I’m currently working on a rake task where I need to pass in an arbitrary amount of values. I couldn’t even remember at first how to even pass in arguments to a rake task, so let’s cover that first.

For this example we are going to create a file called raketask.rb inside of an empty directory. And inside of that file we can create our first task like so:

desc "A sample task"
task :print_hello do
  puts "hello"

Once you save and close the file we can run rake -T and it will print out a list of tasks that is knows about:

rake print_hello      # A sample task

And we can call this task with the following command:

rake print_hello

Now let’s make another task with an argument:

desc "Say hi"
task :say_hello, [:name] do |t, args|
  puts "Hello #{args.name}"

If we run rake -T again:

rake print_hello      # A sample task
rake say_hello[name]  # Say hi

Unlike command line bash scripts or even calling a ruby script with multiple args you can’t just separate them by spaces in a rake task like this:

ruby my-sample-script.rb arg1 arg2 arg3

Rake task arguments go inside brackets:

rake say_hello[blake]
Hello blake

Now how do we specify multiple arguments? By specifying each one inside of the task declaration:

desc "Two args"
task :two_args, [:fname, :lname] do |t, args|
  puts "Hello #{args.fname} #{args.lname}"

And you can run it by specifying args in a comma separated list (with no spaces!):

rake two_args[blake,erickson]
Hello blake erickson

Now onto the tricky part that I’m still not 100% satisfied with, is how do you pass in an arbitrary amount of arguments to a rake task? For my case I need to pass in a list of values, but I’m not sure how many there will be.

To do this you will not specify the args like we did before inside of the task declaration. The problem with this is now it won’t show the args when running rake -T. So to handle an arbitrary amount of args you can use the args.extras method like so:

desc "Arbitrary args, pass in a comma separated list"
task :arbitrary_args do |t, args|
  puts "There are #{args.extras.count} args"
  args.extras.each do |arg|
    puts arg

Now you can run the arbitrary args command with:

rake arbitrary_args[banana,apple,orange,mango]
There are 4 args

I’m not totally satisfied with specifying an arbitrary amount of arguments this way, but it does get the job done. Hopefully this helps you in your rake task adventures.