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Understanding URL Handling

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Problem: how to design a url handling / dispatching scheme for the entire site


web.py’s URL handling scheme is simple yet powerful and flexible. At the top of each application, you usually see the full URL dispatching scheme defined as a tuple:

urls = (
    "/tasks/?", "signin",
    "/tasks/list", "listing",
    "/tasks/post", "post",
    "/tasks/chgpass", "chgpass",
    "/tasks/act", "actions",
    "/tasks/logout", "logout",
    "/tasks/signup", "signup"

The format of this tuple is: url-path-pattern_, handler-class. This pattern will repeat as more url patterns are defined. If you don’t understand the relationship between url pattern and handler classes, please read the Hello World example or Quick Start Tutorial before reading any other cookbook recipes.

URL Pattern and Path Matching

You can utilize the power of regular expressions to design more flexible url patterns. For example, /test(1|2) will catch either /test1 or /test2. The key point to understand is that this matching happens on the path of your URL. For example, the following URL:


The path of this URL is /myapp/greetings/hello. web.py will internally add ^ and $ to the url pattern (^/myapp/greetings/hello$) so that the pattern /tasks/ will not match /tasks/addnew. As it matches against the path, you can not use a pattern like /tasks/delete?name=(.+) as the part after ? is called query and is not matched against. For a detailed description of URL components, please read web.ctx.

Capture Parameters

In the url pattern you can catch parameters which can be used in your handler class:

urls = (
    "/users/list/(.+)", "list_users"

Here the (.+) matches the rest URL path after /users/list/, it can be used as a parameter in GET or POST:

class list_users:
    # `name` has the matched content of `(.+)`
    def GET(self, name):
        return "Listing info about user: {0}".format(name)

You can define more than one parameters as you wish. Also note that URL query parameters (which appears after the ? in url) can be obtained using web.input().

Note on sub-applications

To better handle larger web applications, web.py supports sub-applications. While designing url scheme with sub applications, keep in mind that the path (web.ctx.path) will get the parent path stripped off. e.g. if in the main application, you define to forward url pattern /blog to the blog sub-application, in your blog sub-application all url patterns starts with /, NOT /blog. Read the web.ctx cookbook recipe for more details.