Getting started with rbenv

If you are struggling to get rbenv working on your machine, then I believe you landed in the right place: here I’m sharing some gotchas I had while setting up rbenv on Mac OS X 10.9.3.

First of all, make sure you remove RVM completely. It’s not compatible with rbenv.

rm -r ~/.rvm

Remove it from your $PATH as well.

I’m using fish shell, that has its own quirks, such as it doesn’t have a export command to export variables to $PATH. Instead it uses set. E.g.:


For example, in order to call rbenv, I set up my $PATH this way:

set -u fish_user_paths $fish_user_paths ~/.rbenv/bin

Fish also handles things a bit differently. If you are using it, you’ll probably be burned by the fact it doesn’t understand the $ function that in POSIX shells creates a sub shell. Fortunately I managed to find a fix for that: see this article. Basically it says you need to add this code to your file:

set -gx RBENV_ROOT /usr/local/var/rbenv
. (rbenv init -|psub)

But pay attention and make sure you understand what’s going on here. Actually the code above didn’t work for me, as the installation path of my rbenv was different. If you installed rbenv with git clone, the right code is:

set -gx RBENV_ROOT ~/.rbenv
. (rbenv init -|psub)

In fish it’s also possible (albeit not recommended) to use the file in order to set the $PATH variable permanently. You can do it with (e.g.):

set -x PATH ~/.rbenv/shims /usr/local/bin /usr/bin /bin $PATH

A big gotcha here is to have ~/.rbenv/shims before /bin and /usr/bin, otherwise the shell will load the system’s Ruby first (and you don’t want to use the system’s Ruby for your projects).

To ensure I was using the right Ruby version, I moved the system Ruby away, in /tmp. Of course you need to sudo for that:

sudo mv /usr/bin/ruby /tmp

Another super important thing is: NEVER EVER install gems using sudo. If you do that you’re going to have serious problems/conflicts and weird errors in your shell. Do yourself a favour by installing things in your home (~) and avoiding sudo at all costs. Always.

A good thing to do for ensuring you are going down the right path is to use which: which rbenv, which ruby and which gem will tell you if you actually have your stuff in the right place (that is the .rbenv/shims on your home folder).

At this stage you may be able to install Ruby (you need the ruby-build plugin for that). Run:

rbenv install -l

The command above will give you a list of all the available rubies to install. Run, for example:

rbenv install 2.1.2
rbenv rehash

The above will install Ruby 2.1.2 into ~/.rbenv/versions and will rebuild your shim files. Note that you need to run rbenv rehash every time after you install a version of Ruby.

Another useful command is:

rbenv global

This tells you which version of Ruby you have. It may differ from what ruby -v says to you, and if that’s your case, you’ll probably want to check your $PATH.

Hopefully that’s enough for getting you started with rbenv. Enjoy!

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