NAME

Catalyst::ControllerRole::At - A new approach to building Catalyst actions

SYNOPSIS

    package MyApp::Controller::User;

    use Moose;
    use MooseX::MethodAttributes;
    use Types::Standard qw/Int Str/;

    extends 'Catalyst::Controller';
    with 'Catalyst::ControllerRole::At';

    # Define your actions, for example:
    
    sub global :At(/global/{}/{}) { ... }         # http://localhost/global/$arg/$arg

    sub list   :At($action?{q:Str}) { ... }       # http://localhost/user/list?q=$string

    sub find   :At($controller/{id:Int}) { ... }  # http://localhost/user/$integer

    __PACKAGE__->meta->make_immutable;

DESCRIPTION

The way Catalyst uses method attributes to annote a subroutine with meta information used to map that action to an incoming request has sometimes been difficult for newcomers to the framework. Partly this is due to how the system evolved and was augmented, with more care towards backwards compatibility (for example with Maypole, its architectural anscestor) than with designing a forward system that is easy to grasp. Additionally aspects of the system such as chained dispatch are very useful in the hands of an expert but the interface leaves a lot to be desired. For example it is possible to craft actions that mix chaining syntax with 'classic' syntax in ways that are confusing. And having more than one way to do the same thing without clear and obvious benefits is confusing to newcomers.

Lastly, the core Catalyst::Controller syntax has confusing defaults that are not readily guessed. For example do you know the difference (if any) between Args and Args()? Or the difference between Path, Path(''), and Path()? In many cases defaults are applied that were not intended and things that you might think are the same turn out to have different effects. All this conspires to worsen the learning curve.

This role defines an alternative syntax that we hope is easier to understand and for the most part eliminates defaults and guessed intentions. It only defines two method attributes, "At()" and "Via()", which have no defaults and one of which is always required. It also smooths over differences between 'classic' route matching using :Local and :Path and the newer syntax based on Chaining by providing a single approach that bridges between the two styles. One can mix and match the two without being required to learn a new syntax or to rearchitect the system.

The "At()" syntax more closely resembles the type of URL you are trying to match, which should make code creation and maintainance easier by reducing the mental mismatch that happens with the core syntax.

Ultimately this ControllerRole is an attempt to layer some sugar on top of the existing interface with the hope to establishing a normalized, easy approach that doesn't have the learning curve or confusion of the existing system.

I also recommend reading Catalyst::RouteMatching for general notes and details on how dispatching and matching works.

URL Templating

The following are examples and specification for how to map a URL to an action or to a chain of actions in Catalyst. All examples assume the application is running at the root of your website domain (https://localhost/, not https://localhost/somepath)

Matching a Literal Path

The action 'global_path' will respond to 'https://localhost/foo/bar/baz'.

    package MyApp::Controller::Example;

    use Moose;
    use MooseX::MethodAttributes;

    extends 'Catalyst::Controller';
    with 'Catalyst::ControllerRole::At';

    sub global_path :At(/foo/bar/baz) { ... }

    __PACKAGE__->meta->make_immutable;

The main two parts are consuming the role c< with 'Catalyst::ControllerRole::At'> and using the At method attribute. This attribute can only appear once in your action and should be string that matches a specification as to be described in the following examples.

Arguments in a Path specification

Often you wish to parameterize your URL template such that instead of matching a full literal path, you may instead place slots for placeholders, which get passed to the action during a request. For example:

    package MyApp::Controller::Example;

    use Moose;
    use MooseX::MethodAttributes;

    extends 'Catalyst::Controller';
    with 'Catalyst::ControllerRole::At';

    sub args :At(/example/{}) {
      my ($self, $c, $arg) = @_;     
    }

    __PACKAGE__->meta->make_immutable;

In the above controller we'd match a URL like 'https://localhost/example/100' and 'https://localhost/example/whatever'. The parameterized argument is passed as '$arg' into the action when a request is matched.

You may have as many argument placeholders as you wish, or you may specific an open ended number of placeholders:

    sub arg2 :At(/example/{}/{}) { ... }  # https://localhost/example/foo/bar
    sub args :At(/example/{*} { ... }     # https://localhost/example/1/2/3/4/...

In this case action 'arg2' matches its path with 2 arguments, while 'args' will match 'any number of arguments', subject to operating system limitations.

NOTE Since the open ended argument specification can catch lots of URLs, this type of argument specification is run as a special 'low priorty' match. For example (using the above two actions) should the request be 'https://localhost/example/foo/bar', then the first action 'arg2' would match since its a better match for that request given it has a more constrained specification. In general I recommend using '{*}' sparingly.

NOTE Placeholder must come after path part literals or expansion variables as discussed below. For example "At(/bar/{}/bar)" is not valid. This type of match is possible with chained actions (see more examples below).

Naming your Arguments

You may name your argument placeholders. If you do so you can access your argument placeholder values via the %_ hash. For example:

    sub args :At(/example/{id}) {
      my ($self, $c, $id) = @_;
      $c->response->body("The requested ID is $_{id}");
    }

Note that regardless of whether you name your arguments or not, they will get passed to your actions at request via @_, as in core Catalyst. So in the above example '$id' is equal to '$_{id}'. You may use whichever makes the most sense for your task, or standardize a project on one form or the other. You might also find naming the arguments to be a useful form of documentation.

Type constraints on your Arguments

You may leverage the built in support for applying type constraints on your arguments:

    package MyApp::Controller::Example;

    use Moose;
    use MooseX::MethodAttributes;
    use Types::Standard qw/Int/;

    extends 'Catalyst::Controller';
    with 'Catalyst::ControllerRole::At';

    sub args :At(/example/{id:Int}) {
      my ($self, $c, $id) = @_;     
    }

    __PACKAGE__->meta->make_immutable;

Would match 'http://localhost/example/100' but not 'http://localhost/example/string'

All the same rules that apply to Catalyst regarding use of type constraints apply. Most importantly you must remember to inport your type constraints, as in the above example. You should consider reviewing Catalyst::RouteMatching for more general help.

You may declare a type constraint on an argument but not name it, as in the following example:

    sub args :At(/example/{:Int}) {
      my ($self, $c, $id) = @_;     
    }

Note the ':' prepended to the type constraint name is NOT optional.

NOTE Using type constraints in your route matching can have performance implications.

NOTE If you have more than one argument placeholder and you apply a type constraint to one, you must apply constraints to all. You may use an open type constraint like Any as defined in Types::Standard for placeholders where you don't care what the value is. For example:

    use Types::Standard qw/Any Int/;

    sub args :At(/example/{:Any}/{:Int}) {
      my ($self, $c, $id) = @_;     
    }

Expansion Variables in your Path

Generally you would prefer not to hardcode the full path of your actions, as in the examples given so far. General Catalyst best practice is to have your actions live under the namespace of the controller in which they are defined. That makes things more organized and easier to find as your application grows in complexity. In order to make this and other common action template patterns easier, we support the following variable expansions in your URL template specification:

    $controller: Your controller namespace (as an absolute path)
    $action: The action namespace (same as $controller/$name)
    $up: The namespace of the controller containing this controller
    $name The name of your action (the subroutine name)
    $affix: The last part of the controller namespace.

For example if your controller is 'MyApp::Controller::User::Details' then:

    $controller => /user/details
    $up => /user
    $affix => /details

And if 'MyApp::Controller::User::Details' contained an action like:

    sub list :At() { ... }

then:

    $name => /list
    $action => /user/details/list

You use these variable expansions the same way as literal paths:

    package MyApp::Controller::Example;

    use Moose;
    use MooseX::MethodAttributes;
    use Types::Standard qw/Int/;

    extends 'Catalyst::Controller';
    with 'Catalyst::ControllerRole::At';

    sub args :At($controller/{id:Int}) {
      my ($self, $c, $id) = @_;     
    }

    sub list :At($action) { ... }

    __PACKAGE__->meta->make_immutable;

In this example the action 'args' would match 'https://localhost/example/100' (with '100' being considered an argument) while action 'list' would match 'https::/localhost/example/list'.

You can use expansion variables in your base controllers or controller roles to more easily make shared actions.

NOTE Your controller namespace is typically based on its package name, unless you have overridden it by setting an alternative in the configuation value 'namespace', or your have in some way overridden the logic that produces a namespace. The default behavior is to produce a namespace like the following:

    package MyApp::Controller::User => /user
    package MyApp::Controller::User::name => /user/name

Changing the way a controller defines its namespace will also change how actions that are defined in that controller defines thier namespaces.

NOTE WHen using expansions, you should not place a '/' at the start of your template URI.

Matching GET parameters

You can match GET (query) parameters in your URL template definitions:

    package MyApp::Controller::Example;

    use Moose;
    use MooseX::MethodAttributes;
    use Types::Standard qw/Int Str/;

    extends 'Catalyst::Controller';
    with 'Catalyst::ControllerRole::At';

    sub query :At($action?{name:Str}{age:Int}) {
      my ($self, $c, $id) = @_;     
    }

    __PACKAGE__->meta->make_immutable;

This would match 'https://example/query?name=john;age=47'.

Your query keys will appear in the %_ in the same way as all your named arguments.

You do not need to use a type constraint on the query parameters. If you do not do so all that is required is that the requested query parameters exist.

This uses the ActionRole Catalyst::ActionRole::QueryParameter under the hood, which you may wish to review for more details.

Chaining Actions inside a Controller

Catalyst action chaining allows you to spread the logic associated with a given URL across a set of actions which all are responsible for handling a part of the URL template. The idea is to allow you to better decompose your logic to promote clarity and reuse. However the built-in syntax for declaring action chains is difficult for many people to use. Here's how you do it with Catalyst::ControllerRole::At

Starting a Chain of actions is straightforward. you just add '/...' to the end of your path specification. This is to indicate that the action expects more parts 'to follow'. For example:

    package MyApp::Controller::Example;

    use Moose;
    use MooseX::MethodAttributes;
    use Types::Standard qw/Int Str/;

    extends 'Catalyst::Controller';
    with 'Catalyst::ControllerRole::At';

    sub init :At($controller/...) { ... }
    
    __PACKAGE__->meta->make_immutable;

The action 'init' starts a new chain of actions and declares the first part of the definition, 'https://localhost/example/...'. You continue a chain in the same way, but you need to specify the parent action that is being continued using the 'Via' attribute. You terminate a chain when you define an action that doesn't declare '...' as the last path. For example:

    sub init :At($controller/...) {
      my ($self, $c) = @_;
    }

      sub next :Via(init) At({}/...) {
        my ($self, $c, $arg) = @_;
      }

        sub last :Via(next) At({}) {
          my ($self, $c, $arg) = @_;
        }

This defines an action chain with three 'stops' which matches a URL like (for example) 'https://localhost/$controller/arg1/arg2'. Each action will get executed for the matching part, and will get arguments as defined in their match specification.

NOTE The 'Via' attribute must contain a value.

When chaining you can use (or not) any mix of type constraints on your arguments, named arguments, and query parameter matching. Here's a full example:

    package MyApp::Controller::Example;

    use Moose;
    use MooseX::MethodAttributes;
    use Types::Standard qw/Int/;

    extends 'Catalyst::Controller';
    with 'Catalyst::ControllerRole::At';

    sub init :At($controller/...) { ... }

      sub next :Via(init) At({id:Int}/...) {
        my ($self, $c, $int_id) = @_;
      }

        sub last :Via(next) At({id:Int}?{q}) {
          my ($self, $c, $int_id) = @_;
        }

    __PACKAGE__->meta->make_immutable;

Actions in a Chain with no match template

Sometimes for the purposes of organizing code you will have an action that is a midpoint in a chain that does not match any part of a URL template. For that case you can omit the path and argument match specification. For example:

    package MyApp::Controller::Example;

    use Moose;
    use MooseX::MethodAttributes;
    use Types::Standard qw/Int/;

    extends 'Catalyst::Controller';
    with 'Catalyst::ControllerRole::At';

    sub init :At($controller/...) { ... }

      sub middle :Via(init) At(...) {
        my ($self, $c) = @_;
      }

        sub last :Via(next) At({id:Int}) {
          my ($self, $c, $id) = @_;
        }

    __PACKAGE__->meta->make_immutable;

This will match a URL like 'https://localhost/example/100'.

NOTE If you declare a Via but not At, this is an error. You must always provide an At(), even in the case of a terminal action with no match parts of it own. For example:

    package MyApp::Controller::Example;

    use Moose;
    use MooseX::MethodAttributes;

    extends 'Catalyst::Controller';
    with 'Catalyst::ControllerRole::At';

    sub first :At($controller/...) { ... }

      sub second :Via(first) At(...) {
        my ($self, $c) = @_;
      }

        sub third :Via(second) At(...) {
          my ($self, $c) = @_;
        }

          sub last :Via(third) At() {
            my ($self, $c, $id) = @_;
          }

    __PACKAGE__->meta->make_immutable;

This creates a chained action that matches 'http://localhost/example' but calls each of the three actions in the chain in order. Although it might seem odd to create an action that is not connected to a path part of a URL request, you might find cases where this results in well factored and reusable controllers.

NOTE For the purposes of executing code, we treat 'At' and 'At()' as the same. However We highly recommend At() as a best practice since it more clearly represents the idea of 'no match template'.

Chaining Actions across Controllers

The method attributes 'Via()' contains a pointer to the action being continued. In standard practice this is almost always the name of an action in the same controller as the one declaring it. This could be said to be a 'relative' (as in relative to the current controller) action. However you don't have to use a relative name. You can use any action's absolute private name, as long as it is an action that declares itself to be a link in a chain.

However in practice it is not alway a good idea to spread your chained acions across across controllers in a manner that is not easy to follow. We recommend you try to limit youself to chains that follow the controller hierarchy, which should be easier for your code maintainers.

For this common, best practice case when you are continuing your chained actions across controllers, following a controller hierarchy, we provide some template expansions you can use in the 'Via' attribute. These are useful to enforce this best practice as well as promote reusability by decoupling hard coded private action namespaces from your controller.

    $up: The controller whose namespace contains the current controller
    $name The name of the current actions subroutine
    $parent: Expands to $up/$subname

For example:

    package MyApp::Controller::ThingsTodo;

    use Moose;
    use MooseX::MethodAttributes;

    extends 'Catalyst::Controller';
    with 'Catalyst::ControllerRole::At';

    sub init :At($controller/...) {
      my ($self, $c) = @_;
    }

      sub list :Via(init) At($name) {
        my ($self, $c) = @_;
      }

    __PACKAGE__->meta->make_immutable;

    package MyApp::Controller::ThingsTodo::Item;

    use Moose;
    use MooseX::MethodAttributes;

    extends 'Catalyst::Controller';
    with 'Catalyst::ControllerRole::At';

    sub init :Via($parent) At({id:Int}/...) {
      my ($self, $c) = @_;
    }

      sub show    :Via(init) At($name) { ... }
      sub update  :Via(init) At($name) { ... }
      sub delete  :Via(init) At($name) { ... }

    __PACKAGE__->meta->make_immutable;

This creates four (4) URL templates:

    https://localhost/thingstodo/list
    https://localhost/thingstodo/:id/show
    https://localhost/thingstodo/:id/update
    https://localhost/thingstodo/:id/delete

With an action execution flow as follows:

    https://localhost/thingstodo/list =>
      /thingstodo/init
      /thingstodo/list

    https://localhost/thingstodo/:id/show
      /thingstodo/init
        /thingstodo/item/init
        /thingstodo/item/show

    https://localhost/thingstodo/:id/update
      /thingstodo/init
        /thingstodo/item/init
        /thingstodo/item/update

    https://localhost/thingstodo/:id/delete
      /thingstodo/init
        /thingstodo/item/init
        /thingstodo/item/delete

COOKBOOK

One thing I like to do is create a base controller for my project so that I can make my controllers more concise:

    package Myapp::Controller;

    use Moose;
    extends 'Catalyst::Controller';
    with 'Catalyst::ControllerRole::At';
     
    __PACKAGE__->meta->make_immutable;

You can of course doa lot more here if you want but I usually recommend the lightest touch possible in your base controllers since the more you customize the harder it might be for people new to the code to debug the system.

TODO

    - HTTP Methods
    - Incoming Content type matching
    - ??Content Negotiation??

AUTHOR

John Napiorkowski email:jjnapiork@cpan.org

SEE ALSO

Catalyst, Catalyst::Controller.

COPYRIGHT & LICENSE

Copyright 2016, John Napiorkowski email:jjnapiork@cpan.org

This library is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the same terms as Perl itself.