Reform

Overview

Reform provides form objects that maintain validations for one or multiple models, where a model can be any kind of Ruby object. It is completely framework-agnostic and doesn’t care about your database.

A form doesn’t have to be a UI component, necessarily! It can be an intermediate validation before writing data to the persistence layer. While form objects may be used to render graphical web forms, Reform is used in many pure-API applications for deserialization and validation.

Form Definition

Forms are defined in separate classes. Often, these classes partially map to a model.

class AlbumForm < Reform::Form
  property :title
  validates :title, presence: true
end

Fields are declared using ::property. Validations work almost exactly as you know it from Rails or other frameworks. Note that validations no longer go into the model.

API

Forms have a ridiculously simple API with only a handful of public methods.

  1. #initialize always requires a model that the form represents.
  2. #validate(params) updates the form’s fields with the input data (only the form, not the model) and then runs all validations. The return value is the boolean result of the validations.
  3. #errors returns validation messages in a classic ActiveModel style.
  4. #sync writes form data back to the model. This will only use setter methods on the model(s).
  5. #save (optional) will call #save on the model and nested models. Note that this implies a #sync call.
  6. #prepopulate! (optional) will run pre-population hooks to “fill out” your form before rendering.

In addition to the main API, forms expose accessors to the defined properties. This is used for rendering or manual operations.

Setup

In your controller or operation you create a form instance and pass in the models you want to work on.

class AlbumsController
  def new
    @form = AlbumForm.new(Album.new)
  end

This will also work as an editing form with an existing album.

def edit
  @form = AlbumForm.new(Album.find(1))
end

Reform will read property values from the model in setup. In our example, the AlbumForm will call album.title to populate the title field.

Rendering Forms

Your @form is now ready to be rendered, either do it yourself or use something like Rails’ #form_for, simple_form or formtastic.

= form_for @form do |f|
  = f.input :title

Nested forms and collections can be easily rendered with fields_for, etc. Note that you no longer pass the model to the form builder, but the Reform instance.

Optionally, you might want to use the #prepopulate! method to pre-populate fields and prepare the form for rendering.

Validation

After form submission, you need to validate the input.

class SongsController
  def create
    @form = SongForm.new(Song.new)

    #=> params: {song: {title: "Rio", length: "366"}}

    if @form.validate(params[:song])

The #validate method first updates the values of the form - the underlying model is still treated as immutuable and remains unchanged. It then runs all validations you provided in the form.

It’s the only entry point for updating the form. This is per design, as separating writing and validation doesn’t make sense for a form.

This allows rendering the form after validate with the data that has been submitted. However, don’t get confused, the model’s values are still the old, original values and are only changed after a #save or #sync operation.

Syncing Back

After validation, you have two choices: either call #save and let Reform sort out the rest. Or call #sync, which will write all the properties back to the model. In a nested form, this works recursively, of course.

It’s then up to you what to do with the updated models - they’re still unsaved.

Saving Forms

The easiest way to save the data is to call #save on the form.

if @form.validate(params[:song])
  @form.save  #=> populates album with incoming data
              #   by calling @form.album.title=.
else
  # handle validation errors.
end

This will sync the data to the model and then call album.save.

Sometimes, you need to do saving manually.

Saving Forms Manually

Calling #save with a block will provide a nested hash of the form’s properties and values. This does not call #save on the models and allows you to implement the saving yourself.

The block parameter is a nested hash of the form input.

@form.save do |hash|
  hash      #=> {title: "Greatest Hits"}
  Album.create(hash)
end

You can always access the form’s model. This is helpful when you were using populators to set up objects when validating.

@form.save do |hash|
  album = @form.model

  album.update_attributes(hash[:album])
end

Container

While a form object will drastically improve your application architecture as a stand-alone object, forms work best in containers like Trailblazer’s operation.

Disposable

Every form in Reform is a twin. Twins are non-persistent domain objects from the Disposable gem. All features of Disposable, like renaming fields, change tracking, etc. are available in Reform, too.

Nesting

Reform provides support for nested objects. Let’s say the Album model keeps some associations.

class Album < ActiveRecord::Base
  has_one  :artist
  has_many :songs
end

The implementation details do not really matter here, as long as your album exposes readers and writes like Album#artist and Album#songs, this allows you to define nested forms.

class AlbumForm < Reform::Form
  property :title
  validates :title, presence: true

  property :artist do
    property :full_name
    validates :full_name, presence: true
  end

  collection :songs do
    property :name
  end
end

You can also reuse an existing form from elsewhere using :form.

property :artist, form: ArtistForm

Nested Setup

Reform will wrap defined nested objects in their own forms. This happens automatically when instantiating the form.

album.songs #=> [<Song name:"Run To The Hills">]

form = AlbumForm.new(album)
form.songs[0] #=> <SongForm model: <Song name:"Run To The Hills">>
form.songs[0].name #=> "Run To The Hills"

Nested Rendering

When rendering a nested form you can use the form’s readers to access the nested forms.

= text_field :title,         @form.title
= text_field "artist[name]", @form.artist.name

Or use something like #fields_for in a Rails environment.

= form_for @form do |f|
  = f.text_field :title

  = f.fields_for :artist do |a|
    = a.text_field :name

Nested Processing

validate will assign values to the nested forms. sync and save work analogue to the non-nested form, just in a recursive way.

The block form of #save would give you the following data.

@form.save do |nested|
  nested #=> {title:  "Greatest Hits",
         #    artist: {name: "Duran Duran"},
         #    songs: [{title: "Hungry Like The Wolf"},
         #            {title: "Last Chance On The Stairways"}]
         #   }
  end

The manual saving with block is not encouraged. You should rather check the Disposable docs to find out how to implement your manual tweak with the official API.

Populating Forms

Very often, you need to give Reform some information how to create or find nested objects when validateing. This directive is called populator and documented here.

Installation

Add this line to your Gemfile:

gem 'reform'

Reform works fine with Rails 3.1-4.2. However, inheritance of validations with ActiveModel::Validations is broken in Rails 3.2 and 4.0.

Since Reform 2.0 you need to specify which validation backend you want to use (unless you’re in a Rails environment where ActiveModel will be used).

To use ActiveModel (not recommended as it doesn’t support removing validations).

require "reform/form/active_model/validations"
Reform::Form.class_eval do
  include Reform::Form::ActiveModel::Validations
end

To use dry-validation (recommended).

require "reform/form/dry"
Reform::Form.class_eval do
  include Reform::Form::Dry
end

Put this in an initializer or on top of your script.

Rails Support

Use Reform-rails to automatically load and include Reform features for a standard Rails stack, e.g. ActiveModel::Validations.

gem "reform"
gem "reform-rails"

Composition

Reform allows to map multiple models to one form. The complete documentation is here, however, this is how it works.

class AlbumTwin < Reform::Form
  include Composition

  property :id,    on: :album
  property :title, on: :album
  property :songs, on: :cd
  property :cd_id, on: :cd, from: :id
end

When initializing a composition, you have to pass a hash that contains the composees.

AlbumForm.new(album: album, cd: CD.find(1))

More

Reform comes many more optional features, like hash fields, coercion, virtual fields, and so on. Check the full documentation here.

=> rendering
=> sync with block

Hash Fields

Reform can also handle deeply nested hash fields from serialized hash columns. This is documented here.

Validation Shortform

Luckily, this can be shortened as follows.

class SongForm < Reform::Form
  property :title, validates: {presence: true}
  property :length, validates: {numericality: true}
end

Use properties to bulk-specify fields.

class SongForm < Reform::Form
  properties :title, :length, validates: {presence: true} # both required!
  validates :length, numericality: true
end

If the form wraps multiple models, via composition, you can access them like this:

@form.save do |nested|
  song = @form.model[:song]
  label = @form.model[:label]
end

Note that you can call #sync and then call #save { |hsh| } to save models yourself.

Turning Off Autosave

You can assign Reform to not call save on a particular nested model (per default, it is called automatically on all nested models).

class AlbumForm < Reform::Form
  # ...

  collection :songs, save: false do
    # ..
  end

The :save options set to false won’t save models.

Compositions

Sometimes you might want to embrace two (or more) unrelated objects with a single form. While you could write a simple delegating composition yourself, reform comes with it built-in.

Say we were to edit a song and the label data the record was released from. Internally, this would imply working on the songs table and the labels table.

class SongWithLabelForm < Reform::Form
  include Composition

  property :title, on: :song
  property :city,  on: :label

  model :song # only needed in ActiveModel context.

  validates :title, :city, presence: true
end

Note that reform needs to know about the owner objects of properties. You can do so by using the on: option.

Also, the form needs to have a main object configured. This is where ActiveModel-methods like #persisted? or ‘#id’ are delegated to. Use ::model to define the main object.

Composition: Setup

The constructor slightly differs.

@form = SongWithLabelForm.new(song: Song.new, label: Label.new)

Composition: Rendering

After you configured your composition in the form, reform hides the fact that you’re actually showing two different objects.

= form_for @form do |f|
  Song:     = f.input :title
  Label in: = f.input :city

Composition: Processing

When using `#save’ without a block reform will use writer methods on the different objects to push validated data to the properties.

Here’s what the block parameters look like.

@form.save do |nested|

  nested #=> {
         #   song:  {title: "Rio"}
         #   label: {city: "London"}
         #   }
end

Coercion

Often you want incoming form data to be converted to a type, like timestamps. Reform uses virtus for coercion, the DSL is seamlessly integrated into Reform with the :type option.

Virtus Coercion

Be sure to add virtus to your Gemfile.

require 'reform/form/coercion'

class SongForm < Reform::Form
  include Coercion

  property :written_at, type: DateTime
end

form.validate("written_at" => "26 September")

Coercion only happens in #validate.

form.written_at #=> <DateTime "2014 September 26 00:00">

Manual Coercing Values

If you need to filter values manually, you can override the setter in the form.

class SongForm < Reform::Form
  property :title

  def title=(value)
    super sanitize(value) # value is raw form input.
  end
end

As with the built-in coercion, this setter is only called in #validate.

Virtual Attributes

Virtual fields come in handy when there’s no direct mapping to a model attribute or when you plan on displaying but not processing a value.

Virtual Fields

Often, fields like password_confirmation should neither be read from nor written back to the model. Reform comes with the :virtual option to handle that case.

class PasswordForm < Reform::Form
  property :password
  property :password_confirmation, virtual: true

Here, the model won’t be queried for a password_confirmation field when creating and rendering the form. When saving the form, the input value is not written to the decorated model. It is only readable in validations and when saving the form manually.

form.validate("password" => "123", "password_confirmation" => "321")

form.password_confirmation #=> "321"

The nested hash in the block-#save provides the same value.

form.save do |nested|
  nested[:password_confirmation] #=> "321"

Read-Only Fields

When you want to show a value but skip processing it after submission the :writeable option is your friend.

class ProfileForm < Reform::Form
  property :country, writeable: false

This time reform will query the model for the value by calling model.country.

You want to use this to display an initial value or to further process this field with JavaScript. However, after submission, the field is no longer considered: it won’t be written to the model when saving.

It is still readable in the nested hash and through the form itself.

form.save do |nested|
  nested[:country] #=> "Australia"

Write-Only Fields

A third alternative is to hide a field’s value but write it to the database when syncing. This can be achieved using the :readable option.

property :credit_card_number, readable: false

Validations From Models

Sometimes when you still keep validations in your models (which you shouldn’t) copying them to a form might not feel right. In that case, you can let Reform automatically copy them.

class SongForm < Reform::Form
  property :title

  extend ActiveModel::ModelValidations
  copy_validations_from Song
end

Note how copy_validations_from copies over the validations allowing you to stay DRY.

This also works with Composition.

class SongForm < Reform::Form
  include Composition
  # ...

  extend ActiveModel::ModelValidations
  copy_validations_from song: Song, band: Band
end

Agnosticism: Mapping Data

Reform doesn’t really know whether it’s working with a PORO, an ActiveRecord instance or a Sequel row.

When rendering the form, reform calls readers on the decorated model to retrieve the field data (Song#title, Song#length).

When syncing a submitted form, the same happens using writers. Reform simply calls Song#title=(value). No knowledge is required about the underlying database layer.

The same applies to saving: Reform will call #save on the main model and nested models.

Nesting forms only requires readers for the nested properties as Album#songs.

Rails Integration

Rails and Reform work together out-of-the-box.

However, you should know about two things.

  1. In case you explicitely don’t want to have automatic support for ActiveRecord or Mongoid and form builder: require reform/form, only.
  2. In some setups around Rails 4 the Form::ActiveRecord module is not loaded properly, usually triggering a NoMethodError saying undefined method 'model'. If that happened to you, require 'reform/rails' manually at the bottom of your config/application.rb.
  3. Mongoid form gets loaded with the gem if Mongoid constant is defined.

ActiveRecord Compatibility

Reform provides the following ActiveRecord specific features. They’re mixed in automatically in a Rails/AR setup.

As mentioned in the Rails Integration section some Rails 4 setups do not properly load.

You may want to include the module manually then.

class SongForm < Reform::Form
  include Reform::Form::ActiveRecord

Mongoid Compatibility

Reform provides the following Mongoid specific features. They’re mixed in automatically in a Rails/Mongoid setup.

You may want to include the module manually then.

class SongForm < Reform::Form
  include Reform::Form::Mongoid

Uniqueness Validation

Both ActiveRecord and Mongoid modules will support “native” uniqueness support from the model class when you use validates_uniqueness_of. They will provide options like :scope, etc.

You’re encouraged to use Reform’s non-writing unique: true validation, though. Learn more

ActiveModel Compliance

Forms in Reform can easily be made ActiveModel-compliant.

Note that this step is not necessary in a Rails environment.

class SongForm < Reform::Form
  include Reform::Form::ActiveModel
end

If you’re not happy with the model_name result, configure it manually via ::model.

class CoverSongForm < Reform::Form
  include Reform::Form::ActiveModel

  model :song
end

::model will configure ActiveModel’s naming logic. With Composition, this configures the main model of the form and should be called once.

This is especially helpful when your framework tries to render cover_song_path although you want to go with song_path.

FormBuilder Support

To make your forms work with all the form gems like simple_form or Rails form_for you need to include another module.

Again, this step is implicit in Rails and you don’t need to do it manually.

class SongForm < Reform::Form
  include Reform::Form::ActiveModel
  include Reform::Form::ActiveModel::FormBuilderMethods
end

Simple Form

If you want full support for simple_form do as follows.

class SongForm < Reform::Form
  include ActiveModel::ModelReflections

Including this module will add #column_for_attribute and other methods need by form builders to automatically guess the type of a property.

Validations For File Uploads

In case you’re processing uploaded files with your form using CarrierWave, Paperclip, Dragonfly or Paperdragon we recommend using the awesome file_validators gem for file type and size validations.

class SongForm < Reform::Form
  property :image

  validates :image, file_size: {less_than: 2.megabytes},
    file_content_type: {allow: ['image/jpeg', 'image/png', 'image/gif']}

Multiparameter Dates

Composed multi-parameter dates as created by the Rails date helper are processed automatically when multi_params: true is set for the date property and the MultiParameterAttributes feature is included. As soon as Reform detects an incoming release_date(i1) or the like it is gonna be converted into a date.

class AlbumForm < Reform::Form
  feature Reform::Form::ActiveModel::FormBuilderMethods
  feature Reform::Form::MultiParameterAttributes

  collection :songs do
    feature Reform::Form::ActiveModel::FormBuilderMethods
    property :title
    property :release_date, :multi_params => true
    validates :title, :presence => true
  end
end

Note that the date will be nil when one of the components (year/month/day) is missing.

Security

By explicitely defining the form layout using ::property there is no more need for protecting from unwanted input. strong_parameter or attr_accessible become obsolete. Reform will simply ignore undefined incoming parameters.

Nesting Without Inline Representers

When nesting form, you usually use a so-called inline form doing property :song do .. end.

Sometimes you want to specify an explicit form rather than using an inline form. Use the form: option here.

property :song, form: SongForm

The nested SongForm is a stand-alone form class you have to provide.

Default Values For Presentation

In case you want to change a value for presentation or provide a default value, override the reader. This is only considered when the form is rendered (e.g. in form_for).

class SongForm < Reform::Form
  property :genre

  def genre
    super || 'Punkrock'
  end
end

This will now be used when rendering the view.

= f.input :genre # calls form.genre which provides default.

Dirty Tracker

Every form tracks changes in #validate and allows to check if a particular property value has changed using #changed?.

form.title => "Button Up"

form.validate("title" => "Just Kiddin'")
form.changed?(:title) #=> true

When including Sync::SkipUnchanged, the form won’t assign unchanged values anymore in #sync.

Deserializing and Population

A form object is just a twin. In validate, a representer is used to deserialize the incoming hash and populate the form twin graph. This means, you can use any representer you like and process data like JSON or XML, too.

Representers can be inferred from the contract automatically using Disposable::Schema. You may then extend your representer with hypermedia, etc. in order to render documents. Check out the Trailblazer book (chapter Hypermedia APIs) for a full explanation.

You can even write your own deserializer code in case you dislike Representable.

class AlbumForm < Reform::Form
  # ..

  def deserialize!(document)
    hash = YAML.parse(document)

    self.title  = hash[:title]
    self.artist = Artist.new if hash[:artist]
  end
end

The decoupling of deserializer and form object is one of the main reasons I wrote Reform 2.

Skipping Properties when Validating

In #validate, you can ignore properties now using :skip_if for deserialization.

property :hit, skip_if: lambda { |fragment, *| fragment["title"].blank? }

This works for both properties and nested forms. The property will simply be ignored when deserializing, as if it had never been in the incoming hash/document.

For nested properties you can use :skip_if: :all_blank as a macro to ignore a nested form if all values are blank.

Note that this still runs validations for the property, though.

Prepopulating Forms

Docs: http://trailblazer.to/gems/reform/prepopulator.html

You can also pass options to #prepopulate.

Only do this for forms that are about to get rendered, though.

Collections and partial collection population is covered in chapter 5.

Populator

Docs: http://trailblazer.to/gems/reform/populator.html

Property Inflections

When rendering a form you might need to access the options you provided to property.

property :title, type: String

You can do this using #options_for.

form.options_for(:title) # => {:readable=>true, :coercion_type=>String}

Note that Reform renames some options (e.g. :type internally becomes :coercion_type). Those names are private API and might be changed without deprecation. You better test rendering logic in a unit test to make sure you’re forward-compatible.

it’s like that: your form gets a minimal set of input, and then transforms that into an object graph. don’t add public properties just to satisfy AR, solve that in the form