Created: 2008-03-01 04:58
Updated: 2017-07-25 13:13
License: mit


Stickshift is a simple, manual-instrumenting call-tree profiler in as few lines of code as possible.


The idea is to be as minimally intrusive as possible, but also to be stupid simple and manual. You tell stickshift to only instrument the methods you want, and it measures time spent in that method, as well as any time spent in any instrumented methods invoked by the method. After leaving the top-most method, a call tree with timings is dumped to $stdout.

Note: You aren't allowed to instrument methods on the String class, or any object's #inspect method, because it can generate a recursive loop! For fine-grained profiling on any arbitrary class, use profiler or ruby-prof instead. You're also not allowed to instrument an instrumented method.


Consider the following Rakefile:

task :sleep => :snooze do
  sleep 1
task :snooze do
  sleep 2
task :default => :sleep

require 'stickshift'
::Rake::Application.instrument :top_level
::Rake::Application.instrument :[], :with_args => 0
::Rake::Task.instrument :invoke, :execute, :inspect_self => true

Running 'rake' will produce the following output. Method self time is shown along the left, while method total time is at the end of each line.

   0ms >  Rake::Application#top_level < 3001ms
   0ms >    Rake::Application#[]("default") < 0ms
   0ms >    Rake::Task#invoke{<Rake::Task default => [sleep]>} < 3001ms
   0ms >      Rake::Application#[]("sleep") < 0ms
   0ms >      Rake::Application#[]("snooze") < 0ms
2000ms >      Rake::Task#execute{<Rake::Task snooze => []>} < 2000ms
1000ms >      Rake::Task#execute{<Rake::Task sleep => [snooze]>} < 1000ms
   0ms >      Rake::Task#execute{<Rake::Task default => [sleep]>} < 0ms


Stickshift adds a method named #instrument to the Module class that instruments methods in the receiver module or class.

It accepts one or more method names, and an optional trailing hash of options:

  • :label => "label" gives the instrumented method a custom label instead of the default "Class#method" label.
  • :with_args => 0 causes the first argument to the method to be included in the label. Ranges can also be used.
  • :inspect_self => true causes the inspected object to be printed in the label.
  • :top_level => true causes Stickshift to only be activated after passing through this method. If any other non-top-level instrumented method is called outside of a top-level method, it will not be timed or reported.

#uninstrument and #uninstrument_all methods are also available if you wish to disable instrumentation.


  • Stickshift.enabled (default true) controls whether Stickshift is on or not.
  • Stickshift.output (default $stdout) controls where output is written. The object must respond to #puts(*lines).
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