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Published January 24, 2021 Updated October 10, 2023
Ruby Version Managers

When working in Ruby — or any language for that matter — using a version manager for jumping between installed versions is wise. Though I’ll point out several version managers, I’ll focus this article on two in particular: Frum and chruby.


Before we discuss Ruby version managers, I want to highlight the importance of defining a global and local versions. This article will assume you are on macOS and using both Bash and Homebrew. If not, the syntax shouldn’t be difficult to translate for your own shell.

First and foremost, you’ll want to populate $HOME/.ruby-version with the latest version of Ruby. Run the following to set this up by replacing 3.0.0 with whatever is the most current version of Ruby:

printf "%s\n" "3.0.0" > "$HOME/.ruby-version"

Having a global version set to the latest version of Ruby via $HOME/.ruby-version allows you to work with modern Ruby at a global level while being able to use specific versions for each project using their own .ruby-version file which takes precedence over the global version. Now you have maximum flexibility to automatically switch versions when moving between different projects. 🎉

OK, now we are ready to talk about Ruby version managers.


Frum is written in Rust and is fast, minimal, and simple to use.


To install and configure frum, you’ll only need to run the following Bash code from your terminal:

brew install frum
printf "%s\n" 'FRUM_DIR="$HOME/.cache/frum"' >> "$HOME/.bashrc"
printf "%s\n" 'eval "$(frum init)"' >> "$HOME/.bashrc"
exec $SHELL

💡 By default, Frum will use $HOME/.frum for managing your Ruby versions which is why I added FRUM_DIR="$HOME/.cache/frum" to my $HOME/.bashrc in order to adhere to the XDG specification and keep my Dotfiles clean.


Usage is straightforward:

frum install --list   # List available Ruby versions for install.
frum versions         # List currently installed Ruby versions.
frum install 3.0.2    # Install a specific Ruby version.
frum local 3.0.0      # Switch, locally, to specific version within current directory.
frum global 3.1.0     # Switch, globally, to specific version.
frum uninstall 2.7.0  # Uninstall a specific version.


In case you are like me and don’t like to type a lot, the following aliases are a great way to speed up your workflow:

alias rb="frum"
alias rbd="frum global"
alias rbl="frum versions"
alias rbs="frum local"
alias rbu="frum uninstall"


In addition to aliases, I use a single function for installing Ruby. When coupled with Homebrew, this helps to ensure Ruby is built with a modern version of OpenSSL along with additional options such as building a shared library for integration with programs like Vim and disabling silent rules which might cause Ruby to not build correctly.

# Label: Ruby Install
# Description: Install a specific version with safe defaults.
# Parameters: $1 (required) - Version.
rbi() {
  local version="$1"

  frum install "$version" \
               --with-openssl-dir="$(brew --prefix openssl)" \
               --enable-shared \

💡 Should you forget the options used to build Ruby, you can ask Ruby directly via this one liner:

ruby -e 'RbConfig::CONFIG["configure_args"].split.each(&method(:puts))' | tr -d "'"

# Output:

Past Versions

The situation gets tricky when you need to install older versions of Ruby. When an install fails, you should see warnings and/or errors in the output. Look for -W flags and added them to your CFLAGS export. Usually, that’ll do it but sometimes you have to use Ruby build flags as well. Anyway, examples might be of interest.


CFLAGS="-DUSE_FFI_CLOSURE_ALLOC -Wno-error=implicit-function-declaration -Wno-deprecated-non-prototype" \
PKG_CONFIG_PATH="$(brew --prefix openssl@1.1)/lib/pkgconfig" \
frum install 3.0.6 \
             --with-openssl-dir=$(brew --prefix openssl@1.1) \
             --with-readline-dir="$(brew --prefix readline)"
             --enable-shared \


CFLAGS="-DUSE_FFI_CLOSURE_ALLOC -Wno-error=implicit-function-declaration" \
PKG_CONFIG_PATH="$(brew --prefix openssl@1.1)/lib/pkgconfig" \
frum install 2.6.6 \
             --with-openssl-dir=$(brew --prefix openssl@1.1) \
             --enable-shared \

Last Resort

As a last resort, you can fallback to Ruby Install (mentioned below) as a workaround. For example, say you want to use Ruby 3.0.6 with Frum, then you could do this:

ruby-install ruby-3.0.6 -- --with-openssl-dir=/opt/homebrew/opt/openssl@1.1 --enable-shared --disable-silent-rules

cp -R ~/.rubies/ruby-3.0.6 ~/.cache/frum/versions/3.0.6

A few key points to the above:

  • Ruby Install allows you to compile and install Ruby.

  • You’ll need an older version of OpenSSL when using older Ruby versions.

  • You must copy, not move, the installed Ruby version due to hard file links in order to work with Frum.

⚠️ You might be prompted for a PEM passphrase due to the above install needing to install and build the Debug gem in order to finish. If you hit ENTER, the install should succeed but your mileage may vary.


To sum up everything discussed thus far, all commands can be executed with only a few keystrokes now:

rbl        # List currently installed Ruby versions.
rbi 3.0.2  # Install a specific Ruby version.
rbs 3.0.0  # Switch to a specific version within current directory.
rbd 3.0.0  # Make Version 3.0.0 the default version globally.
rbu 2.7.0  # Uninstall a specific version.


chruby is written in Bash and a tool I’ve used for years. The documentation for chruby is straightforward but I’ll walk you through how I’ve used it in case my experience is helpful.


To setup and use chruby, you’ll need Ruby Install for installing various Ruby versions. Within your terminal, run the following Bash code:

brew install chruby
brew install ruby-install
ruby-install "ruby-3.0.0"

Ruby Install, by the way, is a specialized tool for installing different versions of Ruby. While Frum has this functionality baked in, what’s nice about Ruby Install — or Frum — is you don’t have to wait for any updates to frum, chruby or ruby-install in order to download and install a Ruby version. As long as the Ruby core team has published a versioned download, you’re good to go!


Now that both chruby and Ruby Install are on your machine, you only need to teach your shell how to auto-switch Ruby versions when you change into a directory that has a .ruby-version file. To do that, you’ll want to add this to your .bashrc file:

if [[ -r "$HOMEBREW_PREFIX/opt/chruby/share/chruby/" ]]; then
  source "$HOMEBREW_PREFIX/opt/chruby/share/chruby/"
  source "$HOMEBREW_PREFIX/opt/chruby/share/chruby/"

💡 For further details on auto-switching, see the associated chruby documentation.


Using chruby is straightforward. First, for a list of all currently installed Ruby versions, type:


Then depending on your system, you should see a list like the following:

* ruby-3.0.0

Your current version of Ruby will have an asterisk. To switch to a different version, run the following:

# Long
chruby ruby-2.7.2

# ...or...

# Short
chruby 2.7.2

And there you have it, that simple.


The following aliases are a great way to speed up your workflow:

alias rb="chruby"
alias rbi="ruby-install"

Now I can list Ruby versions, change to a new Ruby version, or install a new version of Ruby as follows:

# List Ruby versions.

# Switch to a specific Ruby version.
rb 3.0.0

# Install a specific Ruby version.
rbi ruby-3.0.0


Should frum or chruby not be your cup of tea, here are a few other version managers to be aware of:

  • rtx: This program aims to be a version manager for any language, is written in Rust, and is compatible with XDG. This is also a relatively new entrant in the ecosystem so your mileage might vary since it’s a multi-use tool and all of the complications that might come with that.

  • asdf - Similar in nature to rtx in that it works for any language but is written in JavaScript. For Ruby, that means installing the Ruby plugin via: asdf plugin-add ruby. Unfortunately, asdf suffers the same problems as RVM in that it tries to do too much. I’d rather my tools be specialized to do one thing really well.

  • rbenv - Aiming to be a lighter weight version of RVM, rbenv succeeds for the most part. It does require the use of shims to jump between versions, which does require extra maintenance.

  • RVM - One of the first — and worst — version managers to hit the scene. RVM is way more complicated than it needs to be in terms of install, setup, and gem management. I would avoid using this, if possible, to save yourself from debugging headaches.


Should you need further examples of setting up a version manager, configuring your machine, or machine automation in general, make sure to check out my Dotfiles and/or macOS Configuration projects for a deeper dive.

I hope this article has convinced you that a lighter and simpler version manager can improve your workflow and that you really can type less and do more. Enjoy!