Observer classes respond to lifecycle callbacks to implement trigger-like behavior outside the original class. This is a great way to reduce the clutter that normally comes when the model class is burdened with functionality that doesn‘t pertain to the core responsibility of the class. Example:

  class CommentObserver < ActiveRecord::Observer
    def after_save(comment)
      Notifications.deliver_comment("", "New comment was posted", comment)

This Observer sends an email when a Comment#save is finished.

  class ContactObserver < ActiveRecord::Observer
    def after_create(contact)'New contact added!')

    def after_destroy(contact)
      contact.logger.warn("Contact with an id of #{} was destroyed!")

This Observer uses logger to log when specific callbacks are triggered.

Observing a class that can‘t be inferred

Observers will by default be mapped to the class with which they share a name. So CommentObserver will be tied to observing Comment, ProductManagerObserver to ProductManager, and so on. If you want to name your observer differently than the class you‘re interested in observing, you can use the Observer.observe class method which takes either the concrete class (Product) or a symbol for that class (:product):

  class AuditObserver < ActiveRecord::Observer
    observe :account

    def after_update(account), "UPDATED")

If the audit observer needs to watch more than one kind of object, this can be specified with multiple arguments:

  class AuditObserver < ActiveRecord::Observer
    observe :account, :balance

    def after_update(record), "UPDATED")

The AuditObserver will now act on both updates to Account and Balance by treating them both as records.

Available callback methods

The observer can implement callback methods for each of the methods described in the Callbacks module.

Storing Observers in Rails

If you‘re using Active Record within Rails, observer classes are usually stored in app/models with the naming convention of app/models/audit_observer.rb.


In order to activate an observer, list it in the config.active_record.observers configuration setting in your config/environment.rb file.

  config.active_record.observers = :comment_observer, :signup_observer

Observers will not be invoked unless you define these in your application configuration.


Observers register themselves in the model class they observe, since it is the class that notifies them of events when they occur. As a side-effect, when an observer is loaded its corresponding model class is loaded.

Up to (and including) Rails 2.0.2 observers were instantiated between plugins and application initializers. Now observers are loaded after application initializers, so observed models can make use of extensions.

If by any chance you are using observed models in the initialization you can still load their observers by calling ModelObserver.instance before. Observers are singletons and that call instantiates and registers them.

Included Modules
Public Class methods

Start observing the declared classes and their subclasses.

     # File activerecord/lib/active_record/observer.rb, line 165
165:     def initialize
166: + observed_subclasses).each { |klass| add_observer! klass }
167:     end

Attaches the observer to the supplied model classes.

     # File activerecord/lib/active_record/observer.rb, line 147
147:       def observe(*models)
148:         models.flatten!
149:         models.collect! { |model| model.is_a?(Symbol) ? model.to_s.camelize.constantize : model }
150:         define_method(:observed_classes) { }
151:       end

The class observed by default is inferred from the observer‘s class name:

  assert_equal Person, PersonObserver.observed_class
     # File activerecord/lib/active_record/observer.rb, line 155
155:       def observed_class
156:         if observed_class_name = name[/(.*)Observer/, 1]
157:           observed_class_name.constantize
158:         else
159:           nil
160:         end
161:       end
Protected Instance methods
     # File activerecord/lib/active_record/observer.rb, line 190
190:       def add_observer!(klass)
191:         klass.add_observer(self)
192:         if respond_to?(:after_find) && !klass.method_defined?(:after_find)
193:           klass.class_eval 'def after_find() end'
194:         end
195:       end
     # File activerecord/lib/active_record/observer.rb, line 182
182:       def observed_classes
184:       end
     # File activerecord/lib/active_record/observer.rb, line 186
186:       def observed_subclasses
187:         observed_classes.sum([]) { |klass| klass.send(:subclasses) }
188:       end