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Ruby Heredoc Tutorial

Introduction

A heredoc can be a nice way of passing a large block of text around in a script. Here are a few tips on using heredocs with Ruby.

Literal heredoc

A "regular" heredoc will take all the characters literally, including any whitespace. If you include the - in the heredoc name, it will not require the closing tag to be indented all the way to the left.

#!/usr/bin/ruby
# heredoc_literal.rb
text = <<-EOF
      This is a
         fully literal
   heredoc.
EOF

puts text

Outputs:

      This is a
         fully literal
   heredoc.

Stripped heredoc

If you want to maintain indentation to keep your source code formatting looking nice, you can indent your heredoc and automatically strip the leading whitespace by changing the - to a ~ in the heredoc definition. This is new in Ruby 2.3. I put the content inside a function so there was indentation to demonstrate how it strips the left content.

Also note how the name of the heredoc changed from EOF to HEREDOC. You can name it anything you want as long as the closing tag matches the open tag.

#!/usr/bin/ruby
# heredoc_stripped.rb
def make_heredoc
    <<~HEREDOC
       This is
       a stripped
         heredoc with left
            whitespace removed.
       It only removes the amount of whitespace
       that is started on the first line.
    HEREDOC
end

puts make_heredoc

Outputs:

This is
a stripped
  heredoc with left
     whitespace removed.
It only removes the amount of whitespace
that is started on the first line.

Run Ruby code from heredoc

This isn't so much about how to use a heredoc within Ruby, but how to use a heredoc in the shell to pass a multi-line Ruby script directly in to the Ruby interpreter.

#!/bin/bash

# From bash/zsh/equivalent

/usr/bin/ruby <<EOF

puts 'This is a Ruby script being fed directly'
puts 'in to the Ruby interpreter'

EOF

This can be a cleaner option than trying to pass in a script by using the -e flag like this:

ruby -e "puts 'hi'; puts 'this script'; puts 'is jammed in to one line';"

Conclusion

Now you should have a basic grasp on how to use a heredoc with Ruby to pass around a large block of text.

Reference

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