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Ruboto (JRuby on Android) is a platform for developing full stand-alone apps for Android using the Ruby language and libraries. It includes support libraries and generators for creating projects, classes, tests, and more. The complete APIs of Android, Java, and Ruby are available to you using the Ruby language.


To use Ruboto you need a Ruby implementation like MRI, JRuby, or Rubinius installed. Using a tool like rvm or pik is recommended.

Then run

$ gem install ruboto

From source

git clone
cd ruboto
rake install

If you are unfamiliar with Ruby gems, you can get more information at


Ruboto offers a setup command to help you with the component installation and configuration:

$ ruboto setup -y

This should install the following tools if not already present:

  • A Java Development Kit (JDK)
  • The Android SDK
  • Apache ANT
  • jruby-jars

  • Add the sdk to the "ANDROID_HOME" environment variable as an absolute path (Java does not expand tildes ~)

  • Add the sdk's tools, build-tools, and platform-tools/ directory to your "PATH" environment variable.


Ruboto offers a command to help you create and run the emulator for a given version (api-level) of Android.

$ ruboto emulator -t android-17

See Emulator for more information on emulators.

Command-line Tools

Application generator

$ ruboto gen app --package com.yourdomain.whatever

You can specify lots of parameters if you don't want the defaults.

$ ruboto gen app --package com.yourdomain.whatever --path path/to/where/you/want/the/app --name NameOfApp --target android-version --min-sdk another-android-version --activity MainActivityName

Version values must be specified using the sdk level number (e.g., 22 is Lollipop). You can prefix with android- (e.g. android-22).

Class generator

Generates a Java class (Activity, Service, or BroadcastReceiver) associated with a specific Ruboto script. The generator also generates a corresponding test script.

$ ruboto gen class ClassName --name YourObjectName

For example:

$ ruboto gen class BroadcastReceiver --name AwesomenessReceiver

Callback generator

You can subclass any part of the Android API to pass control over to a script when the specified methods are called. You can also create classes that implement a single Android interface to pass control over to Ruboto.

Starting with Ruboto 0.6.0 there are easy ways to do this within your scripts. The new way of generating interfaces and subclasses is described in the wiki page Generating classes for callbacks.

Packaging task

This will generate an .apk file:

$ rake debug

To generate an .apk and install it to a connected device (or emulator) all in one go, run:

$ rake install

To start the installed app, run:

$ rake start

You can chain these commands:

$ rake install start

Release task

When you're ready to post your app to the Market, run the release task.

$ rake release

This will generate a keystore for you if it is not already present. It will ask for a password for the keystore and one for the key itself. Make sure that you remember those two passwords, as well as the alias for the key.

Also make sure to keep your key backed up (if you lose it, you won't be able to release updates to your app that can install right over the old versions), but secure.

Now get that .apk to the market!

Updating Your Scripts on a Device

With traditional Android development, you have to recompile your app and reinstall it on your test device/emulator every time you make a change. That's slow and annoying.

Luckily, with Ruboto, most of your changes are in the scripts, not in the compiled Java files. So if your changes are Ruby-only, you can just run

$ rake update_scripts

to have it copy the current version of your scripts to your device. To update the scripts and restart the app in one go, run:

$ rake update_scripts:restart

Sorry if this takes away your excuse to have sword fights:

XKCD Code's Compiling


This only works if your changes are all Ruby. If you have Java changes (which would generally just mean generating new classes) or changes to the xml, you will need to recompile your app. The update_scripts task will revert to build the complete .apk and install it if it detects non-Ruby source changes.

On an actual device, you need to give the WRITE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission to your app, and scripts will be updated using the SDCARD on the device/emulator.

Alternatively, you can also root your phone.

Updating Ruboto's Files

You can update various portions of your generated Ruboto app through the ruboto command:

  • JRuby:

1) If a new version of JRuby is released, you should update your gem (e.g., sudo gem update jruby-jars).

2) From the root directory of your app:

$ ruboto update jruby
  • The Ruboto library files and generated Java source:

1) From the root directory of your app:

$ ruboto update app


The main thing Ruboto offers you is the ability to write Ruby scripts to define the behavior of Activities, BroadcastReceivers, and Services. (Eventually, it'll be every class. It's set up such that adding in more classes should be trivial.)

Here's how it works:

First of all, your scripts are found in the src/ directory, and the script name is the same as the name of your class, only under_scored instead of CamelCased. Android classes have some standard methods that get called in certain situations. Activity.onDestroy() gets called when the activity gets killed, for example. Save weird cases (like the "launching" methods that are needed to set up JRuby), to call the method onFooBar(), you call the Ruby method onFooBar on the Android object.

That was really abstract, so here's an example. You generate an app with the option --activity FooActivity, which means that Ruboto will generate a FooActivity for you. So you open src/foo_activity.rb in your favorite text editor. If you want an activity that does nothing but Log when it gets launched and when it gets destroyed (in the onCreate and onPause methods,) you want your script to look like this:

class FooActivity
  def onCreate(bundle)
    android.util.Log.v 'MYAPPNAME', 'onCreate got called!'

  def onPause
    android.util.Log.v 'MYAPPNAME', 'onPause got called!'

The arguments passed to the methods are the same as the arguments that the Java methods take. Consult the Android documentation for more information.

Activities also have some special methods defined to make things easier. The easiest way to get an idea of what they are is looking over the demo scripts and the tests. You can also read the Ruboto source where everything is defined.

We also have many fine examples on the Wiki.


For each generated class, a Ruby test script is created in the test/src directory. For example, if you generate a RubotoSampleAppActivity, the file test/src/ruboto_sample_app_activity_test.rb is created containing a sample test script:

activity Java::org.ruboto.sample_app.RubotoSampleAppActivity

setup do |activity|
  start =
  loop do
    @text_view = activity.findViewById(42)
    break if @text_view || ( - start > 60)
    sleep 1
  assert @text_view

test('initial setup') do |activity|
  assert_equal "What hath Matz wrought?", @text_view.text

test('button changes text') do |activity|
  button = activity.findViewById(43)
  assert_equal "What hath Matz wrought!", @text_view.text

You can run the tests for your app using ant or rake:

$ rake test

$ cd test ; ant run-tests



Getting Help

  • You'll need to be pretty familiar with the Android API. The Developer Guide and Reference are very useful.
  • There is further documentation at the wiki.
  • If you have bugs or feature requests, please open an issue on GitHub.
  • You can ask questions in #ruboto on and on the mailing list.
  • There are some sample scripts (just Activities) here.

Tips & Tricks


You can start an emulator corresponding to the api level of your project with:

$ ruboto emulator

The emulator will be created for you and will be named after the Android version of your project, like "Android_4.0.3".

If you want to start an emulator for a specific API level use the -t option:

$ ruboto emulator -t 17

If you're doing a lot of Android development, you'll probably find yourself starting emulators a lot. It can be convenient to alias these to shorter commands.

For example, in your ~/.bashrc, ~/.zshrc, or similar file, you might put

alias ics="ruboto emulator -t 15"
alias jellyb="ruboto emulator -t 16"
alias jb17="ruboto emulator -t 17"


If Ruboto's performance is a problem for you, check out Mirah and Garrett.

Mirah is a language with Ruby-like syntax that compiles to Java files. This means that it adds no big runtime dependencies and has essentially the same performance as writing Java code, as it essentially generates the same Java code that you would write. This makes it extremely well-suited for mobile devices where performance is a much bigger consideration.

Garrett is a "playground for Mirah exploration on Android."

Domo Arigato

Thanks go to:

  • Charles Nutter, a member of the JRuby core team, for mentoring this RSoC project and starting the Ruboto project in the first place with an irb.
  • All of Ruby Summer of Code's sponsors.
  • Engine Yard in particular for sponsoring RSoC and heavily sponsoring JRuby, which is obviously critical to the project.
  • All contributors and contributors to the ruboto-irb project, as much of this code was taken from ruboto-irb.