Trevor Turk

A chess-playing machine of the late 18th century, promoted as an automaton but later proved a hoax.

Easy Upload via URL with Paperclip

I've been using Paperclip to handle file uploads lately, and I wanted to be able to accept file "uploads" with a URL. We already knew how to accomplish this with attachment_fu, and getting it working in Paperclip wasn't too difficult. This example shows a Photo model that has an Image attachment. The technique we're using requires adding a *_remote_url (string) column for your attachment, which is used to store the original URL. So, in this case, we need to add a column named image_remote_url the photos table.
# db/migrate/20081210200032_add_image_remote_url_to_photos.rb

class AddImageRemoteUrlToPhotos < ActiveRecord::Migration
  def self.up
    add_column :photos, :image_remote_url, :string

  def self.down
    remove_column :photos, :image_remote_url
Nothing special is required for the controller...
# app/controllers/photos_controller.rb

class PhotosController < ApplicationController
  def create
    @photo =[:photo])
      redirect_to photos_path
      render :action => 'new'
In the form, we a add a text_field called :image_url, so people can upload a file or provide a URL...
# app/views/photos/new.html.erb

<%= error_messages_for :photo %>
<% form_for :photo, :html => { :multipart => true } do |f| %>
  Upload a photo: <%= f.file_field :image %>
...or provide a URL: <%= f.text_field :image_url %>
<%= f.submit 'Submit' %> <% end %>
The meaty stuff is in the Photo model. We need to require open-uri, add an attr_accessor :image_url, and do the normal has_attached_file stuff. Then, we add a before_validation callback to download the file in the image_url attribute (if provided) and save the original URL as image_remote_url. Finally, we do a validates_presence_of :image_remote_url, which allows us to rescue from the many exceptions that can be raised when attempting to download the file.
# app/models/photo.rb

require 'open-uri'

class Photo < ActiveRecord::Base
  attr_accessor :image_url
  has_attached_file :image # etc...
  before_validation :download_remote_image, :if => :image_url_provided?

  validates_presence_of :image_remote_url, :if => :image_url_provided?, :message => 'is invalid or inaccessible'
  def image_url_provided?
  def download_remote_image
    self.image = do_download_remote_image
    self.image_remote_url = image_url
  def do_download_remote_image
    io = open(URI.parse(image_url))
    def io.original_filename; base_uri.path.split('/').last; end
    io.original_filename.blank? ? nil : io
  rescue # catch url errors with validations instead of exceptions (Errno::ENOENT, OpenURI::HTTPError, etc...)
Everything will work as normal, including the creation of thumbnails, etc. Plus, since we're doing all of the hard stuff in the model, "uploading" a file via URL works from within script/console as well:
$ script/console
Loading development environment (Rails 2.2.2)
>> => '')
=> #
Sweet. Update: The example code has been updated to reflect thew suggestions left in the comments. The original_filename method is now defined on the fly. Thanks for the feedback! I've also split out a new method called do_download_remote_image, which can be used for stubbing out in tests with mocha:

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