Single table inheritance in Rails3

Posted: March 18, 2011 in Rails
Tags: ,

Active Record allows inheritance by storing the name of the class in a column that by default is named “type” (can be changed by overwriting Base.inheritance_column). This means that an inheritance looking like this:

class Company < ActiveRecord::Base; end
class Firm < Company; end
class Client < Company; end
class PriorityClient < Client; end

When you do Firm.create(:name => “37signals”), this record will be saved in the companies table with type = “Firm”. You can then fetch this row again using Company.where(:name => ’37signals’).first and it will return a Firm object.

If you don’t have a type column defined in your table, single-table inheritance won’t be triggered. In that case, it’ll work just like normal subclasses with no special magic for differentiating between them or reloading the right type with find.

Note, all the attributes for all the cases are kept in the same table. Read more: singleTableInheritance

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