Matching Actions on Request Content Types


A quick example of how to use the Request Content Type matching feature in Catalyst version 5.90050+.


Beginning in the v5.90050 release of Catalyst we introduced into core the ability to match your controller actions to the content types of incoming HTTP requests. This allows you to match actions to the contents of the HTTP request content type header. As a result, you can dispatch to your actions based on if the incoming request is a JSON post, a classic form data post, or some other type.

Why dispatch on Request Content Type?

Modern web developers consider RESTful principles when crafting web APIs and in creating meaninful URL structures for thier websites. One core principle of REST is that a given resource (in this case a URL) can have many representations (HTML, XML, JSON, etc.) In the past, many people used a Catalyst addin, Catalyst::Action::REST, which provided a toolkit to deserialize many different content types and provide them to an action. This works well and we still recommend Catalyst::Action::REST for this and for many of its other features. However there are cases when you want to process things differently depending on the request content type. In addition, there might be times when you don't need all the power and features of Catalyst::Action::REST but still want to dispatch on incoming request types (for example you might have a website with a form and you'd like to support both JSON and classic HTML POSTing). In those cases the ability to dispatch to a given action based on matching a content type is useful.

How Does it Work?

Let's look at some example actions:

    sub as_json : POST Path('/echo')
      Consumes('application/json') { ... }

    sub as_formdata : POST Path('/echo')
      Consumes('application/x-www-form-urlencoded') { ... }

In this example the same URL ('/echo') would be server by either JSON or by classic form data. The Catalyst dispatcher will choose the correct action based on the information tagged to the action by the subroutine attribute Consumes. The generic form of usages is "Consumes($type)" where $type is a standard content type. Here's a few of the more common types you might encounter:


JSON encoded data "{'message' : 'hello'}"


HTML form post


Form posting with file uploads

Since there's several content types that are in common usage, we provide shortcuts, which work in the form "Consumes($shortcut)" where $shortcut is:

    JSON => 'application/json',
    JS => 'application/javascript',
    PERL => 'application/perl',
    HTML => 'text/html',
    XML => 'text/xml',
    Plain => 'text/plain',
    UrlEncoded => 'application/x-www-form-urlencoded',
    Multipart => 'multipart/form-data',
    HTMLForm => ['application/x-www-form-urlencoded','multipart/form-data'],

And would look like:

    sub as_json : POST Path('/echo')
      Consumes(JSON) { ... }

    sub as_formdata : POST Path('/echo')
      Consumes(HTMLForm) { ... }

As with other such subroutine attributes, you can match more than one on a given action (which does an OR style match).

    sub is_more_than_one
      : Chained('start')
      : Consumes(UrlEncoded)
      : Consumes(Multipart)

See Consumes in Catalyst::Controller and Catalyst::ActionRole::ConsumesContent for more details and examples.

A Full Example

An example controller:

    package MyApp::Controller::Root;

    use base 'Catalyst::Controller';

    sub as_json : POST Path('/echo') 
     Consumes('application/json') {
      my ($self, $c) = @_;


    sub formdata : POST Path('/echo')
     Consumes('application/x-www-form-urlencoded') {
      my ($self, $c) = @_;

You should note the use the new Catalyst::Request method body_data to parsing incoming JSON. This was added in v5.90050 in the Fall of 2013. For more information on body_data see req-body_data in Catalyst::Request and DATA-HANDLERS in Catalyst.

The test case for this controller:

    use Test::Most;
    use Catalyst::Test 'MyApp';
    use HTTP::Request::Common;
    use JSON::MaybeXS;

      ok my $req = POST '/echo',
         Content_Type => 'application/json',
         Content => encode_json +{message=>'test'};

      ok my $res = request $req;

      is $res->content, 'test', 'Handles JSON post';

      ok my $req = POST '/echo', [message=>'test'];
      ok my $res = request $req;

      is $res->content, 'test', 'Handles classic HTML post';


You can see the full application source on Github:


Request content matching is a useful feature to have in Core Catalyst which lets you make more meaningful URLs. It also plays nice with existing addons such as Catalyst::Action::REST when you are using Catalyst to craft your web APIs.


John Napiorkowski