XAO::Web - XAO Web Developer, dynamic content building suite


XAO::Web is a part of XAO open source web services suite. It allows to build dynamic web content using data, templates and external input (for an overview of the templating system please refer to XAO::DO::Web::Page description).

The distinguishing feature of XAO::Web is in its modular design where almost every aspect of functionality can be altered and alterations can be re-used. No complex code is embedded in the templates which allows to upgrade code and templates separately or maintain multiple visual representations of the same functionality at the same time.

Aside from that most interesting features of XAO::Web are:

  • Perl code is not mixed with templates. Templates can be normal HTML files if no processing is required.

  • A specific site can replace or modify standard XAO::Web objects if required by overriding or extending their methods. You do not need to re-implement entire object to make a site specific change. In case of a system object upgrade or bug fix there is no need to alter site-specific changes normally.

  • Site can create any extension objects or embed third-party extensions as well.

  • One server can serve arbitrary number of XAO::Web sites each with however extended functionality without creating any conflicts. That includes different modifications to the system objects for different sites.

  • Not limited to Web environment, allows to build any dynamic content -- content of mail messages or reports for instance.

  • Works with CGI, mod_perl, or PSGI.

  • If used in mod_perl or PSGI mode improves performance by using caching of configuration, parsed templates, database handlers and so on.

  • XAO::Web is by default integrated with XAO::FS (see XAO::FS) as a database layer, but this is not a requrement -- if for any reason a different database must be used for a site it can be easily and gracefully achieved.

  • Hosting providers can allow their customers to build very complex sites without allowing them to execute arbitrary code, by allowing to modify only templates.


In most cases it should be enough to declare a dependency on XAO::Web in your project's 'cpanfile'.

For a manual installation download an archive from a CPAN server near you or use download links on and then install it in the usual way:

  perl Makefile.PL
  make test
  sudo make install

When you run "perl Makefile.PL" you will be asked for XAO::Web test database. That database is only used when you do `make test' and it has to exist. It does not matter what is inside the database, it will be completely wiped out for each test case. Normally the database should be the same that you have used for XAO::FS tests and in case of MySQL it is usually 'test' or 'test_fs'.

The directory where templates get installed is the same that you gave to XAO::Base when you installed it. Normally that directory is /opt/xao -- we will assume that for the rest of the document.


You are almost there. Now is the time to try it!

In addition to reading this manual (or instead of reading it if you feel too adventurous today) you can look at the generic site setup in the misc/samplesite/ directory of the distribution archive. The sample site also provides a very useful template to start any project with!

Configure your Apache server so that it would execute /opt/xao/handlers/ when someone types URL like Here is an example of a virtual host configuration for that (or you can simply sym-link to your existing cgi-bin directory if you have one):

  ScriptAlias  /cgi-bin/ /opt/xao/handlers/

After you configure and re-start your web-server point your browser at -- you should be able to see the default page template processed by XAO::Web. If you do not see it -- you might want to look into apache error log, usually there is some additional information there.

In the URL you used to look at the default page includes 'mysite' as a site name. In this case it can be anything you want, nothing depends on the name because your site does not yet have any specific templates, objects or configuration. We will get back to customizing your site later.

The URL above looks bad and it exposes internal components - cgi-bin, site name, etc. In production it is typically better to use mod_perl or PSGI handlers to deal with that (see Apache::XAO and Plack::App::XAO).

In development an easy way to make the URL prettier (and matching production) is by using Apache's mod_rewrite module. Here is how:

  <Directory /opt/xao/handlers>
   Options ExecCGI
   SetHandler cgi-script

  RewriteEngine on
  RewriteRule   ^/images/(.*)$  \
                /opt/xao/projects/mysite/images/$1  \
  RewriteRule   ^/(.*)$  \
                /opt/xao/handlers/$1  \

That leaves everything in /images/ to be processed by the web server in the usual way and maps everything else to XAO::Web handler. Restart Apache and try going to just now -- you should see the same default page as before.

That is it, if you got so far your installation of XAO::Web works fine and you can move on to actually building a custom web site.


Before you go any further it is recommended that you keep cgi-bin configuration sample from the examples above as opposed to mod_perl. Mod_perl development has its own peculiarities related to caching of modules and content and you can get back to that later. Cgi-bin based configurations are usually much easier to develop and debug.

Here is a couple of steps to start the development of a new site.

  1. Choose a name for your site. It have to start with a lowercase letter and may contain letters, digits and underscore signs. Let's assume you've chosen "mysite" as a name.

  2. Create a sub-directory in /opt/xao/projects with the name of your site (/opt/xao/projects/mysite in our case). This directory is the home directory of your site. Everything else below is relative to that directory. For simplicity you might want to sym-link that directory into your home directory.

  3. Create a sub-directory named 'objects'. Place a configuration file called '' inside of it. There is a couple of requrements for that file:

    • Package name have to be 'XAO::DO::Config'.

    • Usually it defines an init() method that will initialize site configuration. In mod_perl environment that method will be called only once when the site is initialized for the first time. That means that init() is a good place to open connection to a database and it is recommended to do that as most of XAO modules require database connection to work properly.

    Here is an example of configuration module for "mysite" site:

     # Configuration for mysite
     package XAO::DO::Config;
     use strict;
     use XAO::Objects;
     # Inheritance from the system Config object
     use base XAO::Objects->load(objname => 'Config', baseobj => 1);
     # Site configuration values. A lot of stuff can be stored here for
     # different modules, base_url is not required, but recommended.
     my %data=(
         base_url        => "",
         base_url_secure => "",
     # Initializing configuration object for our site
     sub init {
         my $self=shift;
         # Creating a database configuration object and embedding it into our
         # configuration, see below for explanation
         my $fsconfig = XAO::Objects->new(
                objname  => 'FS::Config',
                odb_args => {
                    dsn       => 'OS:MySQL_DBI:test_fs',
                    user      => 'test',
                    password  => 'test',
         $self->embed(fs => $fsconfig);
         # Storing configuration into embedded hash
         # And finally calling base class' init() method

    For the more detailed description of `embedding' and initialization process in general please refer to XAO::DO::Config.

  4. At that point you should already be able to see your new site in your browser. Just point it to or just depending on your Apache configuration.

    But in order to do something useful you normally need to create one more directory - 'templates'. That directory will contain all templates of your site and unless you use some extended features of XAO::Web the layout of files in this directory directly translates into URIs.

    Nothing else is used by XAO::Web and usually you would also create directories like 'images' or 'static'; put your site to CVS version control or make some kind of installation tools for it. It is all up to you.

This is it. Try placing an index.html file into your 'templates' directory and go to browser to check how it appears.


Andrew Maltsev -- --

XAO::Web was created and is maintained by Andrew Maltsev. Creating of XAO::Web would not be possible without valuable comments and ideas from everybody on our team and especially from Marcos Alves, Bil Drury, Brian Despain and Jason Shupe.

Copyright (c) 2001-2004 XAO Inc.


Recommended reading: XAO::DO::Web::Page (for templates language), XAO::Objects (for object loading details), XAO::DO::Config (for site config details), XAO::FS (for OO database interface), XAO::DO::FS::Config, XAO::Web.