Modules Mixins

Ruby Modules are similar to classes in that they hold a collection of methods, constants, and other module and class definitions. Modules are defined much like classes are, but the module keyword is used in place of the class keyword. Unlike classes, you cannot create objects based on modules nor can you subclass them; instead, you specify that you want the functionality of a particular module to be added to the functionality of a class, or of a specific object. Modules stand alone; there is no "module hierarchy" of inheritance. Modules is a good place to collect all your constants in a central location.

Modules serve two purposes:

  • First they act as namespace, letting you define methods whose names will not clash with those defined elsewhere. The examples p058mytrig.rb, p059mymoral.rb, p060usemodule.rb illustrates this.
  • Second, they allow you to share functionality between classes - if a class mixes in a module, that module's instance methods become available as if they had been defined in the class. They get mixed in. The program p061mixins.rb illustrates this.

Observe how we use require or load. require and load take strings as their arguments.

require 'motorcycle' or load 'motorcycle.rb'

include takes the name of a module, in the form of a constant, as in include Stuff.

The include method accepts any number of Module objects to mix in:
include Enumerable, Comparable

Although every class is a module, the include method does not allow a class to be included within another class.

Some more examples:

Remember that you can mix in more than one module in a class. However, a class cannot inherit from more than one class. Class names tend to be nouns, while module names are often adjectives.

IN RAILS: The Rails source code makes heavy use of modules, in particular the technique of reopening the definition bodies of both classes and modules.

Note: The Ruby Logo is Copyright (c) 2006, Yukihiro Matsumoto. I have made extensive references to information, related to Ruby, available in the public domain (wikis and the blogs, articles of various Ruby Gurus), my acknowledgment and thanks to all of them. Much of the material on and in the course at is drawn primarily from the Programming Ruby book, available from The Pragmatic Bookshelf.