Keeping Your Model Reusable


Catalyst's MVC (Model/View/Controller) structure gently guides us to separate the code handling the various aspects of our application, without insisting that we do the right thing.

Good advice, and an oft-heard refrain, is to avoid creating fat controllers. What makes a controller fat? The inclusion of code concerned with doing the work your application is built to do. If you were building an app to translate text from one language to another, the code performing the translation logic should be neatly wrapped up in a model, not stuck in the controller.

This approach improves your life in a variety of ways. The resulting code is easier to understand, easier to debug, and easier to test. Taken one step further, it also makes it trivial to re-use. Let's see how this can work by looking at the example of Gitalist.


Gitalist began as a project to implement gitweb (the Git web viewer) as a Catalyst application. While the main aim was to produce a web application, we knew that we'd want to be able to write other, non-web tools that had access to the same functionality.

With this in mind, we needed our Catalyst model (Gitalist::Model::GitRepos) to serve as a thin layer of glue connecting our plain model (Gitalist::Git) into the application. Fortunately, this is incredibly easy.

The Plain Model

First, we implement the plain model. In Gitalist, we needed to represent both an individual git repository (a Project), and the directory containing a collection of Projects (a Repo; though we don't like this class name, and it changes in the next release).

A simplified version of the Repo class looks like this:

  use MooseX::Declare;

  class Gitalist::Git::Repo {
    has path     => ( isa => Dir, required => 1 );
    has projects => ( isa        => ArrayRef['Gitalist::Git::Project'],
                      required   => 1,
                      lazy_build => 1 );

    method _build_projects {
      # return an array of each git repository found.

    method get_project ($project_name) {
      my $project_path = $self->path->subdir($project_name);
      return Gitalist::Git::Project->new( $project_path );

While the actual code is more complex, there's no trace of Catalyst in sight - exactly as it should be! This class can readily be used in other applications, and is very easy to test.

The Catalyst Model

If all our actual logic is contained in the plain model, it follows that our Catalyst model will contain none. Sure enough, we do the minimum amount of work required to create an instance of Gitalist::Git::Repo.

  package Gitalist::Model::GitRepos;
  use Moose;

  extends 'Catalyst::Model';
  with 'Catalyst::Component::InstancePerContext';

  use Gitalist::Git::Repo;

  has repo_dir => ( isa => Str, is => 'ro', lazy_build => 1 );
  sub _build_repo_dir {
    # code to determine the value of repo_dir

  sub build_per_context_instance {
     my ($self, $app) = @_;

     Gitalist::Git::Repo->new(repo_dir => $self->repo_dir);

We used Catalyst::Component::InstancePerContext which will run build_per_context_instance for each new request. This suits Gitalist, but for other uses it may be preferable for your model to persist between requests - in that case, Catalyst::Model::Adaptor is what you'll need.

The Controller

With the model in place, the controller is straightforward. If we've done everything right, we shouldn't even notice that our model exists outside Catalyst. An action like this will do just what you expect:

  sub project : Chained('base') CaptureArgs(1) {
    my($self, $c, $project_name) = @_;

    my $project = $c->model->('GitRepos')->get_project($project_name);
    $c->detach('/error_404') unless $project;

    $c->stash( Project => $project );

Further Reading

Both Catalyst::Component::InstancePerContext and Catalyst::Model::Factory::PerRequest can be used to build a new model instance for each request.

For a persistent instance, instead look at Catalyst::Model::Adaptor.


Zac Stevens <>