This blog is part of our Rails 5 series.

We sometimes need unique and random tokens in our web apps. Here is how we typically build it.

class User < ActiveRecord::Base

  before_create :set_access_token

  private

  def set_access_token
    self.access_token = generate_token
  end

  def generate_token
    loop do
      token = SecureRandom.hex(10)
      break token unless User.where(access_token: token).exists?
    end
  end
end

has_secure_token in Rails 5

Rails 5 has added has_secure_token method to generate a random alphanumeric token for a given column.

class User < ApplicationRecord
  has_secure_token
end

By default, Rails assumes that the attribute name is token. We can provide a different name as a parameter to has_secure_token if the attribute name is not token.

class User < ApplicationRecord
  has_secure_token :password_reset_token
end

The above code assumes that we already have password_reset_token attribute in our model.

>> user = User.new
>> user.save
=> true

>> user.password_reset_token
=> 'qjCbex522DfVEVd5ysUWppWQ'

The generated tokens are URL safe and are of fixed length strings.

Migration helper for generating token

We can also generate migration for token similar to other data types.

$ rails g migration add_auth_token_to_user auth_token:token
class AddAuthTokenToUser < ActiveRecord::Migration[5.0]
  def change
    add_column :users, :auth_token, :string
    add_index :users, :auth_token, unique: true
  end
end

Notice that migration automatically adds index on the generated column with unique constraint.

We can also generate a model with the token attribute.

$ rails g model Product access_token:token
class CreateProducts < ActiveRecord::Migration[5.0]
  def change
    create_table :products do |t|
      t.string :access_token

      t.timestamps
    end
    add_index :products, :access_token, unique: true
  end
end

Model generator also adds has_secure_token method to the model.

class Product < ApplicationRecord
  has_secure_token :access_token
end

Regenerating tokens

Sometimes we need to regenerate the tokens based on some expiration criteria.

In order to do that, we can simply call regenerate_#{token_attribute_name} which would regenerate the token and save it to its respective attribute.

>> user = User.first
=> <User id: 11, name: 'John', email: 'john@example.com',
         token: "jRMcN645BQyDr67yHR3qjsJF",
         password_reset_token: "qjCbex522DfVEVd5ysUWppWQ">

>> user.password_reset_token
=> "qjCbex522DfVEVd5ysUWppWQ"

>> user.regenerate_password_reset_token
=> true

>> user.password_reset_token
=> "tYYVjnCEd1LAXvmLCyyQFzbm"

Beware of race condition

It is possible to generate a race condition in the database while generating the tokens. So it is advisable to add a unique index in the database to deal with this unlikely scenario.