Last Update: 2019-02-19 10:20:44 +0100

Advantages of Shrine

There are many existing file upload solutions for Ruby out there – Paperclip, CarrierWave, Dragonfly, Refile, and Active Storage, to name the most popular ones. This guide will attempt to cover some of the main advantages that Shrine offers compared to these alternatives.


Many alternative file upload solutions are coupled to either Rails (Active Storage) or Active Record itself (Paperclip, Dragonfly). This is not ideal, as Rails-specific solutions fragment the Ruby community between developers that use Rails and developers that don't. There are many great web frameworks (Sinatra, Roda, Cuba, Hanami, Grape) and database libraries (Sequel, ROM, Hanami::Model) out there that people use instead of Rails and Active Record.

Shrine, on the other hand, doesn't make any assumptions about which web framework or ORM you're using. Any web-specific functionality is implemented on top of Rack, the Ruby web server interface that powers all the popular Ruby web frameworks (including Rails). The integrations for specific ORMs are provided as plugins.

# Rack-based plugins
Shrine.plugin :upload_endpoint
Shrine.plugin :presign_endpoint
Shrine.plugin :download_endpoint
Shrine.plugin :derivation_endpoint
Shrine.plugin :rack_response
Shrine.plugin :rack_file

# ORM plugins
Shrine.plugin :activerecord
Shrine.plugin :sequel
Shrine.plugin :mongoid #
Shrine.plugin :hanami #


Shrine was designed with simplicity in mind. Where other solutions favour complex class-level DSLs, Shrine chooses simple instance-level interfaces where you can write regular Ruby code.

There are no CarrierWave::Uploader::Base and Paperclip::Attachment god objects, Shrine has several core classes each with clear responsibilities:

  • Storage classes encapsulate file operations for the underlying service

  • Shrine handles uploads and manages plugins

  • Shrine::UploadedFile repesents a file that was uploaded to a storage

  • Shrine::Attacher handles attaching files to records

  • Shrine::Attachment adds convenience methods to model instances

photo.image          #=> #<Shrine::UploadedFile>  #=> #<Shrine::Storage::S3>
photo.image.uploader #=> #<Shrine>
photo.image_attacher #=> #<Shrine::Attacher>

Special care was taken to make integrating new storages and ORMs possible with minimal amount of code.


Shrine uses a plugin system that allows you to pick and choose the features that you want. Moreover, you're only loading the code for features that you use, which means that Shrine will generally load very fast.

Shrine.plugin :logging

# translates to

require "shrine/plugins/logging"
Shrine.plugin Shrine::Plugins::Logging

Shrine comes with a complete attachment functionality, but it also exposes many low level APIs that can be used for building your own customized attachment flow. For example, if you prefer the Attachment/Blob architecture Active Storage provides, you can ditch the Shrine's attachment implementation and use uploaders and uploaded files that are decoupled from attachment:

uploader      =
uploaded_file = uploader.upload(image) # metadata extraction, upload location generation       #=> "44ccafc10ce6a4ff22829e8f579ee6b9.jpg"
uplaoded_file.metadata #=> { ... extracted metadata ... }

data = uploaded_file.to_json # serialization
# ...
uploaded_file = ImageUploader.uploaded_file(data) # deserialization

uploaded_file.url #=> "https://..." { |tempfile| ... } # streaming download


Shrine is very diligent when it comes to dependencies. It has two mandatory dependencies – Down and ContentDisposition – which are loaded only by components that need them. Some Shrine plugins require additional dependencies, but you only need to load them if you're using those plugins.

Moreover, Shrine often gives you the ability choose between multiple alternative dependencies for doing the same task. For example, the determine_mime_type plugin allows you to choose between the file command, FileMagic, FastImage, MimeMagic, or Marcel gem for determining the MIME type, while the store_dimensions plugin can extract dimensions using FastImage, MiniMagick, or ruby-vips gem.

Shrine.plugin :determine_mime_type, analyzer: :marcel
Shrine.plugin :store_dimensions,    analyzer: :mini_magick

This approach gives you control over your dependencies by allowing you to choose the combination that best suit your needs.


Shrine is designed to handle any types of files. If you're accepting uploads of multiple types of files, such as videos and images, chances are that the logic for handling them will be very different:

  • small images can be processed on-the-fly, but large files should be processed in a background job

  • which storage service is most suitable might depend on the filetype (images, documents, audios, videos)

  • different filetypes have different metadata to extract which require different tools

With Shrine you can create isolated uploaders for each type of file. Plugins that you want to be applied to both uploaders can be applied globally, while other plugins would be loaded only for a specific uploader.

Shrine.plugin :activerecord
Shrine.plugin :logging
class ImageUploader < Shrine
  plugin :store_dimensions
class VideoUploader < Shrine
  plugin :default_storage, store: :vimeo


Most file attachment libraries give you the ability to process files either “on upload” (Paperclip, CarrierWave) or “on-the-fly” (Dragonfly, Refile, Active Storage). Having only one option is not ideal, because some type of files it's more suitable to process on-the-fly (image thumbnails, document previews), while other types of files should be processed in a background job (video transcoding, raw images)

Shrine is the first file attachment library that has support for both processing on upload and on-the-fly. So, if you're handling image uploads, you can choose to either generate a set of pre-defined image thumbnails in a background job:

class ImageUploader < Shrine
  process(:store) do |io|
    versions = { original: io } do |original|
      pipeline = ImageProcessing::MiniMagick.source(original)

      versions[:large]  = pipeline.resize_to_limit!(800, 800)
      versions[:medium] = pipeline.resize_to_limit!(500, 500)
      versions[:small]  = pipeline.resize_to_limit!(300, 300)

#=> ""

or generate thumbnails on-demand:

class ImageUploader < Shrine
  derivation :thumbnail do |file, width, height|
      .resize_to_limit!(width.to_i, height.to_i)
photo.image.derivation_url(:thumbnail, "600", "400")
#=> ".../thumbnail/600/400/eyJpZCI6ImZvbyIsInN0b3JhZ2UiOiJzdG9yZSJ9?signature=..."

Image processing

Many file attachment libraries, such as CarrierWave, Paperclip, Dragonfly and Refile, implement their own image processing macros. Instead of creating yet another in-house implementation, the ImageProcessing gem was created.

Even though the ImageProcessing gem was created for Shrine, it's completely generic and can be used standalone, or in any other file upload library (e.g. Active Storage uses it now as well). It takes care of many details for you, such as auto orienting the input image and sharpening the thumbnails after they are resized.

require "image_processing"

thumbnail = ImageProcessing::MiniMagick
  .resize_to_limit(400, 400)
  .call # convert input.jpg -auto-orient -resize 400x400> -sharpen 0x1 output.jpg

thumbnail #=> #<Tempfile:/var/folders/.../image_processing20180316-18446-1j247h6.png>


Probably the biggest ImageProcessing feature is the support for libvips. libvips is a full-featured image processing library like ImageMagick, with impressive performance characteristics – it's often multiple times faster than ImageMagick and has low memory usage (see Why is libvips quick).

The ImageProcessing::Vips backend implements the same API as ImageProcessing::MiniMagick, so you can easily swap one for the other.

require "image_processing/mini_magick"
require "image_processing/vips"
require "open-uri"

original = open("")

ImageProcessing::MiniMagick.resize_to_fit(800, 800).call(original)
#=> 1.0s

ImageProcessing::Vips.resize_to_fit(800, 800).call(original)
#=> 0.2s (5x faster)

Other processors

Both processing “on upload” and “on-the-fly” work in a way that you define a Ruby block, which accepts a source file and is expected to return a processed file. How you're going to do the processing is entirely up to you.

This allows you to use any tool you want. For example, you could use the image_optim gem to perform additional image optimizations:

class VideoUploader < Shrine
  derivation :thumbnail do |file, width, height|
    thumbnail = ImageProcessing::MiniMagick
      .resize_to_limit!(width, height)

    image_optim =


Metadata & Validation

Shrine automatically extracts metadata from each uploaded file, including derivatives like image thumbnails, and saves them into the database column. In addition to filename, filesize, and MIME type that are extracted by default, you can also extract image dimensions, or your own custom metadata.

photo.image.metadata #=>
# {
#   "size" => 42487494,
#   "filename" => "nature.jpg",
#   "mime_type" => "image/jpeg",
#   "width" => 600,
#   "height" => 400,
#   ...
# }

For common metadata there are already validation macros, but you can also validate any custom metadata.

class DocumentUploader < Shrine
  Attacher.validate do
    # validation macros
    validate_max_size 10*1024*1024
    validate_mime_type_inclusion %W[application/pdf]

    # custom validations
    if get.metadata["page_count"] > 30
      errors << "has too many pages (max is 30)"


In most file upload solutions background processing was an afterthought, which resulted in complex implementations. Shrine was designed with backgrounding feature in mind from day one. It is supported via the backgrounding plugin and can be used with any backgrounding library.

Direct Uploads

Shrine doesn't come with a plug-and-play JavaScript solution for client-side uploads like Refile and Active Storage, but instead it adopts Uppy. Uppy is a modern JavaScript file upload library, which offers support for uploading to AWS S3, to a custom endpoint, or even to a resumable endpoint. It comes with a set of UI components, ranging from a simple status bar to a full-featured dashboard. Since Uppy is maintained by the wide JavaScript community, it's generally a better choice than any homegrown solution.

Shrine provides Rack components for uploads that integrate nicely with Uppy. So, whether you want Uppy to upload directly to your app, or you want to authorize direct uploads to the cloud, Shrine has it streamlined.

Resumable uploads

If your users are uploading large files, flaky internet connections can cause uploads to fail halfway, which can be a frustrating user experience. To fix this problem, Transloadit company has created an open HTTP-based protocol for resumable uploads – tus. There are already countless client and server implementations of the protocol in various languages.

So, if you're expecting large file uploads, you can use Uppy as a JavaScript client and have it upload to Ruby server, then attach uploaded files using the handy Shrine integration. Shrine handles uploads and downloads in a streaming fashion, so you can expect low memory usage.

Alternatively, you can have resumable multipart uploads directly to S3.


It's important to care about security when handling file uploads, and Shrine bakes in many good practices. For starters, it uses a separate “temporary” storage for direct uploads, making it easy to periodically clear uploads that didn't end up being attached and difficult for the attacker to flood the main storage.

File processing and upload to permanent storage is done outside of a database transaction, and only after the file has been successfully validated. The determine_mime_type plugin determines MIME type from the file content (rather than relying on the Content-Type request header), preventing exploits like ImageTragick.

The remote_url plugin requires specifying a :max_size option, which limits the maximum allowed size of the remote file. The Down gem which the remote_url plugin uses will terminate the download early when it realizes it's too large.