Update: Please check updated changes here.

In some client projects, I found that there was one common requirement: setting a primary or default flag for models like EmailAddress, PhoneNumber, Address, etc. which belong to User/Person model or polymorphic model.

I found that in those projects, I had added almost the same backend code which worked pretty good. I wanted to create a gem for this but didn’t work on it. Just recently I added the same code in another project, and then I decided to create a gem for it so other developers can use it if they have similar requirements.

Yesterday on Christmas :christmas_tree: day, I had released that set_as_primary gem.

Let’s see how to use this gem in the Rails application.



Add this line to your application’s Gemfile:

gem 'set_as_primary'

And then execute:



If your table does not have the primary flag column, then you can add it by running following command in your rails project:

rails generate set_as_primary your_table_name

If you run above command for email_addresses table, then it creates migration like this:

class AddPrimaryColumnToEmailAddresses < ActiveRecord::Migration[6.0]
  def change
    add_column :email_addresses, :primary, :boolean, default: false, null: false

Don’t forget to run rails db:migrate to create an actual column in the table.


class User < ApplicationRecord
  has_many :email_addresses
  has_many :addresses, as: :owner

class EmailAddress < ApplicationRecord
  include SetAsPrimary
  belongs_to :user

  set_as_primary :primary, owner_key: :user

class Address < ApplicationRecord
  include SetAsPrimary
  belongs_to :owner, polymorphic: true

  set_as_primary :primary, owner_key: :owner

You need to include SetAsPrimary module in your model where you want to handle the primary flag. Then to set_as_primary class helper method, pass your primary flag attribute with required association key owner_key.

NOTE: Default primary flag attribute is primary, and you can use another one too like default but make sure that flag should be present in the table and should be a boolean column type.

Please make sure once again that you have added these settings correctly. Once you do that, your application should work properly for handling primary flag.

force_primary option:

class Address < ApplicationRecord
  include SetAsPrimary
  belongs_to :user

  set_as_primary :default, owner_key: :user, force_primary: false

By default force_primary option is set to true. If this option is true, then it automatically sets record as primary when there is only one record in the table. If you don’t want this flow, then set it as false.


This gem only supports backend code. You need to handle your frontend part based on your requirement. Based on my knowledge, there are two ways to handle the frontend part.

  1. Using Non-JavaScript form: That means, you might have a parent form for a user object and it accepts nested attributes for email addresses/phone numbers, or you might have separate email addresses/phone numbers form for a user. This can be done by composing your form like this blog post. Based on that blog, I have created similar Rails application (see it in action) for this gem. You can find its complete code here.

  2. Using JavaScript (or using Ajax): You might have a single long-form with nested attributes with one Submit button. Or you can have an implicit edit functionality for nested attributes for email addresses/phone numbers. For more information on these, please take a look at this blog post and this Cocoon gem.

Try out this gem and let me now your feedback. If you find any issues with this gem, please raise an issue here https://github.com/mechanicles/set_as_primary/issues.

Happy coding :)