🕷 software projects

by ryan davis



ruby project management made simple


Hoe is a rake/rubygems helper for project Rakefiles. It helps you manage, maintain, and release your project and includes a dynamic plug-in system allowing for easy extensibility. Hoe ships with plug-ins for all your usual project tasks including rdoc generation, testing, packaging, deployment, and announcement..

See class rdoc for help. Hint: ri Hoe or any of the plugins listed below.

For extra goodness, see: http://docs.seattlerb.org/hoe/Hoe.pdf

Features & Problems

  • Includes a dynamic plug-in system allowing for easy extensibility.
  • Auto-intuits changes, description, summary, and version.
  • Uses a manifest for safe and secure deployment.
  • Provides ‘sow’ for quick project directory creation.
  • Sow uses a simple ERB templating system allowing you to capture your project patterns.


% sow [group] project

(you can edit a project template in ~/.hoe_template after running sow for the first time)


require 'hoe'

Hoe.spec projectname do
  # ... project specific data ...

# ... project specific tasks ...

Deployment, the DRY way

Hoe focuses on keeping everything in its place in a useful form and intelligently extracting what it needs. As a result, there are no extra YAML files, config directories, ruby files, or any other artifacts in your release that you wouldn’t already have.

Structure Overview



Most projects have a readme file of some kind that describes the project. Hoe projects are no different, but we take them one step further. The readme file points the reader towards all the information they need to know to get started including a description, relevant urls, code synopsis, license, etc. Hoe knows how to read a basic rdoc formatted file to pull out the description (and summary by extension), urls, and extra paragraphs of info you may want to provide in news/blog posts.


Every project should have a document describing changes over time. Hoe can read this file (also in rdoc) and include the latest changes in your announcements.


manifest [noun] a document giving comprehensive details of a ship and its cargo and other contents, passengers, and crew for the use of customs officers.

Every project should know what it is shipping. This is done via an explicit list of everything that goes out in a release. Hoe uses this during packaging so that nothing embarrassing is picked up.

Imagine, you’re a customs inspector at the Los Angeles Port, the world’s largest import/export port. A large ship filled to the brim pulls up to the pier ready for inspection. You walk up to the captain and his crew and ask “what is the contents of this fine ship today” and the captain answers “oh… whatever is inside”. The mind boggles. There is no way in the world that a professionally run ship would ever run this way and there is no way that you should either.

Professional software releases know exactly what is in them, amateur releases do not. “Write better globs” is the response I often hear. I consider myself and the people I work with to be rather smart people and if we get them wrong, chances are you will too. How many times have you peered under the covers and seen .DS_Store, emacs backup~ files, vim vm files and other files completely unrelated to the package? I have far more times than I’d like.


Releases have versions and I’ve found it best for the version to be part of the code. You can use this during runtime in a multitude of ways. Hoe finds your version and uses it automatically during packaging.

Releasing in 1 easy step

% rake release VERSION=x.y.z

That really is all there is to it. Behind the scenes it:

  • Branches the release in our perforce server. (via hoe-seattlerb plugin)
  • Performs sanity checks to ensure the release has integrity. (hoe-seattlerb)
  • Packages into gem and tarballs.
  • Uploads the packages to rubyforge.
  • Posts news of the release to rubyforge and my blog.
  • Sends an announcement email. (hoe-seattlerb)

That VERSION=x.y.z is there as a last-chance sanity check that you know what you’re releasing. You’d be surprised how blurry eyed/brained you get at 3AM. This check helps a lot more than it should.


Hoe has a flexible plugin system that allows you to activate and deactivate what tasks are available on a given project. Hoe has been broken up into plugins partially to make maintenance easier but also to make it easier to turn off or replace code you don’t want.

  • To activate a plugin, add the following to your Rakefile above your Hoe spec:
Hoe.plugin :plugin_name
  • To deactivate a plugin, remove its name from the plugins array:
Hoe.plugins.delete :plugin_name

Again, this must be done before the Hoe spec, or it won’t be useful.

Plug-ins Provided:

  • Hoe::Clean
  • Hoe::Compiler
  • Hoe::Debug
  • Hoe::Deps
  • Hoe::Flay
  • Hoe::Flog
  • Hoe::GemPreludeSucks
  • Hoe::Gemcutter
  • Hoe::Inline
  • Hoe::Newb
  • Hoe::Package
  • Hoe::Publish
  • Hoe::Racc
  • Hoe::RCov
  • Hoe::RubyForge
  • Hoe::Signing
  • Hoe::Test

Known 3rd-Party Plugins:

(You can see a more up-to-date list by running gem list -rd hoe-)

  • hoe-bundler - Generates a Gemfile based on a Hoe’s declared dependencies.
  • hoe-debugging - A Hoe plugin to help you debug your codes.
  • hoe-deveiate - A collection of Rake tasks and utility functions.
  • hoe-doofus - A Hoe plugin that helps me keep from messing up gem releases.
  • hoe-gemcutter - Adds gemcutter release automation to Hoe.
  • hoe-geminabox - Allows you to push your gems to geminabox
  • hoe-gemspec - Generate a prerelease gemspec based on a Hoe spec.
  • hoe-git - A set of Hoe plugins for tighter Git integration.
  • hoe-heroku - Helps you get your stuff on Heroku.
  • hoe-hg - A Hoe plugin for Mercurial integration.
  • hoe-highline - A Hoe plugin for building interactive Rake tasks
  • hoe-manualgen - A manual-generation plugin for Hoe
  • hoe-mercurial - A Hoe plugin for Mercurial integration.
  • hoe-reek - Integrates the reek code smell engine into your hoe projects.
  • hoe-roodi - Integrates the roodi code smell tool into your hoe projects.
  • hoe-rubygems - A Hoe plugin with additional RubyGems tasks.
  • hoe-rubygems - Additional RubyGems tasks.
  • hoe-seattlerb - Minitest, email announcements, release branching.
  • hoe-telicopter - Provides tasks used by hotelicopter.
  • hoe-travis - Allows your gem to gain maximum benefit from http://travis-ci.org.
  • hoe-yard - A Hoe plugin for generating YARD documentation.

Writing Plugins

A plugin can be as simple as:

module Hoe::Thingy
  attr_accessor :thingy

  def initialize_thingy # optional
    self.thingy = 42

  def define_thingy_tasks
    task :thingy do
      puts thingy

Not terribly useful, but you get the idea. This example exercises both plugin methods (initialize_#{plugin} and define_#{plugin}_tasks and adds an accessor method to the Hoe instance.

How Plugins Work

Hoe plugins are made to be as simple as possible, but no simpler. They are modules defined in the Hoe namespace and have only one required method (define_#{plugin}_tasks) and one optional method (initialize_#{plugin}). Plugins can also define their own methods and they’ll be available as instance methods to your hoe-spec. Plugins have 4 simple phases:


When Hoe is loaded the last thing it does is to ask rubygems for all of its plugins. Plugins are found by finding all files matching “hoe/*.rb” via installed gems or $LOAD_PATH. All found files are then loaded.


All of the plugins that ship with hoe are activated by default. This is because they’re providing the same functionality that the previous Hoe was and without them, it’d be rather useless. Other plugins should be “opt-in” and are activated by:

Hoe.plugin :thingy

Put this above your hoe-spec. All it does is add :thingy to Hoe.plugins. You could also deactivate a plugin by removing it from Hoe.plugins although that shouldn’t be necessary for the most part.

Please note that it is not a good idea to have a plugin you’re writing activate itself. Let developers opt-in, not opt-out. Just because someone needs the :thingy plugin on one project doesn’t mean they need them on all their projects.


When your hoe-spec is instantiated, it extends itself all known plugin modules. This adds the method bodies to the hoe-spec and allows for the plugin to work as part of the spec itself. Once that is over, activated plugins have their optional define initialize_#{plugin} methods called. This lets them set needed instance variables to default values. Finally, the hoe-spec block is evaluated so that project specific values can override the defaults.

Task Definition

Finally, once the user’s hoe-spec has been evaluated, all activated plugins have their define_#{plugin}_tasks method called. This method must be defined and it is here that you’ll define all your tasks.

Get The Code

If you just want to use hoe, you can install it via RubyGems:
gem install hoe
Fork me on GitHub If you want to hack on hoe, clone it from GitHub:
git clone git://github.com/seattlerb/hoe

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