Catalyst::Manual::Tutorial::CatalystBasics - Catalyst Tutorial - Chapter 2: Catalyst Application Development Basics


This is Chapter 2 of 10 for the Catalyst tutorial.

Tutorial Overview

  1. Introduction

  2. Catalyst Basics

  3. More Catalyst Basics

  4. Basic CRUD

  5. Authentication

  6. Authorization

  7. Debugging

  8. Testing

  9. Advanced CRUD

  10. Appendices


In this chapter of the tutorial, we will create a very basic Catalyst web application, demonstrating a number of powerful capabilities, such as:

  • Helper Scripts

    Catalyst helper scripts that can be used to rapidly bootstrap the skeletal structure of an application.

  • MVC

    Model/View/Controller (MVC) provides an architecture that facilitates a clean "separation of control" between the different portions of your application. Given that many other documents cover this subject in detail, MVC will not be discussed in depth here (for an excellent introduction to MVC and general Catalyst concepts, please see Catalyst::Manual::About). In short:

    • Model

      The model usually represents a data store. In most applications, the model equates to the objects that are created from and saved to your SQL database.

    • View

      The view takes model objects and renders them into something for the end user to look at. Normally this involves a template-generation tool that creates HTML for the user's web browser, but it could easily be code that generates other forms such as PDF documents, e-mails, spreadsheets, or even "behind the scenes" formats such as XML and JSON.

    • Controller

      As suggested by its name, the controller takes user requests and routes them to the necessary model and view.

  • ORM

    The use of Object-Relational Mapping (ORM) technology for database access. Specifically, ORM provides an automated and standardized means to persist and restore objects to/from a relational database.

You can checkout the source code for this example from the catalyst subversion repository as per the instructions in Catalyst::Manual::Tutorial::Intro.


Catalyst provides a number of helper scripts that can be used to quickly flesh out the basic structure of your application. All Catalyst projects begin with the helper (see Catalyst::Helper for more information on helpers). Also note that as of Catalyst 5.7000, you will not have the helper scripts unless you install both Catalyst::Runtime and Catalyst::Devel.

In this first chapter of the tutorial, use the Catalyst script to initialize the framework for an application called Hello:

    $ Hello
    created "Hello"
    created "Hello/script"
    created "Hello/lib"
    created "Hello/root"
    created "Hello/script/"
    $ cd Hello

The helper script will display the names of the directories and files it creates:

    Changes               # Record of application changes
    lib                   # Lib directory for your app's Perl modules
        Hello             # Application main code directory
            Controller    # Directory for Controller modules 
            Model         # Directory for Models
            View          # Directory for Views          # Base application module
    Makefile.PL           # Makefile to build application
    hello.conf            # Application configuration file
    README                # README file
    root                  # Equiv of htdocs, dir for templates, css, javascript
        static            # Directory for static files
            images        # Directory for image files used in welcome screen
    script                # Directory for Perl scripts      # To run your app as a cgi (not recommended)   # To create models, views, controllers  # To run app as a fastcgi program   # The normal development server     # Test your app from the command line
    t                     # Directory for tests
        01app.t           # Test scaffold       

Catalyst will "auto-discover" modules in the Controller, Model, and View directories. When you use the script it will create Perl module scaffolds in those directories, plus test files in the "t" directory. The default location for templates is in the "root" directory. The scripts in the script directory will always start with the lowercased version of your application name. If your app is MaiTai, then the create script would be "".

Though it's too early for any significant celebration, we already have a functioning application. We can use the Catalyst supplied script to start up a development server and view the default Catalyst page in your browser. All scripts in the script directory should be run from the base directory of your application, so change to the Hello directory.

Run the following command to start up the built-in development web server (make sure you didn't forget the "cd Hello" from the previous step):

    $ script/
    [debug] Debug messages enabled
    [debug] Statistics enabled
    [debug] Loaded plugins:
    | Catalyst::Plugin::ConfigLoader  0.20                                       |
    | Catalyst::Plugin::Static::Simple  0.20                                     |
    [debug] Loaded dispatcher "Catalyst::Dispatcher"
    [debug] Loaded engine "Catalyst::Engine::HTTP"
    [debug] Found home "/home/me/Hello"
    [debug] Loaded Config "/home/me/Hello/hello.conf"
    [debug] Loaded components:
    | Class                                                           | Type     |
    | Hello::Controller::Root                                         | instance |
    [debug] Loaded Private actions:
    | Private              | Class                                | Method       |
    | /default             | Hello::Controller::Root              | default      |
    | /end                 | Hello::Controller::Root              | end          |
    | /index               | Hello::Controller::Root              | index        |
    [debug] Loaded Path actions:
    | Path                                | Private                              |
    | /                                   | /default                             |
    | /                                   | /index                               |
    [info] Hello powered by Catalyst 5.71000
    You can connect to your server at http://debian:3000

Point your web browser to http://localhost:3000 (substituting a different hostname or IP address as appropriate) and you should be greeted by the Catalyst welcome screen (if you get some other welcome screen or an "Index" screen, you probably forgot to specify port 3000 in your URL). Information similar to the following should be appended to the logging output of the development server:

    [info] *** Request 1 (0.005/s) [20712] [Sun Mar  8 15:49:09 2009] ***
    [debug] "GET" request for "/" from ""
    [info] Request took 0.007342s (136.203/s)
    | Action                                                         | Time      |
    | /index                                                         | 0.000491s |
    | /end                                                           | 0.000595s |

Press Ctrl-C to break out of the development server.


The Simplest Way

The controller is a place to put global actions that usually execute on the root URL. Open the lib/Hello/Controller/ file in your editor. You will see the "index" subroutine, which is responsible for displaying the welcome screen that you just saw in your browser. Later on you'll want to change that to something more reasonable, such as a "404" message or a redirect, but for now just leave it alone.

    sub index :Path :Args(0) {
        my ( $self, $c ) = @_;
        # Hello World
        $c->response->body( $c->welcome_message );

The "$c" here refers to the Catalyst context, which is used to access the Catalyst application. In addition to many other things, the Catalyst context provides access to "response" and "request" objects. (See Catalyst, Catalyst::Response, and Catalyst::Request)

$c->response->body sets the HTTP response (see Catalyst::Response), while $c->welcome_message is a special method that returns the welcome message that you saw in your browser.

The ":Path :Args(0)" after the method name are attributes which determine which URLs will be dispatched to this method. (Depending on your version of Catalyst, it used to say "Private" but using that with 'default' or 'index' is currently deprecated.)

Some MVC frameworks handle dispatching in a central place. Catalyst, by policy, prefers to handle URL dispatching with attributes on controller methods. There is a lot of flexibility in specifying which URLs to match. This particular method will match all URLs, because it doesn't specify the path (nothing comes after "Path"), but will only accept a single args because of the ":Args(0)".

The default is to map URLs to controller names, and because of the way that Perl handles namespaces through package names, it is simple to create hierarchical structures in Catalyst. This means that you can create controllers with deeply nested actions in a clean and logical way.

For example, the URL maps to the package Hello::Controller::Admin::Articles, and the create method.

Add the following subroutine to your lib/Hello/Controller/ file:

    sub hello : Global {
        my ( $self, $c ) = @_;
        $c->response->body("Hello, World!");

TIP: See Appendix 1 for tips on removing the leading spaces when cutting and pasting example code from POD-based documents.

Here you're sending your own string to the webpage.

Save the file, start the server (stop and restart it if it's still up), and go to http://localhost:3000/hello to see "Hello, World!"

Hello, World! Using a View and a Template

In the Catalyst world a "View" is not a page of XHTML or a template designed to present a page to a browser. It is the module that determines the type of view -- HTML, pdf, XML, etc. For the thing that generates the content of that view, (such as the default Toolkit Template) the actual templates go under the "root" directory.

To create a TT view, run:

    $ script/ view TT TT

This creates the lib/Hello/View/ module, which is a subclass of Catalyst::View::TT.

  • The "view" keyword tells the create script that you are creating a view.

  • The first "TT" tells the script to name the View module "", which is a commonly used name for TT views. (You can name it anything you want, such as "".)

  • The final "TT" tells it that you are creating a Template Toolkit view.

If you look at lib/Hello/View/ you will find that it only contains a config statement to set the TT extension to ".tt".

Now that the "View" exists, Catalyst will autodiscover it and be able to use it to display the view templates, using the "process" method that it inherits from the Catalyst::View::TT class.

Template Toolkit is a very full featured template facility, with excellent documentation at, but since this is not a TT tutorial, we'll stick to only basic TT usage here (and explore some of the more common TT features in later chapters of the tutorial).

Create a root/ template file (put it in the root under the Hello directory that is the base of your application). Here is a simple sample:

        This is a TT view template, called '[% %]'.

[% and %] are markers for the TT parts of the template. Inside you can access Perl variables and classes, and use TT directives. In this case, we're using a special TT variable that defines the name of the template file ( The rest of the template is normal HTML.

Change the hello method in lib/Hello/Controller/ to the following:

    sub hello : Global {
        my ( $self, $c ) = @_;
        $c->stash->{template} = '';

This time, instead of doing $c->response->body(), you are setting the value of the "template" hash key in the Catalyst "stash", an area for putting information to share with other parts of your application. The "template" key determines which template will be displayed at the end of the method. Catalyst controllers have a default "end" action for all methods which causes the first (or default) view to be rendered (unless there's a $c->response->body() statement). So your template will be magically displayed at the end of your method.

After saving the file, restart the development server, and look at http://localhost:3000/hello again. You should see the template that you just made.


Create a controller named "Site" by executing the create script:

    $ script/ controller Site

This will create a lib/Hello/Controller/ file (and a test file). Bring up in your editor, and you can see that there's not much there. Most people probably don't bother to use the create script to make controllers after they're used to using Catalyst.

In lib/Hello/Controller/, add the following method:

    sub test : Local {
        my ( $self, $c ) = @_;
        $c->stash->{username} = "John";
        $c->stash->{template} = 'site/';

Notice the "Local" attribute on the test method. This will cause the test action (now that we have assigned an action type to the method it appears as a controller "action" to Catalyst) to be executed on the "controller/method" URL, or, in this case, "site/test". We will see additional information on controller actions throughout the rest of the tutorial, but if you are curious take a look at "Actions" in Catalyst::Manual::Intro.

It's not actually necessary to set the template value as we do here. By default TT will attempt to render a template that follows the naming pattern "controller/", and we're following that pattern here. However, in other situations you will need to specify the template (such as if you've "forwarded" to the method, or if it doesn't follow the default naming convention).

We've also put the variable "username" into the stash, for use in the template.

Make a subdirectory "site" in the "root" directory. Copy the file into the directory as root/site/, or create a new template file at that location. Include a line like:

    <p>Hello, [% username %]!</p>

Bring up or restart the server. Notice in the server output that /site/test is listed in the Loaded Path actions. Go to http://localhost:3000/site/test in your browser.

You should see your file displayed, including the name "John" that you set in the controller.


Gerda Shank, Kennedy Clark,

Please report any errors, issues or suggestions to the author. The most recent version of the Catalyst Tutorial can be found at

Copyright 2006-2008, Kennedy Clark & Gerda Shank, under Creative Commons License (