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      How To Install Ruby on Rails with rbenv on Ubuntu 20.04


      Ruby on Rails is one of the most popular application stacks for developers looking to create sites and web apps. The Ruby programming language, combined with the Rails development framework, allows you to build and deploy scalable apps quickly.

      You can install Ruby and Rails with the command line tool rbenv. Using rbenv provides you with a solid environment for developing your Ruby on Rails applications and allows you to switch between Ruby versions, keeping your entire team on the same version. rbenv also provides support for specifying application-specific versions of Ruby, allows you to change the global Ruby for each user, and the option to use an environment variable to override the Ruby version.

      In this tutorial, we will guide you through the Ruby and Rails installation processes with rbenv and gem. First, you’ll install the appropriate packages to install rbenv and then Ruby. After, you’ll install the ruby-build plugin so that you can install available versions of Ruby. Last, you’ll use gem to install Rails and can then use Ruby on Rails to begin your web development. We will also provide steps on how to check if your rbenv version is up-to-date, and how to uninstall Ruby versions and rbenv.


      To follow this tutorial, you need:

      Step 1 – Install rbenv and Dependencies

      Ruby relies on several packages that you can install through your package manager. Once those are installed, you can install rbenv and use it to install Ruby.

      First, update your package list:

      Next, install the dependencies required to install Ruby:

      • sudo apt install git curl libssl-dev libreadline-dev zlib1g-dev autoconf bison build-essential libyaml-dev libreadline-dev libncurses5-dev libffi-dev libgdbm-dev

      After installing the dependencies, you can install rbenv itself. Use curl to transfer information from the rbenv repository on GitHub into the directory ~/.rbenv:

      • curl -fsSL | bash

      Next, add ~/.rbenv/bin to your $PATH so that you can use the rbenv command line utility. Do this by altering your ~/.bashrc file so that it affects future login sessions:

      • echo 'export PATH="$HOME/.rbenv/bin:$PATH"' >> ~/.bashrc

      Then, add the command eval "$(rbenv init -)" to your ~/.bashrc file so rbenv loads automatically:

      • echo 'eval "$(rbenv init -)"' >> ~/.bashrc

      Next, apply the changes you made to your ~/.bashrc file to your current shell session:

      Verify that rbenv is set up properly by running the type command, which will display more information about the rbenv command:

      Your terminal window will display the following:


      rbenv is a function rbenv () { local command; command="${1:-}"; if [ "$#" -gt 0 ]; then shift; fi; case "$command" in rehash | shell) eval "$(rbenv "sh-$command" "$@")" ;; *) command rbenv "$command" "$@" ;; esac }

      Next, install the ruby-build plugin. This plugin adds the rbenv install command, which makes the installation process of new versions of Ruby less complex. To install ruby-build, first clone the ruby-build GitHub repository:

      • git clone

      After running this command, you’ll have a directory named ruby-build in your working directory. Within the ruby-build directory is a script named which you’ll use to actually install ruby-build.

      Before running this script, take a moment to review its contents. Rather than opening the file with a text editor, you can print its contents to your terminal’s output with the following command:

      • cat ruby-build/


      #!/bin/sh # Usage: PREFIX=/usr/local ./ # # Installs ruby-build under $PREFIX. set -e cd "$(dirname "$0")" if [ -z "${PREFIX}" ]; then PREFIX="/usr/local" fi BIN_PATH="${PREFIX}/bin" SHARE_PATH="${PREFIX}/share/ruby-build" mkdir -p "$BIN_PATH" "$SHARE_PATH" install -p bin/* "$BIN_PATH" install -p -m 0644 share/ruby-build/* "$SHARE_PATH"

      Notice the second line of this file that reads # Usage: PREFIX=/usr/local ./ This commented-out line explains that in order to execute this script and install ruby-build, you must precede the script with PREFIX=/usr/local. This will create a temporary environment variable that will affect how the script is run. Essentially, this will cause the string $PREFIX to be replaced with /usr/local any time it appears in the script and will ultimately cause all the necessary ruby-build files to be installed within the /usr/local directory. This environment variable is only temporary and will cease to exist once the script terminates.

      Create this temporary environment variable and run the script with the following command. Note that this command includes sudo before calling the script. This is necessary since you must have advanced privileges to install files to the /usr/local directory:

      • PREFIX=/usr/local sudo ./ruby-build/

      At this point, you have both rbenv and ruby-build installed. Let’s install Ruby next.

      Step 2 – Installing Ruby with ruby-build

      With the ruby-build plugin now installed, you can install whatever versions of Ruby that you may need with a single command. First, list all the available versions of Ruby:

      The output of that command will be a list of versions that you can choose to install:


      2.6.8 2.7.4 3.0.2 jruby- mruby-3.0.0 rbx-5.0 truffleruby- truffleruby+graalvm-21.2.0 Only latest stable releases for each Ruby implementation are shown. Use 'rbenv install --list-all / -L' to show all local versions.

      Now let’s install Ruby 3.0.2:

      Installing Ruby can be a lengthy process, so be prepared for the installation to take some time to complete.

      Once it’s done installing, set it as your default version of Ruby with the global sub-command:

      Verify that Ruby was properly installed by checking its version number:

      If you installed version 3.0.2 of Ruby, this command will return output like this:


      ruby 3.0.2p107 (2021-07-07 revision 0db68f0233) [x86_64-linux]

      To install and use a different version of Ruby, run the rbenv commands with a different version number, as in rbenv install 2.3.0 followed by rbenv global 2.3.0.

      You now have at least one version of Ruby installed and have set your default Ruby version. Next, you will set up gems and Rails.

      Step 3 – Working with Gems

      Gems are the way Ruby libraries are distributed. You use the gem command to manage these gems, and use this command to install Rails.

      When you install a gem, the installation process generates local documentation. This can add a significant amount of time to each gem’s installation process, so turn off local documentation generation by creating a file called ~/.gemrc which contains a configuration setting to turn off this feature:

      • echo "gem: --no-document" > ~/.gemrc

      Bundler is a tool that manages gem dependencies for projects. Install the Bundler gem next, as Rails depends on it:

      You’ll receive the following output:


      Fetching bundler-2.2.27.gem Successfully installed bundler-2.2.27 1 gem installed

      You can use the gem env command (the subcommand env is short for environment) to learn more about the environment and configuration of gems. You can confirm where gems are being installed by using the home argument, like this:

      You’ll receive an output similar to this:



      Once you have gems set up, you can install Rails.

      Step 4 – Installing Rails

      To install Rails, use the gem install command along with the -v flag to specify the version. For this tutorial, you’ll use version

      • gem install rails -v

      The gem command installs the gem you specify, as well as any of its dependencies. Rails is a complex web development framework and has many dependencies, so the process will take some time to complete. Eventually, you’ll receive a message stating that Rails is installed, along with its dependencies:


      ... Successfully installed rails- 37 gems installed

      Note: If you would like to install a different version of Rails, you can list the valid versions of Rails by doing a search, which will output a list of possible versions. You can then install a specific version, such as 4.2.7:

      • gem search '^rails$' --all
      • gem install rails -v 4.2.7

      If you would like to install the latest version of Rails, run the command without a version specified:

      rbenv works by creating a directory of shims, which point to the files used by the Ruby version that’s currently enabled. Through the rehash sub-command, rbenv maintains shims in that directory to match every Ruby command across every installed version of Ruby on your server. Whenever you install a new version of Ruby or a gem that provides commands as Rails does, you should run the following:

      Verify that Rails has been installed properly by printing its version, with the following command:

      If it’s installed properly, this command will return the version of Rails that was installed:



      At this point, you can begin testing your Ruby on Rails installation and start to develop web applications. Now let’s review how to keep the rbenv up-to-date.

      Step 5 – Updating rbenv

      Since you installed rbenv manually using Git, you can upgrade your installation to the most recent version at any time by using the git pull command in the ~/.rbenv directory:

      This will ensure that you are using the most up-to-date version of rbenv available.

      Step 6 – Uninstalling Ruby versions

      As you download additional versions of Ruby, you may accumulate more versions than you would like in your ~/.rbenv/versions directory. Use the ruby-build plugin’s uninstall subcommand to remove these previous versions.

      The following command will uninstall Ruby version 3.0.2:

      With the rbenv uninstall command you can clean up old versions of Ruby so that you do not have more installed than you are currently using.

      Step 7 – Uninstalling rbenv

      If you’ve decided you no longer want to use rbenv, you can remove it from your system.

      To do this, first open your ~/.bashrc file in your editor. In this example, we will use nano:

      Find and remove the following two lines from the file:


      export PATH="$HOME/.rbenv/bin:$PATH"
      eval "$(rbenv init -)"

      After removing these lines, save the file and exit the editor. If you used nano, you can exit by pressing CTRL + X then Y and ENTER.

      Then remove rbenv and all installed Ruby versions with the following command:

      Log out and back in to apply the changes to your shell.


      In this tutorial, you installed rbenv and gem to install the entire Ruby on Rails framework. From here, you can begin creating your web development application projects. If you want to learn more about making those environments more robust you can check out our series on How To Code In Ruby.

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