Plough => Ruby

Journey through ruby

Removing a Method in Ruby

There are several ways of adding a method to a ruby class (or instance), for example, define_method, method_missing, or by just opening up the class itself.

However, can we remove the methods from a Ruby class?

I encountered two ways of removing methods from a class:

There are subtle differences between the two. The former removes the method from the current class, where as the latter, stops responding to the methods in the current class.

Let’s look at an example for the same. Imagine we have a parent class, Appliance (a.k.a Kitchen Appliance), and child class, Can opener. Here are the definitions for the two classes:

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class Appliance
  def name
   puts "I'm a kitchen appliance"
  end
end

class CanOpener < Appliance
  def name
    puts "I'm a can opener"
  end
end

Now, let’s try remove_method and see what happens.

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can_opener = CanOpener.new
can_opener.name

class CanOpener
  remove_method :name
end

can_opener.name
puts "Can Opener has a name? #{can_opener.respond_to?(:name)}"   

This will produce the following output:

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I'm a can opener
I'm a kitchen appliance
Can Opener has a name? true

As soon as you remove a method from a class it treats the method as undefined and goes up the ancestor chain to look for an implementation, which it finds in the parent class. Since, there’s an implementation respond_to returns true.

However, undef_method works slightly differently and let’s see how:

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class Appliance
  def name
   puts "I'm a kitchen appliance"
  end
end

class CanOpener < Appliance
  def name
    puts "I'm a can opener"
  end
end

can_opener = CanOpener.new
can_opener.name

class CanOpener
  undef_method :name
end
 
puts "Can Opener has a name? #{can_opener.respond_to?(:name)}"
can_opener.name

This will produce the following output:

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I'm a can opener
Can Opener has a name? true
/tmp/execpad-f7201e261f52/source-f7201e261f52:21:in `<main>': undefined method `name' for #<CanOpener:0x41017dcc> (NoMethodError)

Unlike remove_method, undef_method stops responding to the method and doesn’t travel up the ancestor chain. It totally disregards the method implementation in the parent class.

Quite interesting, however, I’ve never seen it used in any of the production code before, so, hopefully, I will find a good use case for it soon.