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NAME

Catalyst::Manual::WritingPlugins - An introduction to writing plugins with NEXT.

DESCRIPTION

Writing an integrated plugin for Catalyst using NEXT.

WHY PLUGINS?

A Catalyst plugin is an integrated part of your application. By writing plugins you can, for example, perform processing actions automatically, instead of having to forward to a processing method every time you need it.

WHAT'S NEXT?

NEXT is used to re-dispatch a method call as if the calling method doesn't exist at all. In other words: If the class you're inheriting from defines a method, and you're overloading that method in your own class, NEXT gives you the possibility to call that overloaded method.

This technique is the usual way to plug a module into Catalyst.

INTEGRATING YOUR PLUGIN

You can use NEXT for your plugin by overloading certain methods which are called by Catalyst during a request.

The request life-cycle

Catalyst creates a context object ($context or, more usually, its alias $c) on every request, which is passed to all the handlers that are called from preparation to finalization.

For a complete list of the methods called during a request, see Catalyst::Manual::Internals. The request can be split up in three main stages:

preparation

When the prepare handler is called, it initializes the request object, connections, headers, and everything else that needs to be prepared. prepare itself calls other methods to delegate these tasks. After this method has run, everything concerning the request is in place.

dispatch

The dispatching phase is where the black magic happens. The dispatch handler decides which actions have to be called for this request.

finalization

Catalyst uses the finalize method to prepare the response to give to the client. It makes decisions according to your response (e.g. where you want to redirect the user to). After this method, the response is ready and waiting for you to do something with it--usually, hand it off to your View class.

What Plugins look like

There's nothing special about a plugin except its name. A module named Catalyst::Plugin::MyPlugin will be loaded by Catalyst if you specify it in your application class, e.g.:

    # your plugin
    package Catalyst::Plugin::MyPlugin;
    use warnings;
    use strict;
    ...

    # MyApp.pm, your application class
    use Catalyst qw/-Debug MyPlugin/;

This does nothing but load your module. We'll now see how to overload stages of the request cycle, and provide accessors.

Calling methods from your Plugin

Methods that do not overload a handler are available directly in the $c context object; they don't need to be qualified with namespaces, and you don't need to use them.

    package Catalyst::Plugin::Foobar;
    use strict;
    sub foo { return 'bar'; }

    # anywhere else in your Catalyst application:

    $c->foo(); # will return 'bar'

That's it.

Overloading - Plugging into Catalyst

If you don't just want to provide methods, but want to actually plug your module into the request cycle, you have to overload the handler that suits your needs.

Every handler gets the context object passed as its first argument. Pass the rest of the arguments to the next handler in row by calling it via

    $c->NEXT::handler-name( @_ );

if you already shifted it out of @_. Remember to use NEXT.

Storage and Configuration

Some Plugins use their accessor names as a storage point, e.g.

  sub my_accessor {
    my $c = shift;
    $c->{my_accessor} = ..

but it is more safe and clear to put your data in your configuration hash:

    $c->config->{my_plugin}{ name } = $value;

If you need to maintain data for more than one request, you should store it in a session.

EXAMPLE

Here's a simple example Plugin that shows how to overload prepare to add a unique ID to every request:

    package Catalyst::Plugin::RequestUUID;

    use warnings;
    use strict;

    use Catalyst::Request;
    use Data::UUID;
    use NEXT;    

    our $VERSION = 0.01;

    {   # create a uuid accessor
        package Catalyst::Request;
        __PACKAGE__->mk_accessors('uuid');
    }

    sub prepare {
      my $class = shift;

      # Turns the engine-specific request into a Catalyst context .
      my $c = $class->NEXT::prepare( @_ );

      $c->request->uuid( Data::UUID->new->create_str );
      $c->log->debug( 'Request UUID "'. $c->request->uuid .'"' );

      return $c;
    }

    1;

Let's just break it down into pieces:

    package Catalyst::Plugin::RequestUUID;

The package name has to start with Catalyst::Plugin:: to make sure you can load your plugin by simply specifying

    use Catalyst qw/RequestUUID/;

in the application class. warnings and strict are recommended for all Perl applications.

    use NEXT;
    use Data::UUID;
    our $VERSION = 0.01;

NEXT must be explicitly used. Data::UUID generates our unique ID. The $VERSION gets set because it's a) a good habit and b) ExtUtils::ModuleMaker likes it.

    sub prepare {

These methods are called without attributes (Private, Local, etc.).

    my $c = shift;

We get the context object for this request as the first argument.

Hint!:Be sure you shift the context object out of @_ in this. If you just do a

  my ( $c ) = @_;

it remains there, and you may run into problems if you're not aware of what you pass to the handler you've overloaded. If you take a look at

    $c = $c->NEXT::prepare( @_ );

you see you would pass the context twice here if you don't shift it out of your parameter list.

This line is the main part of the plugin procedure. We call the overloaded prepare method and pass along the parameters we got. We also overwrite the context object $c with the one returned by the called method returns. We'll return our modified context object at the end.

Note that that if we modify $c before this line, we also modify it before the original (overloaded) prepare is run. If we modify it after, we modify an already prepared context. And, of course, it's no problem to do both, if you need to. Another example of working on the context before calling the actual handler would be setting header information before finalize does its job.

    $c->req->{req_uuid} = Data::UUID->new->create_str;

This line creates a new Data::UUID object and calls the create_str method. The value is saved in our request, under the key req_uuid. We can use that to access it in future in our application.

    $c->log->debug( 'Request UUID "'. $c->req->{req_uuid} .'"' );

This sends our UUID to the debug log.

The final line

    return $c;

passes our modified context object back to whoever has called us. This could be Catalyst itself, or the overloaded handler of another plugin.

SEE ALSO

Catalyst, NEXT, ExtUtils::ModuleMaker, Catalyst::Manual::Plugins, Catalyst::Manual::Internals.

THANKS TO

Sebastian Riedel and his team of Catalyst developers as well as all the helpful people in #catalyst.

COPYRIGHT

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

AUTHOR

Robert Sedlacek, phaylon@dunkelheit.at with a lot of help from the people on #catalyst.