Paul Seamons > CGI-Ex > CGI::Ex::App

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Module Version: 2.38   Source   Latest Release: CGI-Ex-2.42

NAME ^

CGI::Ex::App - Anti-framework application framework.

SYNOPSIS ^

A basic example:

    -------- File: /cgi-bin/my_cgi --------

    #!/usr/bin/perl -w

    use strict;
    use base qw(CGI::Ex::App);

    __PACKAGE__->navigate;
    exit;

    sub main_file_print {
        return \ "Hello World!";
    }

Properly put content in an external file...

    -------- File: /cgi-bin/my_cgi --------

    #!/usr/bin/perl -w

    use strict;
    use base qw(CGI::Ex::App);

    __PACKAGE__->navigate;

    sub template_path { '/var/www/templates' }


    -------- File: /var/www/templates/my_cgi/main.html --------

    Hello World!

Adding substitutions...

    -------- File: /cgi-bin/my_cgi --------

    #!/usr/bin/perl -w

    use strict;
    use base qw(CGI::Ex::App);

    __PACKAGE__->navigate;

    sub template_path { '/var/www/templates' }

    sub main_hash_swap {
        my $self = shift;
        return {
            greeting => 'Hello',
            date     => sub { scalar localtime },
        };
    }


    -------- File: /var/www/templates/my_cgi/main.html --------

    [% greeting %] World! ([% date %])

Add forms and validation (inluding javascript validation)...

    -------- File: /cgi-bin/my_cgi --------

    #!/usr/bin/perl -w

    use strict;
    use base qw(CGI::Ex::App);

    __PACKAGE__->navigate;

    sub template_path { '/var/www/templates' }

    sub main_hash_swap { {date => sub { scalar localtime }} }

    sub main_hash_fill {
        return {
            guess => 50,
        };
    }

    sub main_hash_validation {
        return {
            guess => {
                required => 1,
                compare1       => '<= 100',
                compare1_error => 'Please enter a value less than 101',
                compare2       => '>  0',
                compare2_error => 'Please enter a value greater than 0',
            },
        };
    }

    sub main_finalize {
        my $self   = shift;
        my $form   = $self->form;

        $self->add_to_form({was_correct => ($form->{'guess'} == 23)});

        return 0; # indicate to show the page without trying to move along
    }


    -------- File: /var/www/templates/my_cgi/main.html --------

    <h2>Hello World! ([% date %])</h2>

    [% IF was_correct %]
       <b>Correct!</b> - The number was [% guess %].<br>
    [% ELSIF guess %]
       <b>Incorrect</b> - The number was not [% guess %].<br>
    [% END %]

    <form name="[% form_name %]" method="post">

    Enter a number between 1 and 100: <input type="text" name="guess"><br>
    <span id="guess_error" style="color:red">[% guess_error %]</span><br>

    <input type="submit">
    </form>

    [% js_validation %]

There are infinite possibilities. There is a longer "SYNOPSIS" after the process flow discussion and more examples near the end of this document. It is interesting to note that there have been no databases so far. It is very, very difficult to find a single database abstraction that fits every model. CGI::Ex::App is Controller/Viewer that is somewhat Model agnostic and doesn't come with any default database abstraction.

DESCRIPTION ^

Fill in the blanks and get a ready made web application.

This module is somewhat similar in spirit to CGI::Application, CGI::Path, and CGI::Builder and any other "CGI framework." As with the others, CGI::Ex::App tries to do as much of the mundane things, in a simple manner, without getting in the developer's way. However, there are various design patterns for CGI applications that CGI::Ex::App handles for you that the other frameworks require you to bring in extra support. The entire CGI::Ex suite has been taylored to work seamlessly together. Your mileage in building applications may vary.

If you build applications that submit user information, validate it, re-display it, fill in forms, or separate logic into separate modules, then this module may be for you. If all you need is a dispatch engine, then this still may be for you. If all you want is to look at user passed information, then this may still be for you. If you like writing bare metal code, this could still be for you. If you don't want to write any code, this module will help - but you still need to provide your key actions and html.

One of the great benefits of CGI::Ex::App vs. Catalyst or Rails style frameworks is that the model of CGI::Ex::App can be much more abstract. And models often are abstract.

DEFAULT PROCESS FLOW ^

The following pseudo-code describes the process flow of the CGI::Ex::App framework. Several portions of the flow are encapsulated in hooks which may be completely overridden to give different flow. All of the default actions are shown. It may look like a lot to follow, but if the process is broken down into the discrete operations of step iteration, data validation, and template printing the flow feels more natural.

navigate

The process starts off by calling ->navigate.

    navigate {
        eval {
            ->pre_navigate
            ->nav_loop
            ->post_navigate
        }
        # dying errors will run the ->handle_error method

        ->destroy
    }

nav_loop

The nav_loop method will run as follows:

    nav_loop {
        ->path (get the array of path steps)
            # ->path_info_map_base (method - map ENV PATH_INFO to form)
            # look in ->form for ->step_key
            # make sure step is in ->valid_steps (if defined)

        ->pre_loop($path)
            # navigation stops if true

        foreach step of path {

            ->require_auth (hook)
                # exits nav_loop if true

            ->morph (hook)
                # check ->allow_morph (hook)
                # ->morph_package (hook - get the package to bless into)
                # ->fixup_after_morph if morph_package exists
                # if no package is found, process continues in current file

            ->path_info_map (hook - map PATH_INFO to form)

            ->run_step (hook)

            ->refine_path (hook)
                # only called if run_step returned false (page not printed)
                ->next_step (hook) # find next step and add to path
                ->set_ready_validate(0) (hook)

            ->unmorph (hook)
                # ->fixup_before_unmorph if blessed to current package

            # exit loop if ->run_step returned true (page printed)

        } end of foreach step

        ->post_loop
            # navigation stops if true

        ->default_step
        ->insert_path (puts the default step into the path)
        ->nav_loop (called again recursively)

    } end of nav_loop

run_step (hook)

For each step of the path the following methods will be run during the run_step hook.

    run_step {
        ->pre_step (hook)
            # skips this step if true and exit nav_loop

        ->skip (hook)
            # skips this step if true and stays in nav_loop

        ->prepare (hook - defaults to true)

        ->info_complete (hook - ran if prepare was true)
            ->ready_validate (hook)
                ->validate_when_data (hook)
                # returns false from info_complete if ! ready_validate
            ->validate (hook - uses CGI::Ex::Validate to validate form info)
                ->hash_validation (hook)
                   ->file_val (hook)
                       ->vob_path (defaults to template_path)
                       ->base_dir_rel
                       ->name_module
                       ->name_step
                       ->ext_val
            # returns true if validate is true or if nothing to validate

        ->finalize (hook - defaults to true - ran if prepare and info_complete were true)

        if ! ->prepare || ! ->info_complete || ! ->finalize {
            ->prepared_print
                ->hash_base (hook)
                ->hash_common (hook)
                ->hash_form (hook)
                ->hash_fill (hook)
                ->hash_swap (hook)
                ->hash_errors (hook)
                # merge form, base, common, and fill into merged fill
                # merge form, base, common, swap, and errors into merged swap
                ->print (hook - passed current step, merged swap hash, and merged fill)
                     ->file_print (hook - uses base_dir_rel, name_module, name_step, ext_print)
                     ->swap_template (hook - processes the file with Template::Alloy)
                          ->template_args (hook - passed to Template::Alloy->new)
                     ->fill_template (hook - fills the any forms with CGI::Ex::Fill)
                          ->fill_args (hook - passed to CGI::Ex::Fill::fill)
                     ->print_out (hook - print headers and the content to STDOUT)

            ->post_print (hook - used for anything after the print process)

            # return true to exit from nav_loop
        }

        ->post_step (hook)
            # exits nav_loop if true

    } end of run_step

It is important to learn the function and placement of each of the hooks in the process flow in order to make the most of CGI::Ex::App. It is enough to begin by learning a few common hooks - such as hash_validation, hash_swap, and finalize, and then learn about other hooks as needs arise. Sometimes, it is enough to simply override the run_step hook and take care of processing the entire step yourself.

Because of the hook based system, and because CGI::Ex::App uses sensible defaults, it is very easy to override a little or a lot which ends up giving the developer a lot of flexibility.

Additionally, it should be possible to use CGI::Ex::App with the other frameworks such as CGI::Application or CGI::Prototype. For these you could simple let each "runmode" call the run_step hook of CGI::Ex::App and you will instantly get all of the common process flow for free.

MAPPING URI TO STEP ^

The default out of the box configuration will map URIs to steps as follows:

    # Assuming /cgi-bin/my_app is the program being run

   URI:  /cgi-bin/my_app
    STEP: main
    FORM: {}
    WHY:  No other information is passed.  The path method is
          called which eventually calls ->default_step which
          defaults to "main"

   URI:  /cgi-bin/my_app?foo=bar
    STEP: main
    FORM: {foo => "bar"}
    WHY:  Same as previous example except that QUERY_STRING
          information was passed and placed in form.

   URI:  /cgi-bin/my_app?step=my_step
    STEP: my_step
    FORM: {step => "my_step"}
    WHY:  The path method is called which looks in $self->form
          for the key ->step_key (which defaults to "step").

   URI:  /cgi-bin/my_app?step=my_step&foo=bar
    STEP: my_step
    FORM: {foo => "bar", step => "my_step"}
    WHY:  Same as before but another parameter was passed.

   URI:  /cgi-bin/my_app/my_step
    STEP: my_step
    FORM: {step => "my_step"}
    WHY:  The path method is called which called path_info_map_base
          which matched $ENV{'PATH_INFO'} using the default regex
          of qr{^/(\w+)$} and place the result in
          $self->form->{$self->step_key}.  Path then looks in
          $self->form->{$self->step_key} for the initial step. See
          the path_info_map_base method for more information.

   URI:  /cgi-bin/my_app/my_step?foo=bar
    STEP: my_step
    FORM: {foo => "bar", step => "my_step"}
    WHY:  Same as before but other parameters were passed.

   URI:  /cgi-bin/my_app/my_step?step=other_step
    STEP: other_step
    FORM: {step => "other_step"}
    WHY:  The same procedure took place, but when the PATH_INFO
          string was matched, the form key "step" already existed
          and was not replaced by the value from PATH_INFO.

The remaining examples in this section are based on the assumption that the following method is installed in your script.

    sub my_step_path_info_map {
        return [
            [qr{^/\w+/(\w+)/(\d+)$}, 'foo', 'id'],
            [qr{^/\w+/(\w+)$}, 'foo'],
            [qr{^/\w+/(.+)$}, 'anything_else'],
        ];
    }

   URI:  /cgi-bin/my_app/my_step/bar
    STEP: my_step
    FORM: {foo => "bar"}
    WHY:  The step was matched as in previous examples using
          path_info_map_base.  However, the form key "foo"
          was set to "bar" because the second regex returned
          by the path_info_map hook matched the PATH_INFO string
          and the corresponding matched value was placed into
          the form using the keys specified following the regex.

   URI:  /cgi-bin/my_app/my_step/bar/1234
    STEP: my_step
    FORM: {foo => "bar", id => "1234"}
    WHY:  Same as the previous example, except that the first
          regex matched the string.  The first regex had two
          match groups and two form keys specified.  Note that
          it is important to order your match regexes in the
          order that will match the most data.  The third regex
          would also match this PATH_INFO.

   URI:  /cgi-bin/my_app/my_step/some/other/type/of/data
    STEP: my_step
    FORM: {anything_else => 'some/other/type/of/data'}
    WHY:  Same as the previous example, except that the third
          regex matched.

   URI:  /cgi-bin/my_app/my_step/bar?bling=blang
    STEP: my_step
    FORM: {foo => "bar", bling => "blang"}
    WHY:  Same as the first sample, but additional QUERY_STRING
          information was passed.

   URI:  /cgi-bin/my_app/my_step/one%20two?bar=three%20four
    STEP: my_step
    FORM: {anything_else => "one two", bar => "three four"}
    WHY:  The third path_info_map regex matched.  Note that the
          %20 in bar was unescaped by CGI::param, but the %20
          in anything_else was unescaped by Apache.  If you are
          not using Apache, this behavior may vary.  CGI::Ex::App
          doesn't decode parameters mapped from PATH_INFO.

See the path method for more information about finding the initial step of the path.

The form method calls CGI::Ex::form which uses CGI::param to retrieve GET and POST parameters. See the form method for more information on how GET and POST parameters are parsed.

See the path_info_map_base method, and path_info_map hook for more information on how the path_info maps function.

Using the following code is very useful for determing what hooks have taken place:

   use CGI::Ex::Dump qw(debug);

   sub post_navigate {
       my $self = shift;
       debug $self->dump_history, $self->form;
   }

ADDING DATA VALIDATION TO A STEP ^

CGI::Ex::App uses CGI::Ex::Validate for its data validation. See CGI::Ex::Validate for more information about the many ways you can validate your data.

The default hash_validation hook returns an empty hashref. This means that passed in data is all valid and the script will automatically call the step's finalize method.

The following shows how to add some contrived validation to a step called "my_step".

    sub my_step_hash_validation {
        return {
            username => {
                required    => 1,
                match       => 'm/^(\w+)$/',
                match_error => 'The $field field may only contain word characters',
                max_len     => 20,
            },
            password => {
                required => 1,
                max_len  => 15,
            },
            password_verify => {
                validate_if => 'password',
                equals      => 'password',
            },
            usertype => {
                required => 1,
                enum     => [qw(animal vegetable mineral)],
            },
        };
    }

The step will continue to display the html form until all of the fields pass validation.

See the hash_validation hook and validate hook for more information about how this takes place.

ADDING JAVASCRIPT DATA VALIDATION TO A STEP ^

You must first provide a hash_validation hook as explained in the previous section.

Once you have a hash_validation hook, you would place the following tags into your HTML template.

    <form name="[% form_name %]" method="post">
    ...
    </form>
    [% js_validation %]

The "form_name" swap-in places a name on the form that the javascript returned by the js_validation swap-in will be able to find and check for validity.

See the hash_validation, js_validation, and form_name hooks for more information.

Also, CGI::Ex::validate.js allows for inline errors in addition to or in replacement of an alert message. To use inline errors, you must provide an element in your HTML document where this inline message can be placed. The common way to do it is as follows:

    <input type="text" name="username"><br>
    <span class="error" id="username_error">[% username_error %]</span>

The span around the error allows for the error css class and it provides a location that the Javascript validation can populate with errors. The [% username_error %] provides a location for errors generated on the server side to be swapped in. If there was no error the [% username_error %] tag would default to "".

ADDING ADDITIONAL TEMPLATE VARIABLES ^

All variables returned by the hash_base, hash_common, hash_form, hash_swap, and hash_errors hooks are available for swapping in templates.

The following shows how to add variables using the hash_swap hook on the step "main".

    sub main_hash_swap {
        return {
            color   => 'red',
            choices => [qw(one two three)],
            "warn"  => sub { warn @_ },
        };
    }

You could also return the fields from the hash_common hook and they would be available in both the template swapping as well as form filling.

See the hash_base, hash_common, hash_form, hash_swap, hash_errors, swap_template, and template_args hooks for more information.

The default template engine used is Template::Alloy. The default interface used is TT which is the Template::Toolkit interface. Template::Alloy allows for using TT documents, HTML::Template documents, HTML::Template::Expr documents, Text::Tmpl documents, or Velocity (VTL) documents. See the Template::Alloy documentation for more information.

ADDING ADDITIONAL FORM FILL VARIABLES ^

All variables returned by the hash_base, hash_common, hash_form, and hash_fill hooks are available for filling html fields in on templates.

The following shows how to add variables using the hash_fill hook on the step "main".

    sub main_hash_fill {
        return {
            color   => 'red',
            choices => [qw(one two three)],
        };
    }

You could also return the fields from the hash_common hook and they would be available in both the form filling as well as in the template swapping.

See the hash_base, hash_common, hash_form, hash_swap, hash_errors, fill_template, and fill_args hooks for more information.

The default form filler is CGI::Ex::Fill which is similar to HTML::FillInForm but has several benefits. See the CGI::Ex::Fill module for the available options.

FINDING TEMPLATES AND VALIDATION FILES ^

CGI::Ex::App tries to help your applications use a good template directory layout, but allows for you to override everything.

External template files are used for storing your html templates and for storing your validation files (if you use externally stored validation files).

The default file_print hook will look for content on your file system, but it can also be completely overridden to return a reference to a scalar containing the contents of your file (beginning with version 2.14 string references can be cached which makes templates passed this way "first class" citizens). Actually it can return anything that Template::Alloy (Template::Toolkit compatible) will treat as input. This templated html is displayed to the user during any step that enters the "print" phase.

Similarly the default file_val hook will look for a validation file on the file system, but it too can return a reference to a scalar containing the contents of a validation file. It may actually return anything that the CGI::Ex::Validate get_validation method is able to understand. This validation is used by the default "info_complete" method for verifying if the submitted information passes its specific checks. A more common way of inlining validation is to return a validation hash from a hash_validation hook override.

If the default file_print and file_val hooks are used, the following methods are employed for finding templates and validation files on your filesystem (they are also documented more in the HOOKS AND METHODS section.

template_path

Absolute path or arrayref of paths to the base templates directory. Defaults to base_dir_abs which defaults to ['.'].

base_dir_rel

Relative path inside of the template_path directory where content can be found. Default "".

name_module

Directory inside of base_dir_rel where files for the current CGI (module) will be stored. Default value is $ENV{SCRIPT_NAME} with path and extension removed.

name_step

Used with ext_print and ext_val for creating the filename that will be looked for inside of the name_module directory. Default value is the current step.

ext_print and ext_val

Filename extensions added to name_step to create the filename looked for inside of the name_module directory. Default is "html" for ext_print and "val" for ext_val.

It may be easier to understand the usage of each of these methods by showing a contrived example. The following is a hypothetical layout for your templates:

    /home/user/templates/
    /home/user/templates/chunks/
    /home/user/templates/wrappers/
    /home/user/templates/content/
    /home/user/templates/content/my_app/
    /home/user/templates/content/my_app/main.html
    /home/user/templates/content/my_app/step1.html
    /home/user/templates/content/my_app/step1.val
    /home/user/templates/content/another_cgi/main.html

In this example we would most likely set values as follows:

    template_path /home/user/templates
    base_dir_rel  content
    name_module   my_app

The name_module method defaults to the name of the running program, but with the path and extension removed. So if we were running /cgi-bin/my_app.pl, /cgi-bin/my_app, or /anypath/my_app, then name_module would default to "my_app" and we wouldn't have to hard code the value. Often it is wise to set the value anyway so that we can change the name of the cgi script without effecting where template content should be stored.

Continuing with the example and assuming that name of the step that the user has requested is "step1" then the following values would be returned:

    template_path /home/user/templates
    base_dir_rel  content
    name_module   my_app
    name_step     step1
    ext_print     html
    ext_val       val

    file_print    content/my_app/step1.html
    file_val      /home/user/templates/content/my_app/step1.val

The call to the template engine would look something like the following:

    my $t = $self->template_obj({
        INCLUDE_PATH => $self->template_path, # defaults to base_dir_abs
    });

    $t->process($self->file_print($step), \%vars);

The template engine would then look for the relative file inside of the absolute paths (from template_path).

The call to the validation engine would pass the absolute filename that is returned by file_val.

The name_module and name_step methods can return filenames with additional directories included. The previous example could also have been setup using the following values:

    template_path /home/user/templates
    base_dir_rel
    name_module   content/my_app

In this case the same values would be returned for the file_print and file_val hooks as were returned in the previous setup.

SYNOPSIS (A LONG "SYNOPSIS") ^

This example script would most likely be in the form of a cgi, accessible via the path http://yourhost.com/cgi-bin/my_app (or however you do CGIs on your system. About the best way to get started is to paste the following code into a cgi script (such as cgi-bin/my_app) and try it out. A detailed walk-through follows in the next section. There is also a longer recipe database example at the end of this document that covers other topics including making your module a mod_perl handler.

    ### File: /var/www/cgi-bin/my_app (depending upon Apache configuration)
    ### --------------------------------------------
    #!/usr/bin/perl -w

    use strict;
    use base qw(CGI::Ex::App);
    use CGI::Ex::Dump qw(debug);

    __PACKAGE__->navigate;
    # OR
    # my $obj = __PACKAGE__->new;
    # $obj->navigate;

    exit;

    ###------------------------------------------###

    sub post_navigate {
        # show what happened
        debug shift->dump_history;
    }

    sub main_hash_validation {
        return {
            'general no_alert'   => 1,
            'general no_confirm' => 1,
            'group order' => [qw(username password password2)],
            username => {
                required => 1,
                min_len  =>  3,
                max_len  => 30,
                match    => 'm/^\w+$/',
                match_error => 'You may only use letters and numbers.',
            },
            password => {
                required => 1,
                min_len  => 6,
            },
            password2 => {
                equals => 'password',
            },
        };
    }

    sub main_file_print {
        # reference to string means ref to content
        # non-reference means filename
        return \ "<h1>Main Step</h1>
          <form method=post name=[% form_name %]>
          <input type=hidden name=step>
          <table>
          <tr>
            <td><b>Username:</b></td>
            <td><input type=text name=username><span style='color:red' id=username_error>[% username_error %]</span></td>
          </tr><tr>
            <td><b>Password:</b></td>
            <td><input type=text name=password><span style='color:red' id=password_error>[% password_error %]</span></td>
          </tr><tr>
            <td><b>Verify Password:</b></td>
            <td><input type=text name=password2><span style='color:red' id=password2_error>[% password2_error %]</span></td>
          </tr>
          <tr><td colspan=2 align=right><input type=submit></td></tr>
          </table>
          </form>
          [% js_validation %]
        ";
    }

    sub main_finalize {
        my $self = shift;

        if ($self->form->{'username'} eq 'bar') {
            $self->add_errors(username => 'A trivial check to say the username cannot be "bar"');
            return 0;
        }

        debug $self->form, "Do something useful with form here in the finalize hook.";

        ### add success step
        $self->add_to_swap({success_msg => "We did something"});
        $self->append_path('success');
        $self->set_ready_validate(0);
        return 1;
    }

    sub success_file_print {
        \ "<div style=background:lightblue>
           <h1>Success Step - [% success_msg %]</h1>
           Username: <b>[% username %]</b><br>
           Password: <b>[% password %]</b><br>
           </div>
          ";
    }

    __END__

Note: This example would be considerably shorter if the html file (file_print) and the validation file (file_val) had been placed in separate files. Though CGI::Ex::App will work "out of the box" as shown it is more probable that any platform using it will customize the various hooks to their own tastes (for example, switching print to use a templating system other than Template::Alloy).

SYNOPSIS STEP BY STEP ^

This section goes step by step over the previous example.

Well - we start out with the customary CGI introduction.

    #!/usr/bin/perl -w

    use strict;
    use base qw(CGI::Ex::App);
    use CGI::Ex::Dump qw(debug);

Note: the "use base" is not normally used in the "main" portion of a script. It does allow us to just do __PACKAGE__->navigate.

Now we need to invoke the process:

    __PACKAGE__->navigate;
    # OR
    # my $obj = __PACKAGE__->new;
    # $obj->navigate;
    exit;

Note: the "exit" isn't necessary - but it is kind of nice to infer that process flow doesn't go beyond the ->navigate call.

The navigate routine is now going to try and "run" through a series of steps. Navigate will call the ->path method which should return an arrayref containing the valid steps. By default, if path method has not been overridden, the path method will default first to the step found in form key named ->step_name, then it will fall to the contents of $ENV{'PATH_INFO'}. If navigation runs out of steps to run it will run the step found in ->default_step which defaults to 'main'. So the URI '/cgi-bin/my_app' would run the step 'main' first by default. The URI '/cgi-bin/my_app?step=foo' would run the step 'foo' first. The URI '/cgi-bin/my_app/bar' would run the step 'bar' first.

CGI::Ex::App allows for running steps in a preset path or each step may choose the next step that should follow. The navigate method will go through one step of the path at a time and see if it is completed (various methods determine the definition of "completed"). This preset type of path can also be automated using the CGI::Path module. Rather than using a preset path, CGI::Ex::App also has methods that allow for dynamic changing of the path, so that each step can determine which step to do next (see the goto_step, append_path, insert_path, and replace_path methods).

During development it would be nice to see what happened during the course of our navigation. This is stored in the arrayref contained in ->history. There is a method that is called after all of the navigation has taken place called "post_navigate". This chunk will display history after we have printed the content.

    sub post_navigate {
        debug shift->dump_history;
    } # show what happened

Ok. Finally we are looking at the methods used by each step of the path. The hook mechanism of CGI::Ex::App will look first for a method ${step}_${hook_name} called before falling back to the method named $hook_name. Internally in the code there is a call that looks like $self->run_hook('hash_validation', $step). In this case the step is main. The dispatch mechanism finds our method at the following chunk of code.

    sub main_hash_validation { ... }

The process flow will see if the data is ready to validate. Once it is ready (usually when the user presses the submit button) the data will be validated. The hash_validation hook is intended to describe the data and will be tested using CGI::Ex::Validate. See the CGI::Ex::Validate perldoc for more information about the many types of validation available.

    sub main_file_print { ... }

The navigation process will see if user submitted information (the form) is ready for validation. If not, or if validation fails, the step needs to be printed. Eventually the file_print hook is called. This hook should return either the filename of the template to be printed, or a reference to the actual template content. In this example we return a reference to the content to be printed (this is useful for prototyping applications and is also fine in real world use - but generally production applications use external html templates).

A few things to note about the template:

First, we add a hidden form field called step. This will be filled in automatically at a later point with the current step we are on.

We provide locations to swap in inline errors.

    <span style="color:red" id="username_error">[% username_error %]</span>

As part of the error html we name each span with the name of the error. This will allow for us to have Javascript update the error spots when the javascript finds an error.

At the very end we add the TT variable [% js_validation %]. This swap in is provided by the default hash_base hook and will provide for form data to be validated using javascript.

Once the process flow has deemed that the data is validated, it then calls the finalize hook. Finalize is where the bulk of operations should go. We'll look at it more in depth.

    sub main_finalize {
        my $self = shift;
        my $form = $self->form;

At this point, all of the validated data is in the $form hashref.

        if ($form->{'username'} eq 'bar') {
            $self->add_errors(username => 'A trivial check to say the username cannot be "bar"');
            return 0;
        }

It is most likely that though the data is of the correct type and formatting, it still isn't completely correct. This previous section shows a hard coded test to see if the username was 'bar'. If it was then an appropriate error will be set, the routine returns 0 and the run_step process knows that it needs to redisplay the form page for this step. The username_error will be shown inline. The program could do more complex things such as checking to see if the username was already taken in a database.

        debug $form, "Do something useful with form here in the finalize hook.";

This debug $form piece is simply a place holder. It is here that the program would do something useful such as add the information to a database.

        ### add success step
        $self->add_to_swap({success_msg => "We did something"});

Now that we have finished finalize, we add a message that will be passed to the template engine.

        $self->append_path('success');
        $self->set_ready_validate(0);

The program now needs to move on to the next step. In this case we want to follow with a page that informs us we succeeded. So, we append a step named "success". We also call set_ready_validate(0) to inform the navigation control that the form is no longer ready to validate - which will cause the success page to print without trying to validate the data. It is normally a good idea to set this as leaving the engine in a "ready to validate" state can result in an recursive loop (that will be caught).

        return 1;
    }

We then return 1 which tells the engine that we completed this step successfully and it needs to move on to the next step.

Finally we run the "success" step because we told it to. That step isn't ready to validate so it prints out the template page.

For more of a real world example, it would be good to read the sample recipe db application included at the end of this document.

AVAILABLE METHODS / HOOKS ^

CGI::Ex::App's dispatch system works on the principles of hooks (which are essentially glorified method lookups). When the run_hook method is called, CGI::Ex::App will look for a corresponding method call for that hook for the current step name. It is perhaps easier to show than to explain.

If we are calling the "print" hook for the step "edit" we would call run_hook like this:

    $self->run_hook('print', 'edit', $template, \%swap, \%fill);

This would first look for a method named "edit_print". If it is unable to find a method by that name, it will look for a method named "print". If it is unable to find this method - it will die.

If allow_morph is set to true, the same methods are searched for but it becomes possible to move some of those methods into an external package.

See the discussions under the methods named "find_hook" and "run_hook" for more details.

Some hooks expect "magic" values to be replaced. Often they are intuitive, but sometimes it is easy to forget. For example, the finalize hook should return true (default) to indicate the step is complete and false to indicate that it failed and the page should be redisplayed. You can import a set of constants that allows for human readible names.

    use CGI::Ex::App qw(:App__finalize);
    OR
    use MyAppPkg qw(:App__finalize); # if it is a subclass of CGI::Ex::App

This would import the following constants: App__finalize__failed_and_show_page (0), App__finalize__finished_and_move_to_next_step => (1 - default), and App__finalize__finished_but_show_page ("" - still false). These constants are provided by CGI::Ex::App::Constants which also contains more options for usage.

The following is the alphabetical list of methods and hooks.

allow_morph (hook)

Should return true if this step is allowed to "morph" the current App object into another package. Default is false. It is passed a single argument of the current step. For more granularity, if true value is a hash, the step being morphed to must be in the hash.

If the returned value is "1", and the module doesn't exist, then the App will continue to run blessed into the current package. If there is an error requiring the module or if the module doesn't exist and the return value is "2" (true but not 1), then App will die with the appropriate error.

To enable morphing for all steps, add the following: (Packages that don't exists won't be morphed to)

    sub allow_morph { 1 }

To force morphing for all steps add the following:

    sub allow_morph { 2 }

To enable morph on specific steps, do either of the following:

    sub allow_morph {
        return {
            edit => 1,
            delete => 2, # must morph
        };
    }

    # OR

    sub allow_morph {
        my ($self, $step) = @_;
        return 1 if $step eq 'edit';
        return 2 if $step eq 'delete';
        return;
    }

See the morph "hook" for more information.

append_path (method)

Arguments are the steps to append. Can be called any time. Adds more steps to the end of the current path.

auth_args (method)

Should return a hashref that will be passed to the auth_obj method which should return a CGI::Ex::Auth compatible object. It is augmented with arguments that integrate it into CGI::Ex::App.

See the get_valid_auth method and the CGI::Ex::Auth documentation.

    sub auth_args {
        return {
            login_header => '<h1>My login header</h1>',
            login_footer => '[% TRY %][% INCLUDE login/login_footer.htm %][% CATCH %]<!-- [% error %] -->[% END %]',
            secure_hash_keys => [qw(aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb ccccccccccccccccccccccc 2222222222222)],
            # use_blowfish => 'my_blowfish_key',
        };
    }
auth_data (method)

Contains authentication data stored during the get_valid_auth method. The data is normally blessed into the CGI::Ex::Auth::Data package which evaluates to false if there was an error and true if the authentication was successful - so this data can be defined but false.

See the get_valid_auth method.

auth_obj (method)

Passed auth_args. Should return a CGI::Ex::Auth compatible object. Default is to call CGI::Ex::Auth->new with the passed args.

base_dir_abs (method)

Used as the absolute base directory to find template, validation and conf files. It may return a single value or an arrayref of values, or a coderef that returns an arrayref or coderef of values. You may pass base_dir_abs as a parameter in the arguments passed to the "new" method.

Default value is ['.'].

For example, to pass multiple paths, you would use something similar to the following:

    sub base_dir_abs {
        return ['/my/path/one', '/some/other/path'];
    }

The base_dir_abs value is used by template_path along with the base_dir_rel, name_module, name_step, ext_print and ext_values for determining the values returned by the default file_print and file_val hooks. See those methods for further discussion.

See the section on FINDING TEMPLATES for further discussion.

The base_dir_abs method is also used as the default value for conf_path and vob_path.

base_dir_rel (method)

Added as a relative base directory to content under the base_dir_abs directory.

Default value is "".

The template_path method is used as top level where template includes may pull from, while the base_dir_rel is directory relative to the template_path where the content files will be stored.

A value for base_dir_rel may passed as a parameter in the arguments passed to the new method.

See the template_path and base_dir_abs methods for more discussion.

See the section on FINDING TEMPLATES for further discussion.

cleanup_user (method)

Used as a hook during get_valid_auth. Allows for cleaning up the username. See the get_valid_auth method.

    sub cleanup_user {
        my ($self, $user) = @_;
        return lc $user;
    }
clear_app (method)

If the same CGI::Ex::App based object is used to run multiple navigate sessions, the clear_app method should be called which will attempt to clear as much session information as it can. The following items will be cleared:

    cgix
    vob
    form
    cookies
    stash
    path
    path_i
    history
    _morph_lineage_start_index
    _morph_lineage
    hash_errors
    hash_fill
    hash_swap
    hash_common
conf (method)

Used by default in init_from_conf if load_conf returns true. Will try to read the file returned by the conf_file method using the object returned by conf_obj using that object's read method. If conf_validation returns a non-empty hashref, the conf hash will be validated using $self->vob->validate (see the validate method).

This method may be used for other purposes as well (including when load_conf is false)..

Caches results in $self->{'conf'}.

If the conf_file can't be found, the method will die unless conf_die_on_fail returns 0 (defaults to true).

conf_args

Used by conf_obj.

Defaults to $self->{'conf_args'} which defaults to {}. Will have paths => $self->conf_path added before passing to CGI::Ex::Conf->new.

conf_file (method)

Used by conf for finding the configuration file to load. Defaults to $self->{'conf_file'} which defaults $self->name_module with the extention returned by $self->ext_conf added on. For example, if name_module returns "my_app" and ext_conf returns "ini" the value returned will be "my_app.ini".

The value returned can absolute. If the value will be searched for in the paths passed to conf_obj.

The ext_conf may be any of those extentions understood by CGI::Ex::Conf.

conf_obj

Used by the conf method to load the file returned by conf_file. Defaults to conf_obj which defaults to loading args from conf_args, adding in paths returned by conf_path, and calling CGI::Ex::Conf->new.

Any object that provides a read method that returns a hashref can be used.

conf_path

Defaults to $self->{'conf_path'} which defaults to base_dir_abs. Should be a path or an arrayref of paths to look the configuration file returned by conf_file when that file is not absolute.

conf_validation

Used by default conf method. Defaults to an empty hashref. If non-empty hashref is passed, the hashref returned by conf_obj->read will be validated using the hashref returned by conf_validation.

current_step (method)

Returns the current step that the nav_loop is functioning on.

default_step (method)

Step to show if the path runs out of steps. Default value is the 'default_step' property which defaults to 'main'.

If nav_loop runs of the end of the path (runs out of steps), this method is called, the step is added to the path, and nav_loop calls itself recursively.

destroy (method)

Called at the end of navigate after all other actions have run. Can be used for undoing things done in the ->init method called during the ->new method.

dump_history (method)

Show simplified trace information of which steps were called, the order they were called in, the time they took to run, and a brief list of the output (to see the full response returned by each hook, pass a true value as the only argument to dump_history - $self->dump_history(1)). Indentation is also applied to show which hooks called other hooks.

The first line shows the amount of time elapsed for the entire navigate execution. Subsequent lines contain:

    Step   - the name of the current step.
    Hook   - the name of the hook being called.
    Found  - the name of the method that was found.
    Time   - the total elapsed seconds that method took to run.
    Output - the response of the hook - shown in shortened form.

Note - to get full output responses - pass a true value to dump_history - or just call ->history. Times displayed are to 5 decimal places - this accuracy can only be provided if the Time::HiRes module is installed on your system (it will only be used if installed).

It is usually best to print this history during the post_navigate method as in the following:

    use CGI::Ex::Dump qw(debug);
    sub post_navigate { debug shift->dump_history }

The following is a sample output of dump_history called from the sample recipe application at the end of this document. The step called is "view".

    debug: admin/Recipe.pm line 14
    shift->dump_history = [
            "Elapsed: 0.00562",
            "view - require_auth - require_auth - 0.00001 - 0",
            "view - run_step - run_step - 0.00488 - 1",
            "    view - pre_step - pre_step - 0.00003 - 0",
            "    view - skip - view_skip - 0.00004 - 0",
            "    view - prepare - prepare - 0.00003 - 1",
            "    view - info_complete - info_complete - 0.00010 - 0",
            "        view - ready_validate - ready_validate - 0.00004 - 0",
            "    view - prepared_print - prepared_print - 0.00441 - 1",
            "        view - hash_base - hash_base - 0.00009 - HASH(0x84ea6ac)",
            "        view - hash_common - view_hash_common - 0.00148 - HASH(0x8310a20)",
            "        view - hash_form - hash_form - 0.00004 - HASH(0x84eaa78)",
            "        view - hash_fill - hash_fill - 0.00003 - {}",
            "        view - hash_swap - hash_swap - 0.00003 - {}",
            "        view - hash_errors - hash_errors - 0.00003 - {}",
            "        view - print - print - 0.00236 - 1",
            "            view - file_print - file_print - 0.00024 - recipe/view.html",
            "                view - name_module - name_module - 0.00007 - recipe",
            "                view - name_step - name_step - 0.00004 - view",
            "            view - swap_template - swap_template - 0.00161 - <html> ...",
            "                view - template_args - template_args - 0.00008 - HASH(0x865abf8)",
            "            view - fill_template - fill_template - 0.00018 - 1",
            "                view - fill_args - fill_args - 0.00003 - {}",
            "            view - print_out - print_out - 0.00015 - 1",
            "    view - post_print - post_print - 0.00003 - 0"
    ];
error_step (method)

Defaults to "__error". The name of a step to run should a dying error be caught by the default handle_error method. See the handle_error method.

exit_nav_loop (method)

This method should not normally used but there is no problem with using it on a regular basis. Essentially it is a "goto" that allows for a long jump to the end of all nav_loops (even if they are recursively nested). This effectively short circuits all remaining hooks for the current and remaining steps. It is used to allow the ->goto_step functionality. If the application has morphed, it will be unmorphed before returning. Also - the post_navigate method will still be called.

ext_conf

Used by the default conf_file method. Defaults to $self->{'ext_conf'} which defaults to 'pl' meaning that the read configuration file should return a valid perl hashref.

ext_print (method)

Added as suffix to "name_step" during the default file_print hook.

Default value is 'html'.

For example, if name_step returns "foo" and ext_print returns "html" then the file "foo.html" will be searched for.

See the section on FINDING TEMPLATES for further discussion.

ext_val (method)

Added as suffix to "name_step" during the default file_val hook.

Default value is 'val'.

For example, if name_step returns "foo" and ext_val returns "val" then the file "foo.val" will be searched for.

See the section on FINDING TEMPLATES for further discussion.

fill_args (hook)

Returns a hashref of args that will be passed to the CGI::Ex::Fill::fill. It is augmented with the template to swap and the fill hash. This could be useful if you needed to only swap a particular form on the template page. Arguments are passed directly to the fill function.

   sub fill_args { {target => 'my_form'} }
fill_template (hook)

Arguments are a template and a hashref. Takes the template that was prepared using swap_template, and swaps html form fields using the passed hashref. Overriding this method can control the fill behavior.

Calls the fill_args hook prior to calling CGI::Ex::Fill::fill

file_print (hook)

Returns a filename of the content to be used in the default print hook. Adds method base_dir_rel to hook name_module, and name_step and adds on the default file extension found in $self->ext_print which defaults to the property $self->{ext_print} which will default to ".html". Should return a filename relative to template_path that can be swapped using Template::Alloy, or should be a scalar reference to the template content that can be swapped. This will be used by the hook print.

    sub template_path { '/var/www/templates' }
    sub base_dir_rel  { 'content' }
    sub name_module   { 'recipe' }
    sub ext_print     { 'html' } # default

    # ->file_print('this_step')
    # would return 'content/recipe/this_step.html'
    # the template engine would look in '/var/www/templates'
    # for a file by that name

It may also return a reference to a string containing the html template. This is useful for prototyping applications and/or keeping all of the data for the application in a single location.

file_val (hook)

Returns a filename containing the validation. Performs the same as file_print, but uses ext_val to get the extension, and it adds vob_path (which defaults to template_path which defaults to base_dir_abs) onto the returned value (file_print is relative to template_path, while file_val is fully qualified with vob_path). If vob_path returns an arrayref of paths, then each path is checked for the existence of the file.

The file should be readable by CGI::Ex::Validate::get_validation.

This hook is only necessary if the hash_validation hook has not been overridden. 5B This method an also return a hashref containing the validation - but then you may have wanted to override the hash_validation hook.

finalize (hook)

Defaults to true. Used to do whatever needs to be done with the data once prepare has returned true and info_complete has returned true. On failure the print operations are ran. On success navigation moves on to the next step.

This is normally were there core logic of a script will occur (such as adding to a database, or updating a record). At this point, the data should be validated. It is possible to do additional validation and return errors using code such as the following.

    if (! $user_is_unique) {
        $self->add_errors(username => 'The username was already used');
        return 0;
    }
find_hook (method)

Called by run_hook. Arguments are a hook name, a step name. It should return an arrayref containing the code_ref to run, and the name of the method looked for. It uses ->can to find the appropriate hook.

    my $code = $self->hook('finalize', 'main');
    ### will look first for $self->main_finalize;
    ### will then look  for $self->finalize;

This system is used to allow for multiple steps to be in the same file and still allow for moving some steps out to external sub classed packages (if desired).

If the application has successfully morphed via the morph method and allow_morph then it is not necessary to add the step name to the beginning of the method name as the morphed packages method will override the base package (it is still OK to use the full method name "${step}_hookname").

See the run_hook method and the morph method for more details.

first_step (method)

Returns the first step of the path. Note that first_step may not be the same thing as default_step if the path was overridden.

forbidden_step (method)

Defaults to "__forbidden". The name of a step to run should the current step name be invalid, or if a step found by the default path method is invalid. See the path method.

form (method)

Returns a hashref of the items passed to the CGI. Returns $self->{form} which defaults to CGI::Ex::get_form.

form_name (hook)

Return the name of the form to attach the js validation to. Used by js_validation.

get_pass_by_user (method)

This method is passed a username and the authentication object. It should return the password for the given user. See the get_pass_by_user method of CGI::Ex::Auth for more information. Installed as a hook to the authentication object during the get_valid_auth method.

get_valid_auth (method)

If require_auth hook returns true on any given step then get_valid_auth will be called.

It will call auth_args to get some default args to pass to CGI::Ex::Auth->new. It augments the args with sensible defaults that App already provides (such as form, cookies, and template facilities). It also installs hooks for the get_pass_by_user, cleanup_user, and verify_user hooks of CGI::Ex::Auth.

It stores the $auth->last_auth_data in $self->auth_data for later use. For example, to get the authenticated user:

    sub require_auth { 1 }

    sub cleanup_user {
        my ($self, $user) = @_;
        return lc $user;
    }

    sub get_pass_by_user {
        my ($self, $user) = @_;
        my $pass = $self->some_method_to_get_the_pass($user);
        return $pass;
    }

    sub auth_args {
        return {
            login_header => '<h1>My login header</h1>',
            login_footer => '[% TRY %][% INCLUDE login/login_footer.htm %][% CATCH %]<!-- [% error %] -->[% END %]',
        };
    }

    sub main_hash_swap {
        my $self = shift;
        my $user = $self->auth_data->{'user'};
        return {user => $user};
    }

Successful authentication is cached for the duration of the nav_loop so multiple steps will run the full authentication routine only once.

Full customization of the login process and the login template can be done via the auth_args hash. See the auth_args method and CGI::Ex::Auth perldoc for more information.

goto_step (method)

This method is not normally used but can solve some difficult issues. It provides for moving to another step at any point during the nav_loop. Once a goto_step has been called, the entire nav_loop will be exited (to simply replace a portion of a step, you can simply run_hook('run_step', 'other_step')). The method goto_step effectively short circuits the remaining hooks for the current step. It does increment the recursion counter (which has a limit of ->recurse_limit - default 15). Normally you would allow the other hooks in the loop to carry on their normal functions and avoid goto_step. (Essentially, this hook behaves like a goto method to bypass everything else and continue at a different location in the path - there are times when it is necessary or useful to do this).

The method jump is an alias for this method.

Goto_step takes a single argument which is the location in the path to jump to. This argument may be either a step name, the special strings "FIRST, LAST, CURRENT, PREVIOUS, OR NEXT" or the number of steps to jump forward (or backward) in the path. The default value, 1, indicates that CGI::Ex::App should jump to the next step (the default action for goto_step). A value of 0 would repeat the current step (watch out for recursion). A value of -1 would jump to the previous step. The special value of "LAST" will jump to the last step. The special value of "FIRST" will jump back to the first step. In each of these cases, the path array returned by ->path is modified to allow for the jumping (the path is modified so that the path history is not destroyed - if we were on step 3 and jumped to one, that path would contain 1, 2, 3, *1, 2, 3, 4, etc and we would be at the *). If a step name is not currently on the path, it will be replace any remaining steps of the path.

    # goto previous step (repeat it)
    $self->goto_step($self->previous_step);
    $self->goto_step('PREVIOUS');
    $self->goto_step(-1);

    # goto next step
    $self->goto_step($self->next_step);
    $self->goto_step('NEXT');
    $self->goto_step(1);
    $self->goto_step;

    # goto current step (repeat)
    $self->goto_step($self->current_step);
    $self->goto_step('CURRENT');
    $self->goto_step(0);

    # goto last step
    $self->goto_step($self->last_step);
    $self->goto_step('LAST');

    # goto first step (repeat it)
    $self->goto_step($self->first_step);
    $self->goto_step('FIRST');
handle_error (method)

If anything dies during execution, handle_error will be called with the error that had happened. Default action is to try running the step returned by the error_step method.

hash_base (hook)

A hash of base items to be merged with hash_form - such as pulldown menus, javascript validation, etc. It will now also be merged with hash_fill, so it can contain default fillins as well. It can be populated by passing a hash to ->add_to_base. By default a sub similar to the following is what is used for hash_common. Note the use of values that are code refs - so that the js_validation and form_name hooks are only called if requested:

    sub hash_base {
        my ($self, $step) = @_;
        return $self->{hash_base} ||= {
            script_name   => $ENV{SCRIPT_NAME},
            js_validation => sub { $self->run_hook('js_validation', $step) },
            form_name     => sub { $self->run_hook('form_name', $step) },
        };
    }
hash_common (hook)

Almost identical in function and purpose to hash_base. It is intended that hash_base be used for common items used in various scripts inheriting from a common CGI::Ex::App type parent. Hash_common is more intended for step level populating of both swap and fill.

hash_errors (hook)

Called in preparation for print after failed prepare, info_complete, or finalize. Should contain a hash of any errors that occurred. Will be merged into hash_form before the pass to print. Each error that occurred will be passed to method format_error before being added to the hash. If an error has occurred, the default validate will automatically add {has_errors =>1}. To the error hash at the time of validation. has_errors will also be added during the merge in case the default validate was not used. Can be populated by passing a hash to ->add_to_errors or ->add_errors.

hash_fill (hook)

Called in preparation for print after failed prepare, info_complete, or finalize. Should contain a hash of any items needed to be filled into the html form during print. Items from hash_form, hash_base, and hash_common will be layered together. Can be populated by passing a hash to ->add_to_fill.

By default - forms are sticky and data from previous requests will try and populate the form. You can use the fill_template hook to disable templating on a single page or on all pages.

This method can be used to pre-populate the form as well (such as on an edit step). If a form fails validation, hash_fill will also be called and will only want the submitted form fields to be sticky. You can use the ready_validate hook to prevent pre-population in these cases as follows:

    sub edit_hash_fill {
        my $self = shift;
        my $step = shift;
        return {} if $self->run_hook('ready_validate', $step);

        my %hash;

        ### get previous values from the database

        return \%hash;
    }
hash_form (hook)

Called in preparation for print after failed prepare, info_complete, or finalize. Defaults to ->form. Can be populated by passing a hash to ->add_to_form.

hash_swap (hook)

Called in preparation for print after failed prepare, info_complete, or finalize. Should contain a hash of any items needed to be swapped into the html during print. Will be merged with hash_base, hash_common, hash_form, and hash_errors. Can be populated by passing a hash to ->add_to_swap.

The hash will be passed as the second argument to swap_template.

hash_validation (hook)

Returns a hash of the validation information to check form against. By default, will look for a filename using the hook file_val and will pass it to CGI::Ex::Validate::get_validation. If no file_val is returned or if the get_validation fails, an empty hash will be returned. Validation is implemented by ->vob which loads a CGI::Ex::Validate object.

history (method)

Returns an arrayref which contains trace history of which hooks of which steps were ran. Useful for seeing what happened. In general - each line of the history will show the current step, the hook requested, and which hook was actually called.

The dump_history method shows a short condensed version of this history which makes it easier to see what path was followed.

In general, the arrayref is free for anything to push onto which will help in tracking other occurrences in the program as well.

info_complete (hook)

Calls the ready_validate hook to see if data is ready to validate. If so it calls the validate hook to validate the data. Should make sure the data is ready and valid. Will not be run unless prepare returns true (default).

init (method)

Called by the default new method. Allows for any object initilizations that may need to take place. Default action does nothing.

init_from_conf (method)

Called by the default new method. If load_conf is true, then the conf method will be called and the keys returned will be added to the $self object.

This method is called after the init method. If you need to further fix up values added during init_from_conf, you can use the pre_navigate method.

insert_path (method)

Arguments are the steps to insert. Can be called any time. Inserts the new steps at the current path location.

is_authed (method)

Returns true if the object has successful authentication data. It returns false if the object has not been authenticated.

js_uri_path (method)

Return the URI path where the CGI/Ex/yaml_load.js and CGI/Ex/validate.js files can be found. This will default to "$ENV{SCRIPT_NAME}/js" if the path method has not been overridden, otherwise it will default to "$ENV{SCRIPT_NAME}?step=js&js=" (the latter is more friendly with overridden paths). A default handler for the "js" step has been provided in "js_run_step" (this handler will nicely print out the javascript found in the js files which are included with this distribution. js_run_step will work properly with the default "path" handler.

js_validation (hook)

Will return Javascript that is capable of validating the form. This is done using the capabilities of CGI::Ex::Validate and CGI::Ex::JSONDump. This will call the hook hash_validation which will then be encoded into json and placed in a javascript string. It will also call the hook form_name to determine which html form to attach the validation to. The method js_uri_path is called to determine the path to the appropriate validate.js files. In order to make use of js_validation, it must be added to the variables returned by either the hash_base (default), hash_common, hash_swap or hash_form hook (see examples of hash_base used in this doc).

jump (method)

Alias for the goto_step method.

last_step (method)

Returns the last step of the path.

load_conf (method)

Defaults to ->{load_conf} which defaults to false. If true, will allow keys returned by the conf method to be added to $self during the init_from_conf method.

Enabling this method allows for out-of-the-box file based configuration.

morph (method)

Allows for temporarily "becoming" another object type for the execution of the current step. This allows for separating some steps out into their own packages.

Morph will only run if the method allow_morph returns true. Additionally if the allow_morph returns a hash ref, morph will only run if the step being morphed to is in the hash. Morph also passes the step name to allow_morph.

The morph call occurs at the beginning of the step loop. A corresponding unmorph call occurs before the loop is exited. An object can morph several levels deep. For example, an object running as Foo::Bar that is looping on the step "my_step" that has allow_morph = 1, will do the following:

    Call the morph_package hook (which would default to returning
    Foo::Bar::MyStep in this case)

    Translate this to a package filename (Foo/Bar/MyStep.pm) and try
    and require it, if the file can be required, the object is blessed
    into that package.

    Call the fixup_after_morph method.

    Continue on with the run_step for the current step.

At any exit point of the loop, the unmorph call is made which re-blesses the object into the original package.

Samples of allowing morph:

    sub allow_morph { 1 } # value of 1 means try to find package, ok if not found

    sub allow_morph { {edit => 1} }

    sub allow_morph { my ($self, $step) = @_; return $step eq 'edit' }
morph_package (hook)

Used by morph. Return the package name to morph into during a morph call. Defaults to using the current object type as a base. For example, if the current object running is a Foo::Bar object and the step running is my_step, then morph_package will return Foo::Bar::MyStep.

Because of the way that run_hook works, it is possible that several steps could be located in the same external file and overriding morph_package could allow for this to happen.

See the morph method.

name_module (hook)

Return the name (relative path) that should be pre-pended to name_step during the default file_print and file_val lookups. Defaults to the value in $self->{name_module} which in turn defaults to the name of the current script.

    cgi-bin/my_app.pl  =>  my_app
    cgi/my_app         =>  my_app

This method is provided so that each cgi or mod_perl application can have its own directory for storing html for its steps.

See the file_print method for more information.

See the section on FINDING TEMPLATES for further discussion.

name_step (hook)

Return the step (appended to name_module) that should used when looking up the file in file_print and file_val lookups. Defaults to the current step.

See the section on FINDING TEMPLATES for further discussion.

nav_loop (method)

This is the main loop runner. It figures out the current path and runs all of the appropriate hooks for each step of the path. If nav_loop runs out of steps to run (which happens if no path is set, or if all other steps run successfully), it will insert the ->default_step into the path and run nav_loop again (recursively). This way a step is always assured to run. There is a method ->recurse_limit (default 15) that will catch logic errors (such as inadvertently running the same step over and over and over because there is either no hash_validation, or the data is valid but the set_ready_validate(0) method was not called).

navigate (method)

Takes a class name or a CGI::Ex::App object as arguments. If a class name is given it will call the "new" method to instantiate an object by that class (passing any extra arguments to the new method). All returns from navigate will return the object.

The method navigate is essentially a safe wrapper around the ->nav_loop method. It will catch any dies and pass them to ->handle_error.

This starts the process flow for the path and its steps.

navigate_authenticated (method)

Same as the method navigate but calls ->require_auth(1) before running. It will only work if the navigate_authenticated method has not been overwritten. See the require_auth method.

new (class method)

Object creator. Takes a hashref of arguments that will become the initial properties of the object. Calls the init method once the object has been blessed to allow for any other initilizations.

    my $app = MyApp->new({name_module => 'my_app'});
next_step (hook and method)

As a method it returns the next step in the path - if the path has more steps left.

It is also used as a hook by the refine_path hook. If there is no more steps, it will call the next_step hook to try and find a step to append to the path.

path (method)

Return an arrayref (modifiable) of the steps in the path. For each step the run_step hook and all of its remaining hooks will be run.

Hook methods are looked up and ran using the method "run_hook" which uses the method "find_hook" to lookup the hook. A history of ran hooks is stored in the array ref returned by $self->history.

If path has not been defined, the method will look first in the form for a key by the name found in ->step_key. It will then look in $ENV{'PATH_INFO'}. It will use this step to create a path with that one step as its contents. If a step is passed in via either of these ways, the method will call valid_steps to make sure that the step is valid (by default valid_steps returns undef - which means that any step is valid). Any step beginning with _ can not be passed in and are intended for use on private paths. If a non-valid step is found, then path will be set to contain a single step of ->forbidden_step.

For the best functionality, the arrayref returned should be the same reference returned for every call to path - this ensures that other methods can add to the path (and will most likely break if the arrayref is not the same).

If navigation runs out of steps to run, the default step found in default_step will be run. This is what allows for us to default to the "main" step for many applications.

path_info_map (hook)

Used to map path_info parts to form variables. Similar to the path_info_map_base method. See the path_info_map_base method for a discussion of how to use this hook.

path_info_map_base (method)

Called during the default path method. It is used to custom map portions of $ENV{'PATH_INFO'} to form values. If should return an arrayref of arrayrefs where each child arrayref contains a regex qr with match parens as the first element of the array. Subsequent elements of the array are the key names to store the corresponding matched value from the regex under. The outer arrayref is iterated until it one of child arrayrefs matches against $ENV{'PATH_INFO'}. The matched values are only added to the form if there is not already a defined value for that key in the form.

The default value returned by this method looks something like the following:

   sub path_info_map_base {
       return [[qr{^/(\w+)}, $self->step_key]];
   }

This example would map the following PATH_INFO string as follows:

   /my_step

   # $self->form->{'step'} now equals "my_step"

The following is another example:

   sub path_info_map_base {
       return [
           [qr{^/([^/]+)/(\w+)}, 'username', $self->step_key],
           [qr{^/(\w+)}, $self->step_key],
       ];
   }

   # the PATH_INFO /my_step
   # still results in
   # $self->form->{'step'} now equals "my_step"

   # but with the PATH_INFO /my_user/my_step
   # $self->form->{'step'} now equals "my_step"
   # and $self->form->{'username'} equals "my_user"

In most cases there is not a need to override the path_info_map_base method, but rather override the path_info_map hook for a particular step. When the step is being run, just before the run_step hook is called, the path_info_map hook is called. The path_info_map hook is similar to the path_info_map_base method, but is used to allow step level manipulation of form based on elements in the $ENV{'PATH_INFO'}.

   sub my_step_path_info_map {
       return [[qr{^/my_step/(\w+)$}, 'username']];
   }

   # the PATH_INFO /my_step/my_user
   # results in
   # $self->form->{'step'} equal to "my_step" because of default path_info_map_base
   # and $self->form->{'username'} equals "my_user" because of my_step_path_info_map

The section on mapping URIs to steps has additional examples.

post_loop (method)

Ran after all of the steps in the loop have been processed (if prepare, info_complete, and finalize were true for each of the steps). If it returns a true value the navigation loop will be aborted. If it does not return true, navigation continues by then inserting the step $self->default_step and running $self->nav_loop again (recurses) to fall back to the default step.

post_navigate (method)

Called from within navigate. Called after the nav_loop has finished running but within the eval block to catch errors. Will only run if there were no errors which died during the nav_loop process.

It can be disabled from running by setting the _no_post_navigate property.

If per-step authentication is enabled and authentication fails, the post_navigate method will still be called (the post_navigate method can check the ->is_authed method to change behavior). If application level authentication is enabled and authentication fails, none of the pre_navigate, nav_loop, or post_navigate methods will be called.

post_print (hook)

A hook which occurs after the printing has taken place. Is only run if the information was not complete. Useful for cases such as printing rows of a database query after displaying a query form.

post_step (hook)

Ran at the end of the step's loop if prepare, info_complete, and finalize all returned true. Allows for cleanup. If a true value is returned, execution of navigate is returned and no more steps are processed.

pre_loop (method)

Called right before the navigation loop is started (at the beginning of nav_loop). At this point the path is set (but could be modified). The only argument is a reference to the path array. If it returns a true value - the navigation routine is aborted.

pre_navigate (method)

Called at the very beginning of the navigate method, but within the eval block to catch errors. Called before the nav_loop method is started. If a true value is returned then navigation is skipped (the nav_loop is never started).

pre_step (hook)

Ran at the beginning of the loop before prepare, info_compelete, and finalize are called. If it returns true, execution of nav_loop is returned and no more steps are processed..

prepare (hook)

Defaults to true. A hook before checking if the info_complete is true. Intended to be used to cleanup the form data.

prepared_print (hook)

Called when any of prepare, info_complete, or finalize fail. Prepares a form hash and a fill hash to pass to print. The form hash is primarily intended for use by the templating system. The fill hash is intended to be used to fill in any html forms.

previous_step (method)

List the step previous to this one. Will return '' if there is no previous step.

print (hook)

Take the information generated by prepared_print, format it using swap_template, fill it using fill_template and print it out using print_out. Default incarnation uses Template::Alloy which is compatible with Template::Toolkit to do the swapping. Arguments are: step name (used to call the file_print hook), swap hashref (passed to call swap_template), and fill hashref (passed to fill_template).

During the print call, the file_print hook is called which should return a filename or a scalar reference to the template content is

print_out (hook)

Called with the finished document. Should print out the appropriate headers. The default method calls $self->cgix->print_content_type and then prints the content.

The print_content_type is passed $self->mimetype (which defaults to $self->{'mimetype'} which defaults to 'text/html') and $self->charset (which defaults to $self->{'charset'} which defaults to '').

ready_validate (hook)

Should return true if enough information is present to run validate. Default is to look if $ENV{'REQUEST_METHOD'} is 'POST'. A common usage is to pass a common flag in the form such as 'processing' => 1 and check for its presence - such as the following:

    sub ready_validate { shift->form->{'processing'} }

Changing the behavior of ready_validate can help in making wizard type applications.

You can also use the validate_when_data hook to change the behavior of ready_validate. If valiate_when_data returns true, then ready_validate will look for keys in the form matching keys that are in hash_validation - if they exist ready_validate will be true. If there are no hash_validation keys, ready_validate uses its default behavior.

refine_path (hook)

Called at the end of nav_loop. Passed a single value indicating if there are currently more steps in the path.

The default implementation returns if there are still more steps in the path. Otherwise, it calls the next_step hook and appends it to the path with the append_path method, and then calls the set_ready_validate hook and passes it 0.

This allows you to simply put

    sub edit_next_step { '_edit_success' }

In your code and it will automatically do the right thing and go to the _edit_success step.

recurse_limit (method)

Default 15. Maximum number of times to allow nav_loop to call itself. The recurse level will increase every time that ->goto_step is called, or if the end of the nav_loop is reached and the process tries to add the default_step and run it again.

If ->goto_step is used often - the recurse_limit will be reached more quickly. It is safe to raise this as high as is necessary - so long as it is intentional.

Often the limit is reached if a step did not have a validation hash, or if the set_ready_validate(0) method was not called once the data had been successfully validated and acted upon.

replace_path (method)

Arguments are the steps used to replace. Can be called any time. Replaces the remaining steps (if any) of the current path.

require_auth (hook)

Defaults to self->{require_auth} which defaults to undef. If called as a method and passed a single value of 1, 0, or undef it will set the value of $self->{require_auth} to that value. If set to a true value then any subsequent step will require authentication (unless its hook has been overwritten).

Any of the following ways can be used to require authentication on every step.

  •     sub require_auth { 1 }
  •     __PACKAGE__->navigate_authenticated; # instead of __PACKAGE__->navigate;
  •     __PACKAGE__->new({require_auth => 1}->navigate;
  •     sub init { shift->require_auth(1) }

Because it is called as a hook, the current step is passed as the first argument. If the hook returns false, no authentication will be required on this step. If the hook returns a true, non-hashref value, authentication will be required via the get_valid_auth method. If the method returns a hashref of stepnames to require authentication on, the step will require authentication via the get_valid_auth method if the current step is in the hashref. If authentication is required and succeeds, the step will proceed. If authentication is required and fails at the step level the current step will be aborted, authentication will be asked for (the post_navigate method will still be called).

For example you could add authentication to the add, edit, and delete steps in any of the following ways:

  •     sub require_auth { {add => 1, edit => 1, delete => 1} }
  •     sub add_require_auth    { 1 }
        sub edit_require_auth   { 1 }
        sub delete_require_auth { 1 }
  •     sub require_auth {
            my ($self, $step) = @_;
            return 1 if $step && $step =~ /^(add|edit|delete)$/;
            return 0;
        }

If however you wanted to require authentication on all but one or two methods (such as requiring authentication on all but a forgot_password step) you could do either of the following:

  •     sub require_auth {
            my ($self, $step) = @_;
            return 0 if $step && $step eq 'forgot_password';
            return 1; # require auth on all other steps
        }
  •     sub require_auth { 1 } # turn it on for all steps
    
        sub forgot_password_require_auth { 0 } # turn it off

See the get_valid_auth method for what occurs should authentication be required.

There is one key difference from the 2.14 version of App. In 2.14 and previous versions, the pre_navigate and post_navigate methods would not be called if require_auth returned a true non-hashref value. In version 2.15 and later, the 2.15 pre_navigate and post_navigate methods are always called - even if authentication fails. Also in 2.15 and later, the method is called as a hook meaning the step is passed in.

run_hook (method)

Arguments are a hook name and the step to find the hook for. Calls the find_hook method to get a code ref which it then calls and returns the result passing any extra arguments to run_hook as arguments to the code ref.

Each call to run_hook is logged in the arrayref returned by the history method. This information is summarized in the dump_history method and is useful for tracing the flow of the program.

The run_hook method is part of the core of CGI::Ex::App. It allows for an intermediate layer in normal method calls. Because of run_hook, it is possible to logically override methods on a step by step basis, or override a method for all of the steps, or even to break code out into separate modules.

run_hook_as (method)

Similar to run_hook - but allows for temporarily running a hook in another package.

    sub blah_morph_package { 'SomeOther::Module' }
    my $hash = $self->run_hook_as('hash_swap', 'blah'); # runs as SomeOther::Module

    # OR

    my $hash = $self->run_hook_as('hash_swap', 'SomeOther::Module');

Note that the second form will use 'SomeOther::Module' as the step name which will be somewhat misleading in looking up names.

run_step (hook)

Runs all of the hooks specific to each step, beginning with pre_step and ending with post_step (for a full listing of steps, see the section on process flow). Called after ->morph($step) has been run. If this hook returns true, the nav_loop is exited (meaning the run_step hook displayed a printed page). If it returns false, the nav_loop continues on to run the next step.

This hook performs the same base functionality as a method defined in CGI::Applications ->run_modes. The default run_step method provides much more granular control over the flow of the CGI.

set_path (method)

Arguments are the steps to set. Should be called before navigation begins. This will set the path arrayref to the passed steps.

This method is not normally used.

set_ready_validate (hook and method)

Sets that the validation is ready (or not) to validate. Should set the value checked by the hook ready_validate. Has no affect if validate_when_data flag is set.

The following would complement the "processing" flag example given in ready_validate description:

    sub set_ready_validate {
        my $self = shift;
        my ($step, $is_ready) = (@_ == 2) ? @_ : (undef, shift);
        if ($is_ready) {
            $self->form->{'processing'} = 1;
        } else {
            delete $self->form->{'processing'};
        }
        return $is_ready;
    }

Note that for this example the form key "processing" was deleted. This is so that the call to fill in any html forms won't swap in a value of zero for form elements named "processing."

Also note that this method may be called as a hook as in

    $self->run_hook('set_ready_validate', $step, 0)
    # OR
    $self->set_ready_validate($step, 0);

Or it can take a single argument and should set the ready status regardless of the step as in:

    $self->set_ready_validate(0);
skip (hook)

Ran at the beginning of the loop before prepare, info_complete, and finalize are called. If it returns true, nav_loop moves on to the next step (the current step is skipped).

stash (method)

Returns a hashref that can store arbitrary user space data without worrying about overwriting the internals of the application.

step_key (method)

Should return the keyname that will be used by the default "path" method to look for in the form. Default value is 'step'.

swap_template (hook)

Takes the template and hash of variables prepared in print, and processes them through the current template engine Template::Alloy.

Arguments are the template and the swap hashref. The template can be either a scalar reference to the actual content, or the filename of the content. If the filename is specified - it should be relative to template_path (which will be used to initialize INCLUDE_PATH by default).

The default method will create a template object by calling the template_args hook and passing the returned hashref to the template_obj method. The default template_obj method returns a Template::Alloy object, but could easily be swapped to use a Template::Toolkit based object. If a non-Template::Toolkit compatible object is to be used, then the swap_template hook can be overridden to use another templating engine.

For example to use the HTML::Template engine you could override the swap_template method as follows:

    use HTML::Template;

    sub swap_template {
        my ($self, $step, $file, $swap) = @_;

        my $type = UNIVERSAL::isa($file, 'SCALAR') ? 'scalarref'
                 : UNIVERSAL::isa($file, 'ARRAY')  ? 'arrayref'
                 : ref($file)                      ? 'filehandle'
                 :                                   'filename';

        my $t = HTML::Template->new(source => $file,
                                    type   => $type,
                                    path   => $self->template_path,
                                    die_on_bad_params => 0,
                                    );

        $t->param($swap);

        return $t->output;
    }

Uou could also simply do the following to parse the templates using HTML::Template::Expr syntax.

    sub template_args {
        return {SYNTAX => 'hte'};
    }

For a listing of the available syntaxes, see the current Template::Alloy documentation.

template_args (hook)

Returns a hashref of args that will be passed to the "new" method of Template::Alloy The method is normally called from the swap_template hook. The swap_template hook will add a value for INCLUDE_PATH which is set equal to template_path, if the INCLUDE_PATH value is not already set.

The returned hashref can contain any arguments that Template::Alloy would understand.

    sub template_args {
        return {
            PRE_CHOMP => 1,
            WRAPPER   => 'wrappers/main_wrapper.html',
        };
    }

See the Template::Alloy documentation for a listing of all possible configuration arguments.

template_obj (method)

Called from swap_template. It is passed the result of template_args that have had a default INCLUDE_PATH added via template_path. The default implementation uses Template::Alloy but can easily be changed to use Template::Toolkit by using code similar to the following:

    use Template;

    sub template_obj {
        my ($self, $args) = @_;
        return Template->new($args);
    }
template_path (method)

Defaults to $self->{'template_path'} which defaults to base_dir_abs. Used by the template_obj method.

unmorph (method)

Allows for returning an object back to its previous blessed state if the "morph" method was successful in morphing the App object. This only happens if the object was previously morphed into another object type. Before the object is re-blessed the method fixup_before_unmorph is called.

See allow_morph and morph.

valid_steps (method)

Called by the default path method. Should return a hashref of path steps that are allowed. If the current step is not found in the hash (or is not the default_step or js_step) the path method will return a single step of ->forbidden_step and run its hooks. If no hash or undef is returned, all paths are allowed (default). A key "forbidden_step" containing the step that was not valid will be placed in the stash. Often the valid_steps method does not need to be defined as arbitrary method calls are not possible with CGI::Ex::App.

Any steps that begin with _ are also "not" valid for passing in via the form or path info. See the path method.

Also, the pre_step, skip, prepare, and info_complete hooks allow for validating the data before running finalize.

validate (hook)

Passed the form from $self->form. Runs validation on the information contained in the passed form. Uses CGI::Ex::Validate for the default validation. Calls the hook hash_validation to load validation hashref (an empty hash means to pass validation). Should return true if the form passed validation and false otherwise. Errors are stored as a hash in $self->{hash_errors} via method add_errors and can be checked for at a later time with method has_errors (if the default validate was used).

There are many ways and types to validate the data. Please see the CGI::Ex::Validate module.

Upon success, it will look through all of the items which were validated, if any of them contain the keys append_path, insert_path, or replace_path, that method will be called with the value as arguments. This allows for the validation to apply redirection to the path. A validation item of:

    {field => 'foo', required => 1, append_path => ['bar', 'baz']}

would append 'bar' and 'baz' to the path should all validation succeed.

validate_when_data (hook)

Defaults to "validate_when_data" property which defaults to false. Called during the ready_validate hook. If returns true, ready_validate will look for keys in the form matching keys that are in hash_validation - if they exist ready_validate will be true. If there are no hash_validation keys, ready_validate uses its default behavior.

verify_user (method)

Installed as a hook to CGI::Ex::App during get_valid_auth. Should return true if the user is ok. Default is to always return true. This can be used to abort early before the get_pass_by_user hook is called.

     sub verify_user {
         my ($self, $user) = @_;
         return 0 if $user eq 'paul'; # don't let paul in
         return 1;                    # let anybody else in
     }

HOW DO I SET COOKIES, REDIRECT, ETC ^

Often in your program you will want to set cookies or bounce to a differnt URL. This can be done using either the builtin CGI::Ex object or the built in CGI object. It is suggested that you only use the CGI::Ex methods as it will automatically send headers and method calls under cgi, mod_perl1, or mod_perl2. The following shows how to do basic items using the CGI::Ex object returned by the ->cgix method.

printing content-type headers
    ### CGI::Ex::App prints headers for you,
    ### but if you are printing custom types, you can send your own
    $self->cgix->print_content_type;
    # SAME AS
    # $self->cgix->print_content_type('text/html');
setting a cookie
    $self->cgix->set_cookie({
        -name    => "my_key",
        -value   => 'Some Value',
        -expires => '1y',
        -path    => '/',
    });
redirecting to another URL
    $self->cgix->location_bounce("http://somewhereelse.com");
    $self->exit_nav_loop; # normally should do this to long jump out of navigation
making a QUERY_STRING
    my $data  = {foo => "bar", one => "two or three"};
    my $query = $self->cgix->make_form($data);
    # $query now equals "foo=bar&one=two%20or%20three"
getting form parameters
    my $form = $self->form;

In this example $form would now contain a hashref of all POST and GET parameters passed to the server. The form method calls $self->cgix->get_form which in turn uses CGI->param to parse values. Fields with multiple passed values will be in the form of an arrayref.

getting cookies
    my $cookies = $self->cookies;

In this example $cookies would be a hashref of all passed in cookies. The cookies method calls $self->cgix->get_cookies which in turn uses CGI->cookie to parse values.

See the CGI::Ex and CGI documentation for more information.

COMPARISON TO OTHER APPLICATION MODULES ^

The concepts used in CGI::Ex::App are not novel or unique. However, they are all commonly used and very useful. All application builders were built because somebody observed that there are common design patterns in CGI building. CGI::Ex::App differs in that it has found more common design patterns of CGI's than other application builders and tries to get in the way less than others.

CGI::Ex::App is intended to be sub classed, and sub sub classed, and each step can choose to be sub classed or not. CGI::Ex::App tries to remain simple while still providing "more than one way to do it." It also tries to avoid making any sub classes have to call ->SUPER:: (although that is fine too).

And if what you are doing on a particular is far too complicated or custom for what CGI::Ex::App provides, CGI::Ex::App makes it trivial to override all behavior.

There are certainly other modules for building CGI applications. The following is a short list of other modules and how CGI::Ex::App is different.

CGI::Application

Seemingly the most well know of application builders. CGI::Ex::App is different in that it:

  * Uses Template::Toolkit compatible Template::Alloy by default.
      CGI::Ex::App can easily use another toolkit by simply
      overriding the ->swap_template method.
      CGI::Application uses HTML::Template.
  * Offers integrated data validation.
      CGI::Application has had custom plugins created that
      add some of this functionality.  CGI::Ex::App has the benefit
      that validation is automatically available in javascript as well.
  * Allows the user to print at any time (so long as proper headers
      are sent.  CGI::Application requires data to be pipelined.
  * Offers hooks into the various phases of each step ("mode" in
      CGI::Application lingo).  CGI::Application provides only ->runmode
      which is only a dispatch.
  * Support for easily jumping around in navigation steps.
  * Support for storing some steps in another package.
  * Integrated authentication
  * Integrated form filling
  * Integrated PATH_INFO mapping

CGI::Ex::App and CGI::Application are similar in that they take care of handling headers and they allow for calling other "runmodes" from within any given runmode. CGI::Ex::App's ->run_step is essentially equivalent to a method call defined in CGI::Application's ->run_modes. The ->run method of CGI::Application starts the application in the same manner as CGI::Ex::App's ->navigate call. Many of the hooks around CGI::Ex::App's ->run_step call are similar in nature to those provided by CGI::Application.

CGI::Prototype

There are actually many similarities. One of the nicest things about CGI::Prototype is that it is extremely short (very very short). The ->activate starts the application in the same manner as CGI::Ex::App's ->navigate call. Both use Template::Toolkit as the default template system (CGI::Ex::App uses Template::Alloy which is TT compatible). CGI::Ex::App is differrent in that it:

  * Offers more hooks into the various phases of each step.
  * Support for easily jumping around in navigation steps.
  * Support for storing only some steps in another package.
  * Integrated data validation
  * Integrated authentication
  * Integrated form filling
  * Integrated PATH_INFO mapping

SIMPLE EXTENDED EXAMPLE ^

The following example shows the creation of a basic recipe database. It requires the use of DBD::SQLite, but that is all. Once you have configured the db_file and template_path methods of the "recipe" file, you will have a working script that does CRUD for the recipe table. The observant reader may ask - why not use Catalyst or Ruby on Rails? The observant programmer will reply that making a framework do something simple is easy, but making it do something complex is complex and any framework that tries to do the those complex things for you is too complex. CGI::Ex::App lets you write the complex logic but gives you the ability to not worry about the boring details such as template engines, or sticky forms, or cgi parameters, or data validation. Once you are setup and are running, you are only left with providing the core logic of the application.

    ### File: /var/www/cgi-bin/recipe (depending upon Apache configuration)
    ### --------------------------------------------
    #!/usr/bin/perl -w

    use lib qw(/var/www/lib);
    use Recipe;
    Recipe->navigate;


    ### File: /var/www/lib/Recipe.pm
    ### --------------------------------------------
    package Recipe;

    use strict;
    use base qw(CGI::Ex::App);
    use CGI::Ex::Dump qw(debug);

    use DBI;
    use DBD::SQLite;

    ###------------------------------------------###

    sub post_navigate {
        # show what happened
        debug shift->dump_history;
    }

    sub template_path { '/var/www/templates' }

    sub base_dir_rel { 'content' }

    sub db_file { '/var/www/recipe.sqlite' }

    sub dbh {
        my $self = shift;
        if (! $self->{'dbh'}) {
            my $file   = $self->db_file;
            my $exists = -e $file;
            $self->{'dbh'} = DBI->connect("dbi:SQLite:dbname=$file", '', '',
                                          {RaiseError => 1});
            $self->create_tables if ! $exists;
        }
        return $self->{'dbh'};
    }

    sub create_tables {
        my $self = shift;

        $self->dbh->do("CREATE TABLE recipe (
            id INTEGER PRIMARY KEY AUTOINCREMENT,
            title VARCHAR(50) NOT NULL,
            ingredients VARCHAR(255) NOT NULL,
            directions VARCHAR(255) NOT NULL,
            date_added VARCHAR(20) NOT NULL
        )");
    }

    ###----------------------------------------------------------------###

    sub main_info_complete { 0 }

    sub main_hash_swap {
        my $self = shift;

        my $s = "SELECT id, title, date_added
                   FROM recipe
                  ORDER BY date_added";
        my $data = $self->dbh->selectall_arrayref($s);
        my @data = map {my %h; @h{qw(id title date_added)} = @$_; \%h} @$data;

        return {
            recipies => \@data,
        };
    }

    ###----------------------------------------------------------------###

    sub add_name_step { 'edit' }

    sub add_hash_validation {
        return {
            'group order' => [qw(title ingredients directions)],
            title => {
                required => 1,
                max_len  => 30,
            },
            ingredients => {
                required => 1,
                max_len  => 255,
            },
            directions => {
                required => 1,
                max_len  => 255,
            },
        };
    }

    sub add_finalize {
        my $self = shift;
        my $form = $self->form;

        my $s = "SELECT COUNT(*) FROM recipe WHERE title = ?";
        my ($count) = $self->dbh->selectrow_array($s, {}, $form->{'title'});
        if ($count) {
            $self->add_errors(title => 'A recipe by this title already exists');
            return 0;
        }

        $s = "INSERT INTO recipe (title, ingredients, directions, date_added)
              VALUES (?, ?, ?, ?)";
        $self->dbh->do($s, {}, $form->{'title'},
                               $form->{'ingredients'},
                               $form->{'directions'},
                               scalar(localtime));

        $self->add_to_form(success => "Recipe added to the database");

        return 1;
    }

    ###----------------------------------------------------------------###

    sub edit_skip { shift->form->{'id'} ? 0 : 1 }

    sub edit_hash_common {
        my $self = shift;
        return {} if $self->ready_validate;

        my $sth  = $self->dbh->prepare("SELECT * FROM recipe WHERE id = ?");
        $sth->execute($self->form->{'id'});
        my $hash = $sth->fetchrow_hashref;

        return $hash;
    }

    sub edit_hash_validation { shift->add_hash_validation(@_) }

    sub edit_finalize {
        my $self = shift;
        my $form = $self->form;

        my $s = "SELECT COUNT(*) FROM recipe WHERE title = ? AND id != ?";
        my ($count) = $self->dbh->selectrow_array($s, {}, $form->{'title'}, $form->{'id'});
        if ($count) {
            $self->add_errors(title => 'A recipe by this title already exists');
            return 0;
        }

        $s = "UPDATE recipe SET title = ?, ingredients = ?, directions = ? WHERE id = ?";
        $self->dbh->do($s, {}, $form->{'title'},
                               $form->{'ingredients'},
                               $form->{'directions'},
                               $form->{'id'});

        $self->add_to_form(success => "Recipe updated in the database");

        return 1;
    }

    ###----------------------------------------------------------------###

    sub view_skip { shift->edit_skip(@_) }

    sub view_hash_common { shift->edit_hash_common(@_) }

    ###----------------------------------------------------------------###

    sub delete_skip { shift->edit_skip(@_) }

    sub delete_info_complete { 1 }

    sub delete_finalize {
        my $self = shift;
        $self->dbh->do("DELETE FROM recipe WHERE id = ?", {}, $self->form->{'id'});

        $self->add_to_form(success => "Recipe deleted from the database");
        return 1;
    }

    1;

    __END__



    File: /var/www/templates/content/recipe/main.html
    ### --------------------------------------------
    <html>
    <head>
    <title>Recipe DB</title>
    </head>
    <h1>Recipe DB</h1>

    [% IF success %]<span style="color:darkgreen"><h2>[% success %]</h2></span>[% END %]

    <table style="border:1px solid blue">
    <tr><th>#</th><th>Title</th><th>Date Added</th></tr>

    [% FOR row IN recipies %]
    <tr>
      <td>[% loop.count %].</td>
      <td><a href="[% script_name %]/view?id=[% row.id %]">[% row.title %]</a>
        (<a href="[% script_name %]/edit?id=[% row.id %]">Edit</a>)
      </td>
      <td>[% row.date_added %]</td>
    </tr>
    [% END %]

    <tr><td colspan=2 align=right><a href="[% script_name %]/add">Add new recipe</a></td></tr>
    </table>

    </html>


    File: /var/www/templates/content/recipe/edit.html
    ### --------------------------------------------
    <html>
    <head>
    <title>[% step == 'add' ? "Add" : "Edit" %] Recipe</title>
    </head>
    <h1>[% step == 'add' ? "Add" : "Edit" %] Recipe</h1>

    <form method=post name=[% form_name %]>
    <input type=hidden name=step>

    <table>

    [% IF step != 'add' ~%]
    <tr>
      <td><b>Id:</b></td><td>[% id %]</td></tr>
      <input type=hidden name=id>
    </tr>
    <tr>
      <td><b>Date Added:</b></td><td>[% date_added %]</td></tr>
    </tr>
    [% END ~%]

    <tr>
      <td valign=top><b>Title:</b></td>
      <td><input type=text name=title>
          <span style='color:red' id=title_error>[% title_error %]</span></td>
    </tr>
    <tr>
      <td valign=top><b>Ingredients:</b></td>
      <td><textarea name=ingredients rows=10 cols=40 wrap=physical></textarea>
          <span style='color:red' id=ingredients_error>[% ingredients_error %]</span></td>
    </tr>
    <tr>
      <td valign=top><b>Directions:</b></td>
      <td><textarea name=directions rows=10 cols=40 wrap=virtual></textarea>
          <span style='color:red' id=directions_error>[% directions_error %]</span></td>
    </tr>
    <tr>
      <td colspan=2 align=right>
          <input type=submit value="[% step == 'add' ? 'Add' : 'Update' %]"></td>
    </tr>
    </table>
    </form>

    (<a href="[% script_name %]">Main Menu</a>)
    [% IF step != 'add' ~%]
      (<a href="[% script_name %]/delete?id=[% id %]">Delete this recipe</a>)
    [%~ END %]

    [% js_validation %]

    </html>


    File: /var/www/templates/content/recipe/view.html
    ### --------------------------------------------
    <html>
    <head>
    <title>[% title %] - Recipe DB</title>
    </head>
    <h1>[% title %]</h1>
    <h3>Date Added: [% date_added %]</h3>

    <h2>Ingredients</h2>
    [% ingredients %]

    <h2>Directions</h2>
    [% directions %]

    <hr>
    (<a href="[% script_name %]">Main Menu</a>)
    (<a href="[% script_name %]/edit?id=[% id %]">Edit this recipe</a>)

    </html>

    ### --------------------------------------------

Notes:

The dbh method returns an SQLite dbh handle and auto creates the schema. You will normally want to use MySQL or Oracle, or Postgres and you will want your schema to NOT be auto-created.

This sample uses hand rolled SQL. Class::DBI or a similar module might make this example shorter. However, more complex cases that need to involve two or three or four tables would probably be better off using the hand crafted SQL.

This sample uses SQL. You could write the application to use whatever storage you want - or even to do nothing with the submitted data.

We had to write our own HTML (Catalyst and Ruby on Rails do this for you). For most development work - the HTML should be in a static location so that it can be worked on by designers. It is nice that the other frameworks give you stub html - but that is all it is. It is worth about as much as copying and pasting the above examples. All worthwhile HTML will go through a non-automated design/finalization process.

The add step used the same template as the edit step. We did this using the add_name_step hook which returned "edit". The template contains IF conditions to show different information if we were in add mode or edit mode.

We reused code, validation, and templates. Code and data reuse is a good thing.

The edit_hash_common returns an empty hashref if the form was ready to validate. When hash_common is called and the form is ready to validate, that means the form failed validation and is now printing out the page. To let us fall back and use the "sticky" form fields that were just submitted, we need to not provide values in the hash_common method.

We use hash_common. Values from hash_common are used for both template swapping and filling. We could have used hash_swap and hash_fill independently.

The hook main_info_complete is hard coded to 0. This basically says that we will never try and validate or finalize the main step - which is most often the case.

SEPARATING STEPS INTO SEPARATE FILES ^

It may be useful sometimes to separate some or all of the steps of an application into separate files. This is the way that CGI::Prototype works. This is useful in cases were some steps and their hooks are overly large - or are seldom used.

The following modifications can be made to the previous "recipe db" example that would move the "delete" step into its own file. Similar actions can be taken to break other steps into their own file as well.

    ### File: /var/www/lib/Recipe.pm
    ### Same as before but add the following line:
    ### --------------------------------------------

    sub allow_morph { 1 }


    ### File: /var/www/lib/Recipe/Delete.pm
    ### Remove the delete_* subs from lib/Recipe.pm
    ### --------------------------------------------
    package Recipe::Delete;

    use strict;
    use base qw(Recipe);

    sub skip { shift->edit_skip(@_) }

    sub info_complete { 1 }

    sub finalize {
        my $self = shift;
        $self->dbh->do("DELETE FROM recipe WHERE id = ?", {}, $self->form->{'id'});

        $self->add_to_form(success => "Recipe deleted from the database");
        return 1;
    }

Notes:

The hooks that are called (skip, info_complete, and finalize) do not have to be prefixed with the step name because they are now in their own individual package space. However, they could still be named delete_skip, delete_info_complete, and delete_finalize and the run_hook method will find them (this would allow several steps with the same "morph_package" to still be stored in the same external module).

The method allow_morph is passed the step that we are attempting to morph to. If allow_morph returns true every time, then it will try and require the extra packages every time that step is ran. You could limit the morphing process to run only on certain steps by using code similar to the following:

    sub allow_morph { return {delete => 1} }

    # OR

    sub allow_morph {
        my ($self, $step) = @_;
        return ($step eq 'delete') ? 1 : 0;
    }

The CGI::Ex::App temporarily blesses the object into the "morph_package" for the duration of the step and re-blesses it into the original package upon exit. See the morph method and allow_morph for more information.

RUNNING UNDER MOD_PERL ^

The previous samples are essentially suitable for running under flat CGI, Fast CGI, or mod_perl Registry or mod_perl PerlRun type environments. It is very easy to move the previous example to be a true mod_perl handler.

To convert the previous recipe example, simply add the following:

    ### File: /var/www/lib/Recipe.pm
    ### Same as before but add the following lines:
    ### --------------------------------------------

    sub handler {
        Recipe->navigate;
        return;
    }


    ### File: apache2.conf - or whatever your apache conf file is.
    ### --------------------------------------------
    <Location /recipe>
        SetHandler perl-script
        PerlHandler Recipe
    </Location>

Notes:

Both the /cgi-bin/recipe version and the /recipe version can co-exist. One of them will be a normal cgi and the other will correctly use mod_perl hooks for headers.

Setting the location to /recipe means that the $ENV{SCRIPT_NAME} will also be set to /recipe. This means that name_module method will resolve to "recipe". If a different URI location is desired such as "/my_cool_recipe" but the program is to use the same template content (in the /var/www/templates/content/recipe directory), then we would need to explicitly set the "name_module" parameter. It could be done in either of the following ways:

    ### File: /var/www/lib/Recipe.pm
    ### Same as before but add the following line:
    ### --------------------------------------------

    sub name_module { 'recipe' }

    # OR

    sub init {
        my $self = shift;
        $self->{'name_module'} = 'recipe';
    }

In most use cases it isn't necessary to set name_module, but it also doesn't hurt and in all cases it is more descriptive to anybody who is going to maintain the code later.

ADDING AUTHENTICATION TO THE ENTIRE APPLICATION ^

Having authentication is sometimes a good thing. To force the entire application to be authenticated (require a valid username and password before doing anything) you could do the following.

    ### File: /var/www/lib/Recipe.pm
    ### Same as before but add
    ### --------------------------------------------

    sub get_pass_by_user {
        my $self = shift;
        my $user = shift;
        my $pass = $self->lookup_and_cache_the_pass($user);
        return $pass;
    }


    ### File: /var/www/cgi-bin/recipe (depending upon Apache configuration)
    ### Change the line with ->navigate; to
    ### --------------------------------------------

    Recipe->navigate_authenticated;

    # OR

    ### File: /var/www/lib/Recipe.pm
    ### Same as before but add
    ### --------------------------------------------

    sub require_auth { 1 }

    # OR

    ### File: /var/www/lib/Recipe.pm
    ### Same as before but add
    ### --------------------------------------------

    sub init { shift->require_auth(1) }

See the require_auth, get_valid_auth, and auth_args methods for more information. Also see the CGI::Ex::Auth perldoc.

ADDING AUTHENTICATION TO INDIVIDUAL STEPS ^

Sometimes you may only want to have certain steps require authentication. For example, in the previous recipe example we might want to let the main and view steps be accessible to anybody, but require authentication for the add, edit, and delete steps.

To do this, we would do the following to the original example (the navigation must start with ->navigate. Starting with ->navigate_authenticated will cause all steps to require validation):

    ### File: /var/www/lib/Recipe.pm
    ### Same as before but add
    ### --------------------------------------------

    sub get_pass_by_user {
        my $self = shift;
        my $user = shift;
        my $pass = $self->lookup_and_cache_the_pass($user);
        return $pass;
    }

    sub require_auth { {add => 1, edit => 1, delete => 1} }

We could also enable authentication by using individual hooks as in:

    sub add_require_auth    { 1 }
    sub edit_require_auth   { 1 }
    sub delete_require_auth { 1 }

Or we could require authentication on everything - but let a few steps in:

    sub require_auth { 1 }      # turn authentication on for all
    sub main_require_auth { 0 } # turn it off for main and view
    sub view_require_auth { 0 }

That's it. The add, edit, and delete steps will now require authentication. See the require_auth, get_valid_auth, and auth_args methods for more information. Also see the CGI::Ex::Auth perldoc.

THANKS ^

The following corporation and individuals contributed in some part to the original versions.

    Bizhosting.com  - giving a problem that fit basic design patterns.

    Earl Cahill     - pushing the idea of more generic frameworks.

    Adam Erickson   - design feedback, bugfixing, feature suggestions.

    James Lance     - design feedback, bugfixing, feature suggestions.

    Krassimir Berov - feedback and some warnings issues with POD examples.

LICENSE ^

This module may be distributed under the same terms as Perl itself.

AUTHOR ^

Paul Seamons <perl at seamons dot com>

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