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How to add sample data to a Rails application

Often times when developing an application we want to have sample data in our database. We could do this with rails console and using our models to create instances of models. However, this is not repeatable and we often forget how we created this sample data.

An alternative is to create a rails task to use the same commands from rails console but in a repeatable way.

Step 1: Create a rails task

rails generate task sampledata:load

This will create a file lib/tasks/sampledata that looks like this:

namespace :sampledata do
desc "TODO"
task load: :environment do

Step 2: Update the task

Change the "TODO" to a descriptive entry such as "Loads sample data into the database"

Step 3: Add your sample data creation code

Inside the task ... do block add your code such as:

restaurant = Restaurant.create!(name: "Ultimate Tacos", location: "123 Main Street")

NOTE we are using create! to get an exception and stop if there is any validation error. Otherwise, we might overlook data that is not created due to validation errors.

Step 4: Run the task

This will run that task and create any of the data the script creates

rails sampledata:load

Step 5: Clear the database if needed

To clear any existing data before running your sample data load you can do this:

rails db:schema:load

Step 6: Use Faker to generate fake data

The Faker library can be used to generate fake data

bundle add faker

Now we can use code such as Faker::StarWars.character, or to generate fake data.

restaurant = Restaurant.create!(name:, location: Faker::Address.full_address)

Step 7: Supply sample images to models that use ActiveStorage

Using a local file

If our Restaurant model has an attached image we can supply it like this:

restaurant = Restaurant.create!(name:, location: Faker::Address.full_address)
restuarant.image.attach(filename: "pic.png", io:"public/pic.png")))

This assumes the picture is in our public folder and is named pic.png

Using a file directly from the internet

What if we want to use a placeholder image service?

If we add the down gem to our Gemfile we can write code such as:

restaurant = Restaurant.create!(name:, location: Faker::Address.full_address)
restuarant.image.attach(filename: "pic.png", io:""))

This will use the service to pull a random image and supply it as our restaurant image.