alias vs alias_method

It comes up very often. Should I use alias or alias_method . Lets take a look at them in a bit detail.

Usage of alias

class User

  def full_name
    puts "Johnnie Walker"
  end

  alias name full_name
end

User.new.name #=>Johnnie Walker

Usage of alias_method

class User

  def full_name
    puts "Johnnie Walker"
  end

  alias_method :name, :full_name
end

User.new.name #=>Johnnie Walker

First difference you will notice is that in case of alias_method we need to use a comma between the “new method name” and “old method name”.

alias_method takes both symbols and strings as input. Following code would also work.

alias_method 'name', 'full_name'

That was easy. Now lets take a look at how scoping impacts usage of alias and alias_method .

Scoping with alias

class User

  def full_name
    puts "Johnnie Walker"
  end

  def self.add_rename
    alias_method :name, :full_name
  end
end

class Developer < User
  def full_name
    puts "Geeky geek"
  end
  add_rename
end

Developer.new.name #=> 'Gekky geek'

In the above case method “name” picks the method “full_name” defined in “Developer” class. Now lets try with alias.

class User

  def full_name
    puts "Johnnie Walker"
  end

  def self.add_rename
    alias :name :full_name
  end
end

class Developer < User
  def full_name
    puts "Geeky geek"
  end
  add_rename
end

Developer.new.name #=> 'Johnnie Walker'

With the usage of alias the method “name” is not able to pick the method “full_name” defined in Developer.

This is because alias is a keyword and it is lexically scoped. It means it treats self as the value of self at the time the source code was read . In contrast alias_method treats self as the value determined at the run time.

Overall my recommendation would be to use alias_method. Since alias_method is a method defined in class Module it can be overridden later and it offers more flexibility.