pending', to: 'waiting'

How to delete a value from an enum type

This is a more complex operation if you want to delete a value.

First, you need to do the following two things:

  1. Make sure you deleted or renamed any records that have the value that you want to delete in their enum column
  2. Make sure you removed the default that points to the value you want to remove if you have that value as a default
  3. Please notice that an enum type can be used for multiple tables, so you should check if other tables are using that enum and that specific value

Then your migration for this might look like this. Say I want to remove waiting status and replace it with pending

def up
  # First, make sure no records are using the status that you want to remove
  User.status_waiting.update_all(status: 'pending')

  # change default to nil
  change_column_default :users, :status, nil

  execute <<-SQL
    --- Rename the old enum
    ALTER TYPE user_status RENAME TO user_status_old;

    --- Create the new enum as you will like it to be
    CREATE TYPE user_status AS ENUM('pending', 'active', 'archived');

    --- Alter the table to update it to use the new enum
    ALTER TABLE users ALTER COLUMN status TYPE user_status USING users::text::user_status;

    --- Drop the old status
    DROP TYPE user_status_old;

  # make the default status pending
  change_column_default :users, :status, 'pending'

⚠️ This migration cannot be undone. You can write a rollback to recreate the enum that was initially, but that will not update back the Users that were in waiting. That information is lost.

If you want to keep that information, then the way to do this is:

  1. You create a new status column named backup_status that should be of type string (because you probably don't want to create a new enum type, and you don't want to link the backup to the enum type that you are just about to change)
  2. You create a migration that will copy status to backup_status
  3. You can execute the migration that will remove the value waiting from the user_status enum as described above
  4. You check if all is fine
  5. Then you can delete the column backup_status

If you want to play with the code, I create a single file Rails app here: postgres_enums_in_rails_7.rb



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