Dancer::Cookbook - a quick-start guide to the Dancer web framework


A quick-start guide with examples to get you up and running with the Dancer web framework.


Your first Dancer web app

Dancer has been designed to be easy to work with - it's trivial to write a simple web app, but still has the power to work with larger projects. To start with, let's make an incredibly simple "Hello World" example:


    use Dancer;

    get '/hello/:name' => sub {
        return "Why, hello there " . params->{name};


Yes - the above is a fully-functioning web app; running that script will launch a webserver listening on the default port (3000); now you can make a request

    $ curl http://localhost:3000/hello/Bob
    Why, hello there Bob

(or the name of the machine you ran it on, if it's not your local system), and it will say hello. The :name part is a named parameter within the route specification, whose value is made available through params - more on that later.

Note that you don't need to use the strict and warnings pragma, they are already loaded by Dancer.

Starting a Dancer project

The first simple example is fine for trivial projects, but for anything more complex, you'll want a more maintainable solution - enter the dancer helper script, which will build the framework of your application with a single command:

    $ dancer -a mywebapp
    + mywebapp
    + mywebapp/config.yml
    + mywebapp/environments
    + mywebapp/environments/development.yml
    + mywebapp/environments/production.yml
    + mywebapp/views
    + mywebapp/views/
    + mywebapp/views/layouts
    + mywebapp/views/layouts/
    + mywebapp/
    + mywebapp/lib
    + mywebapp/lib/
    + mywebapp/public
    + mywebapp/public/css
    + mywebapp/public/css/style.css
    + mywebapp/public/css/error.css
    + mywebapp/public/images
    + mywebapp/public/404.html
    + mywebapp/public/dispatch.fcgi
    + mywebapp/public/dispatch.cgi
    + mywebapp/public/500.html
    + mywebapp/Makefile.PL
    + mywebapp/t
    + mywebapp/t/002_index_route.t
    + mywebapp/t/001_base.t

As you can see, it creates a directory named after the name of the app, along with a configuration file, a views directory (where your templates and layouts will live), an environments directory (where environment-specific settings live), a module containing the actual guts of your application, a script to start it - or to run your web app via Plack/PSGI - more on that later.

Declaring routes

To control what happens when a web request is received by your webapp, you'll need to declare routes. A route declaration indicates which HTTP method(s) it is valid for, the path it matches (e.g. /foo/bar), and a coderef to execute, which returns the response.

    get '/hello/:name' => sub {
        return "Hi there " . params->{name};

The above route specifies that, for GET requests to '/hello/...', the code block provided should be executed.

Handling multiple HTTP request methods

Routes can use any to match all, or a specified list of HTTP methods.

The following will match any HTTP request to the path /myaction:

    any '/myaction' => sub {
        # code

The following will match GET or POST requests to /myaction:

    any ['get', 'post'] => '/myaction' => sub {
        # code

For convenience, any route which matches GET requests will also match HEAD requests.

Retrieving request parameters

The params method returns a hashref of request parameters; these will be parameters supplied on the query string, within the path itself (with named placeholders), and, for HTTTP POST requests, the content of the POST body.

Named parameters in route path declarations

As seen above, you can use :somename in a route's path to capture part of the path; this will become available by calling params.

So, for a web app where you want to display information on a company, you might use something like:

    get '/company/view/:companyid' => sub {
        my $company_id = params->{companyid};
        # Look up the company and return appropriate page

Wildcard path matching and splat

You can also declare wildcards in a path, and retrieve the values they matched with splat:

    get '/*/*' => sub {
        my ($action, $id) = splat;
        if (my $action eq 'view') {
            return display_item($id);
        } elsif ($action eq 'delete') {
            return delete_item($id);
        } else {
            status 'not_found';
            return "What?";

Before filters - processed before a request

A before filter declares code which should be handled before a request is passed to the appropriate route.

    before sub {
        var note => 'Hi there';

    get '/foo/*' => sub {
        my ($match) = splat; # 'oversee';
        vars->{note}; # 'Hi there'

The above declares a before filter which uses var to set a variable which will later be available within the route handler, then amends the path of the request to /foo/oversee; this means that, whatever path was requested, it will be treated as though the path requested was /foo/oversee.

Default route

In case you want to avoid a 404 error, or handle multiple routes in the same way and you don't feel like configuring all of them, you can set up a default route handler.

The default route handler will handle any request that doesn't get served by any other route.

All you need to do is set up the following route as the last route:

    any qr{.*} => sub {
        status 'not_found';
        template 'special_404', { path => request->path };

Then you can set up the template as such:

    You tried to reach <% path %>, but it is unavailable at the moment.

    Please try again or contact us at our email at <...>.

Using the auto_page feature for automatic route creation

For simple pages where you're not doing anything dynamic, but still want to use the template engine to provide headers etc, you can use the auto_page feature to avoid the need to create a route for each page.

With auto_page enabled, if the requested path does not match any specific route, Dancer will check in the views directory for a matching template, and use it to satisfy the request if found.

Simply enable auto_page in your config:

    auto_page: 1

Then, if you request /foo/bar, Dancer will look in the views dir for /foo/

Why should I use the Ajax plugin

As an Ajax query is just a HTTP query, it's similar to a GET or POST route. You may ask yourself why you may want to use the ajax keyword (from the Dancer::Plugin::Ajax plugin) instead of a simple get.

Let's say you have a path like '/user/:user' in your application. You may want to be able to serve this page, with a layout and HTML content. But you may also want to be able to call this same url from a javascript query using Ajax.

So, instead of having the following code:

    get '/user/:user' => sub {
         if (request->is_ajax) {
             # create xml, set headers to text/xml, blablabla
              header('Content-Type' => 'text/xml');
              header('Cache-Control' =>  'no-store, no-cache, must-revalidate');
             template users, {....}

you can have

    get '/user/:user' => sub {
        template users, {...}


    ajax '/user/:user' => sub {
         to_xml({...}, RootName => undef);

Because it's an ajax query, you know you need to return a xml content, so the content type of the response is set for you.

Using the prefix feature to split your application

For better maintainability, you may want to separate some of your application components to different packages. Let's say we have a simple web app with an admin section, and want to maintain this in a different package:

    package myapp;
    use Dancer ':syntax';
    use myapp::admin;

    prefix undef;

    get '/' => sub {...};


    package myapp::admin;
    use Dancer ':syntax';

    prefix '/admin';

    get '/' => sub {...};


The following routes will be generated for us:

    - get /
    - get /admin/
    - head /
    - head /admin/

Handling sessions

It's common to want to use sessions to give your web applications state; for instance, allowing a user to log in, creating a session, and checking that session on subsequent requests.

To make use of sessions, you must first enable the session engine - pick the session engine you want to use, then declare it in your config file: config file, add:

    session: Simple

The Dancer::Session::Simple backend implements very simple in-memory session storage. This will be fast and useful for testing, but sessions do not persist between restarts of your app.

You can also use the Dancer::Session::YAML backend included with Dancer, which stores session data on disc in YAML files (since YAML is a nice human-readable format, it makes inspecting the contents of sessions a breeze):

    session: YAML

Or, to enable session support from within your code,

    set session => 'YAML';

(Controlling settings is best done from your config file, though). 'YAML' in the example is the session backend to use; this is shorthand for Dancer::Session::YAML. There are other session backends you may wish to use, for instance Dancer::Session::Memcache, but the YAML backend is a simple and easy to use example which stores session data in a YAML file in sessions).

Storing data in the session

Storing data in the session is as easy as:

    session varname => 'value';

Retrieving data from the session

Retrieving data from the session is as easy as:


Or, alternatively,


Controlling where sessions are stored

For disc-based session back ends like Dancer::Session::YAML, Dancer::Session::Storable etc, session files are written to the session dir specified by the session_dir setting, which defaults to appdir/sessions if not specifically set.

If you need to control where session files are created, you can do so quickly and easily within your config file, for example:

    session_dir: /tmp/dancer-sessions

If the directory you specify does not exist, Dancer will attempt to create it for you.

Destroying a session

When you're done with your session, you can destroy it:


Sessions and logging in

A common requirement is to check the user is logged in, and, if not, require them to log in before continuing.

This can easily be handled with a before filter to check their session:

    before sub {

        if (! session('user') && request->path_info !~ m{^/login}) {
            var requested_path => request->path_info;

    get '/login' => sub {
        # Display a login page; the original URL they requested is available as
        # vars->{requested_path}, so could be put in a hidden field in the form
        template 'login', { path => vars->{requested_path} };

    post '/login' => sub {
        # Validate the username and password they supplied
        if (params->{user} eq 'bob' && params->{pass} eq 'letmein') {
            session user => params->{user};
            redirect params->{path} || '/';
        } else {
            redirect '/login?failed=1';

In your login page template, you'll want a text field named user, a password field named pass, and a hidden field named path, which will be populated with the path originally requested, so that it's sent back in the POST submission, and can be used by the post route to redirect onwards to the page originally requested once you're logged in.

Of course, you'll probably want to validate your users against a database table, or maybe via IMAP/LDAP/SSH/POP3/local system accounts via PAM etc. Authen::Simple is probably a good starting point here!

A simple working example of handling authentication against a database table yourself (using Dancer::Plugin::Database which provides the database keyword, and Crypt::SaltedHash to handle salted hashed passwords (well, you wouldn't store your users passwords in the clear, would you?)) follows:

    post '/login' => sub {
        my $user = database()->selectrow_hashref(
            'select * from users where username = ?', {}, params->{user}
        if (!$user) {
            warning "Failed login for unrecognised user " . params->{user};
            redirect '/login?failed=1';
        } else {
            if (Crypt::SaltedHash->validate($user->{password}, params->{pass})) 
                debug "Password correct";
                # Logged in successfully
                session user => $user;
                redirect params->{path} || '/';
            } else {
                debug("Login failed - password incorrect for " . params->{user});
                redirect '/login?failed=1';

Using templates - views and layouts

Returning plain content is all well and good for examples or trivial apps, but soon you'll want to use templates to maintain separation between your code and your content. Dancer makes this easy.


It's possible to render the action's content with a template, this is called a view. The `appdir/views' directory is the place where views are located.

You can change this location by changing the setting 'views'.

By default, the internal template engine Dancer::Template::Simple is used, but you may want to upgrade to Template::Toolkit. If you do so, you have to enable this engine in your settings as explained in Dancer::Template::TemplateToolkit. If you do so, you'll also have to import the Template module in your application code.

Note that, by default, Dancer configures the Template::Toolkit engine to use <% %> brackets instead of its default [% %] brackets. You can change this by using the following in your config file:

    template: template_toolkit

            start_tag: '[%'
            stop_tag: '%]'

All views must have a '.tt' extension. This may change in the future.

In order to render a view, just call the template keyword at the end of the action by giving the view name and the HASHREF of tokens to interpolate in the view (note that for convenience, the request, session and route params are automatically accessible in the view, named request, session and params) - for example:

    get '/hello/:name' => sub {
        my $name = params->{name};
        template '', { name => $name };

The template '' could contain, for example:

    <p>Hi there, <% name %>!</p>
    <p>You're using <% request.user_agent %></p>
    <% IF session.username %>
        <p>You're logged in as <% session.username %>
    <% END %>


A layout is a special view, located in the 'layouts' directory (inside the views directory) which must have a token named 'content'. That token marks the place where to render the action view. This lets you define a global layout for your actions, and have each individual view contain only the specific content. This is a good thing to avoid lots of needless duplication of HTML :)

Here is an example of a layout: views/layouts/ :

        <div id="header">

        <div id="content">
        <% content %>


You can tell your app which layout to use with layout: name in the config file, or within your code:

    layout 'main';

You can control which layout to use (or whether to use a layout at all) for a specific request without altering the layout setting by passing an options hashref as the third param to the template keyword:

    template '', {}, { layout => undef };

If your application is not mounted under root (/), you can use a before_template instead of hardcoding the path to your application for your css, images and javascript:

    before_template sub {
        my $tokens = shift;
        $tokens->{uri_base} = request->base->path;

THen in your layout, modify your css inclusion as follows:

    <link rel="stylesheet" href="<% uri_base %>/css/style.css" />

From now on, you can mount your application wherever you want, without any further modification of the css inclusion

template and unicode

If you use Plack and have some unicode problem with your Dancer application, don't forget to check if you have set your template engine to use unicode, and set the default charset to UTF-8. So, if you are using template toolkit, your config.yml will look like this:

    charset: UTF-8
        ENCODING: utf8

TT's WRAPPER directive in Dancer (META variables, SETs)

Dancer provides a WRAPPER ability, which we call a "layout". The reason we do not use TT's WRAPPER (and that it is incompatible with it) is since not all template systems support it. Actually, most don't.

However, you might want to use it, and be able to define META variables and regular Template::Toolkit variables.

These few steps will get you there:

  • Disable the layout in Dancer

    You can do this by simply commenting (or removing) the layout configuration in the config.yml file.

  • Use Template Toolkit template engine

    Change the configuration of the template to Template Toolkit:

        # in config.yml
        template: "template_toolkit"
  • Tell the Template Toolkit engine who's your wrapper

        # in config.yml
        # ...
                WRAPPER: layouts/

Done! Everything will work fine out of the box, including variables and META variables.

Configuration and environments

Configuring a Dancer application can be done in many ways. The easiest one (and maybe the the dirtiest) is to put all your settings statements at the top of your script, before calling the dance() method.

Other ways are possible, you can define all your settings in the file `appdir/config.yml'. For this, you must have installed the YAML module, and of course, write the config file in YAML.

That's better than the first option, but it's still not perfect as you can't switch easily from an environment to another without rewriting the config.yml file.

The better way is to have one config.yml file with default global settings, like the following:

    # appdir/config.yml
    logger: 'file'
    layout: 'main'

And then write as many environment files as you like in appdir/environments. That way, the appropriate environment config file will be loaded according to the running environment (if none is specified, it will be 'development').

Note that you can change the running environment using the --environment commandline switch.

Typically, you'll want to set the following values in a development config file:

    # appdir/environments/development.yml
    log: 'debug'
    access_log: 1
    show_errors: 1

And in a production one:

    # appdir/environments/production.yml
    log: 'warning'
    access_log: 0
    show_errors: 0

Accessing configuration information from your app

A Dancer application can use the 'config' keyword to easily access the settings within its config file, for instance:

    get '/appname' => sub {
        return "This is " . config->{appname};

This makes keeping your application's settings all in one place simple and easy - you shouldn't need to worry about implementing all that yourself :)

Plack middlewares

If you deploy with Plack and use some Plack middlewares, you can enable them directly from Dancer's configuration files.

To enable middlewares in Dancer, you just have to set the plack_middlewares setting like the following:

    set plack_middlewares => [
        [ 'SomeMiddleware' => [ qw(some options for somemiddleware) ]],

For instance, if you want to enable Plack::Middleware::Debug in your Dancer application, all you have to do is to set plack_middlewares like that:

    set plack_middlewares => [
        [ 'Debug' => [ 'panels' => [ qw(DBITrace Memory Timer) ]]],

Of course, you can also put this configuration into your config.yml file, or even in your environment configuration files:

    # environments/development.yml
        - Debug          # first element of the array is the name of the middleware
        - panels         # following elements are the configuration ofthe middleware
          - DBITrace
          - Memory
          - Timer


Configuring logging

It's possible to log messages generated by the application and by Dancer itself.

To start logging, select the logging engine you wish to use with the logger setting; Dancer includes built-in log engines named file and console, which log to a logfile and to the console respectively.

To enable logging to a file, add the following to your config.yml:

    logger: 'file'

Then you can choose which kind of messages you want to actually log:

    log: 'core'      # will log debug, warning and errors, and messages from
                     # Dancer itself
    log: 'debug'     # will log debug, warning and errors
    log: 'warning'   # will log warning and errors
    log: 'error'     # will log only errors

If you're using the file logging engine, a directory appdir/logs will be created and will host one logfile per environment. The log message contains the time it was written, the PID of the current process, the message and the caller information (file and line).

Logging your own messages

Just call debug, warning or error with your message:

    debug "This is a debug message from my app.";

Writing a REST application

With Dancer, it's easy to write REST applications. Dancer provides helpers to serialize and deserialize for the following data formats:


To activate this feature, you only have to set the serializer setting to the format you require, for instance in your config.yml:

   serializer: JSON

Or right in your code:

   set serializer => 'JSON';

From now, all hash ref or array ref returned by a route will be serialized to the format you chose, and all data received from POST or PUT requests will be automatically deserialized.

    get '/hello/:name' => sub {
        # this structure will be returned to the client as
        # {"name":"$name"}
        return {name => params->{name}};

It's possible to let the client choose which serializer he want to use. For this, use the mutable serializer, and an appropriate serializer will be chosen from the Content-Type header.

It's also possible to return custom error, using the send_error function. When you don't use a serializer, the send_error function will take a string as first parameter (the message), and an optional HTTP code. When using a serializer, the message can be a string, an arrayref or a hashref:

    get '/hello/:name' => sub {
        if (...) {
           send_error("you can't do that");
           # or
           send_error({reason => 'access denied', message => "no"});

The content of the error will be serialized using the appropriate serializer.

Deploying your Dancer applications

For examples on deploying your Dancer applications (including standalone, behind proxy/load-balancing software, and using common web servers including Apache to run via CGI/FastCGI etc, see Dancer::Deployment.


Dancer contributors - see AUTHORS file.